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Original Message
Forum Muslim Children 
Topic Learning to be British and Muslim 
Author Cristina Odone 
Date Created 30/06/2008 12:17:59 
Message Learning to be British and Muslim
In a controversial report, Cristina Odone argues that traditional Muslim schools are the best means of keeping Islamic girls in education – and preventing extremism
It’s 3pm and the girls at Madani high school in Leicester are trooping out of the gates. They wear white scarves over dark blue djellabas – a shapeless coat worn over trousers. No sign of the boys: they don’t leave for another half an hour.
Boys and girls operate on a different timetable, carefully calibrated to keep the sexes segregated. The architecture at Madani high conspires to do the same: there is a girls’ wing and, in mirror image, a boys’ wing – the two separated by an elegant Arabic-style courtyard with a fountain.
Segregation of the sexes is crucial to the traditional Muslim families who send their children to this state-funded school. Once girls reach puberty, their honour has to be jealously protected, and exposure to the opposite sex limited. To shield them from the drugs, sex and violence that mar British playground culture, traditional Muslim parents will often simply pull their daughters out of nonsegregated schools.
“Each year, hundreds of Muslim girls disappear from the state system,” acknowledges Idris Mears, an educationist and fundraiser for the Association of Muslim Schools UK.
“The drugs, sex and rock’n’roll scene is not an option for Muslim girls,” says Humera Khan, co-founder of Al-Nisa, which offers a wide variety of faith-based services to the Muslim community. “So there is a huge pressure to marry them off early or send them home.”
The parliamentary home affairs committee recently collected statistics on the number of children “not in suitable education” in local authorities with large Muslim populations: 385 in Manchester, 294 in Leicester, 250 in Birmingham. According to Mears, most of them are girls.
How, then, are Muslim girls to be properly educated so that they have a chance of becoming self-confident members of British society? Madani high is one of a small number of Muslim state schools that fuse cultural tradition with a full education under the national curriculum.
State Muslim faith schools give traditional parents who cannot afford private schools the confidence to keep their daughters in school. They raise the chances of Muslim girls going on to higher education. And they give boys as well as girls a sense of belonging to this country, its institutions and values. There are not enough of these schools, however. Although central government claims it wants to provide British Muslim children with a culturally acceptable – but socially empowering – form of education, it is not putting its money where its mouth is. Far from “fast-tracking” Muslim state schools, it is dragging its feet: it took Mohammed Mukadam, head of Madani high, five years to obtain state funding.
Mukadam, who has a daughter of his own, told me he believes passionately in education as the best route to get girls “out of the kitchen and into university”. But he also respects the feelings of those parents who don’t want their children to lose their religious identity or cultural legacy. Muslim state schools, he says, are the solution; traditional Muslim parents feel comfortable keeping their daughters at a school where they can learn to be “British and Muslim”.
As part of the state-school sector, Madani and the six other Muslim schools that receive government funding must pass Ofsted inspections. All seven schools do well in league tables; and, crucially, the proportion of girls in Muslim faith schools who go on to higher education is more than twice as high as in secular state schools.
Mukadam also ran Leicester Islamic academy, one of the oldest independent Muslim schools in Britain. When he started out there, “not one girl went on to higher education”. From Madani high school, “more than 95%” now do so.
Traditional Muslims do not worry only about their daughters. Many are also wary of keeping their sons in state education. Differences can surface in a mixed gym class or an arts lesson in which they are asked to draw a human body. An ICM poll of British Muslims in 2004 showed that nearly half wanted their children to attend Muslim schools. But, as so few maintained Muslim schools exist, the great majority of the 500,000 Muslim school-age children in England and Wales have to attend secular state education.
Their parents also worry about the Islamophobia that, since the September 11 and July 7 bombings, can creep even into primary schools.
“Everywhere they turn,” says Mears, former head of the Association of Muslim Schools, “children find stereotypes of the Muslim.”
Madani is the perfect vehicle for fighting that stereotype. The building is spanking-new (construction finished last year) and dazzlingly high-tech, with interactive white boards and sophisticated IT equipment in most classrooms. A huge gym caters for basketball and badminton. The grounds are free of litter, the walls of graffiti; and when visitors are guided through the school, the children greet them with the traditional “Salaam alei-kum” (Peace be upon you).
Despite the scarves, the djellabas, the beards and the skullcaps, Madani has its feet firmly planted in British culture: a pink bra stuck on a bulletin board highlights a Breast Awareness campaign.
In one room, a group of girls is waiting to begin extra studies in the school’s own madrasah (supplemental religious school). The take-up is not big but Mukadam is not surprised: traditionally, a madrasah is attached to a mosque and it will take some time before the more devout Muslim families regard a layman’s teaching to be the equal of an imam’s.
Currently, the 700 or so madrasahs in Britain are not inspected by Ofsted, and this has raised fears of child abuse and extremist indoctrination – both in the Muslim community and outside it. However, spokesmen for the Muslim community are wary of criticising the imams who run these schools – their spiritual influence remains enormous in the community.
Mukadam says he has found himself acting as ambassador to the local imams, making the case for girls’ education. “I appealed to the imams: ‘Look, divorce is out there, in high numbers. We must educate our daughters so that they can stand on their own two feet always.”
He dismisses claims that Muslim schools are divisive. Madani’s 570 students are taught that “they’re Muslims, they’re British, and there’s no conflict between the two”. When their faith is treated as a force for good rather than a problem, he feels, students develop a strong sense of identity and self-esteem.
“It is not the school that offers proper teaching of Islam which proves a training ground for terrorism, but the one where Islam is misunderstood or misinterpreted,” says Taj Hargey, who runs the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford.
Hargey this year launched a supplementary school – he won’t call it a madrasah because of the negative connotations – where children are taught the syllabus plus religious education.
“We highlight the passages in the Koran that talk about tolerance and pluralism; reinterpret the passages that we believe have been twisted out of their real meaning,” he says.
Faith Schools Betrayed, a report by Cristina Odone, will be published by the Centre for Policy Studies tomorrow, £7.50
 
