Friday, October 20, 2006

Faith schools regulations

It seems likely that there will be cross party support for a move to force all faith schools to reserve 25% of their places from different faiths.

This will happen because of concerns that a few Muslim schools are not doing enough to educate their pupils about other religions, and may be fostering an attitude of separateness.

Of course we can't single out Muslim schools so the new rules will have to be applied to Catholic and Church of England schools which, at least on mainland Britain, have always been paragons of moderation in their attitudes towards religion.

Undermining the ethos of Catholic and C.of E. schools might, just, be worthwhile if as a result no Muslim school could become a breeding ground for extremism. But we will not get this desirable outcome.

If the rule is introduced there will be no shortage of parents from a variety of faiths, and none, wanting to send their children to a Catholic or C of E school because these schools usually maintain high standards of discipline and education. The 25% of places they keep for non worshippers will be quickly filled.

Conversely few, if any non-Muslim parents will want to send their children to a Muslim school. They will not fill 25% or even 2.5% of their places with non-Muslims because the demand will not be there outside of the Muslim community.

The government will therefore have the option of facing the wrath of the already angry Muslim community by shutting down their schools, or turning a blind eye and allowing them to retain their religious hegemony.

My money says they will turn a blind eye. So this new rule will undermine schools that have never caused a problem, whilst the leaving unaffected the very schools which were the original cause of the proposed change in law.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Praise for Jack Straw

In a first for this blog I pay tribute to Jack Straw MP for having the courage to point out that Muslim women who insist, or are told, to wear the veil could be exacerbating tensions within our community. Around a quarter of Jack Straw's constituents are Muslims so he must have a greater understanding of issues related to Islam than most. I hope that instead of condemning him out of hand he will be listened to with courtesy by people on all sides of the religious and political divide.