      
Responses
Topic Re: Learning to be British and Muslim 
Author Smethson 
Date Created 03/07/2008 16:28:41 
Message Boys and girls operate on a different timetable, carefully calibrated to keep the sexes segregated....
Segregation of the sexes is crucial to the traditional Muslim families who send their children to this state-funded school. Once girls reach puberty, their honour has to be jealously protected, and exposure to the opposite sex limited. To shield them from the drugs, sex and violence that mar British playground culture, traditional Muslim parents will often simply pull their daughters out of nonsegregated schools.

I think that just by your use of the word 'segregated', you're offering a glimpse of the main problem with reconciling these two identities. Your title is called learning to be British and Muslim - this segregation is not British. Even non-Muslim children who go to single-sex schools are given opportunities to mix with different gender in sixth form, educational trips, charity events...
This segregation is born out of unjustified paranoia within the Muslim community - if a Muslim girl is brought up according to Muslim beliefs and values then the parents can feel confident that she won't succumb to any of the things you mention above. Why is it that Hindu, Sikh or Jewish children don't fall into drugs and violence etc? The reason is these parents take responsibility for their children's upbringing and feel secure in their children's morality so they don't need to send them to segregated schools. I agree that British society has social issues that may reflect on some schools(as do Pakistan & Saudi) but it does not justify Muslim or any other parents denying their daughter further education because of their own insecurity about the morals they have given their daughters.

“Each year, hundreds of Muslim girls disappear from the state system,” acknowledges Idris Mears, an educationist and fundraiser for the Association of Muslim Schools UK.
“The drugs, sex and rock’n’roll scene is not an option for Muslim girls,” says Humera Khan, co-founder of Al-Nisa, which offers a wide variety of faith-based services to the Muslim community. “So there is a huge pressure to marry them off early or send them home.”

I find it quite shocking that a person who is charged with making an official report can label the British School system as 'Drugs, sex and rock n roll scene' and say these, along with violence, are prevalent in British playground. You are offering a conveniently utopian view of Madrassas and faith schools as havens of virtue and happiness. This is coupled with an equally dystopian view of British schools which is quite frankly unfair and unhelpful on the many schools where these things are not present. No state school encourages any of these things and the vast majority actively carry out policies to prevent them. Religious schools in the UK or in Pakistan have many problems - one of which you allude to later on and is highlighted in this report.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4084951.stm

The parliamentary home affairs committee recently collected statistics on the number of children “not in suitable education” in local authorities with large Muslim populations: 385 in Manchester, 294 in Leicester, 250 in Birmingham. According to Mears, most of them are girls.
How, then, are Muslim girls to be properly educated so that they have a chance of becoming self-confident members of British society?

How indeed? Where they are subject to distrust and paranoia from traditional muslim parents and idiots like Iftikhar. How on earth do you expect a Muslim girl will cope with higher education if she has gone through her entire life without contact with boys? She will go to lectures, attend seminars, work on assignments with boys. Where is the logic in keeping her away from something she will have to deal with later anyway? Surely, Muslim teachings will give Muslim girls the moral strength and integrity to deal with all of the issues concerning their parents and come out the other side as the 'self-confident' members of society you hope for. Having been through the University and School systems in Britain, I can assure you that the former has far more drugs, sex and rock n roll than even the worst state school in the country.

State Muslim faith schools give traditional parents who cannot afford private schools the confidence to keep their daughters in school. They raise the chances of Muslim girls going on to higher education. And they give boys as well as girls a sense of belonging to this country, its institutions and values.

http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/2291585.schools_get_good_reports/

2 of these schools: Belle Vue and Carlton Bolling have 90%+ Muslims. Neither is religious school. Both have Muslim and non-Muslim teachers. Belle Vue is 3rd in country for improvement. Carlton Bolling regarded 'outstanding' by OFSTED.

Both perform better than Feversham - The only Islamic school in Bradford.


Their parents also worry about the Islamophobia that, since the September 11 and July 7 bombings, can creep even into primary schools.
“Everywhere they turn,” says Mears, former head of the Association of Muslim Schools, “children find stereotypes of the Muslim.”

How can you put Islamophobia as a reason for more Muslim schools? I had met no Muslims until I was 23 as the area of UK where I am from there was only a very small Muslim community - I now work in a state school with over 1000 Muslim children and 30 Muslim staff. Many of my friends are Muslims; however many of my other friends from my previous home still retain anti-Muslim sentiments. Why? Because they've never met any Muslims. Muslim schools and segregated education will exacerbate Islamophobia and mutual distrust. The idea that schools should NOT reflect the true nature of society (multiculural and unisex) is completely ridiculous.
 
 
 
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