Reading and Writing and Ramadan
by Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz
Translations of this item:
LONDON — The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is the leading institution representing Sunni Muslim fundamentalism in the United Kingdom. An independent umbrella association of some 400 mosques, educational and charitable institutions, women's and youth groups, and professional bodies, it came into being in 1997. It has generally reflected the ideologies of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi Wahhabi cult, and the Deobandi jihadists of Pakistan, whose thinking underlay the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The council's new secretary general is the Bangladesh-born Muhammad Abdul Bari. He succeeds the infamous Sir Iqbal Sacranie, who endorsed threats against the novelist Salman Rushdie, saying: "Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him." Sacranie and the MCB protested the publication of the Muhammad caricatures in Denmark. The council boycotts Britain's Holocaust Memorial Day, observed each January 27, with the argument that an occasion for remembrance should be established for all victims of genocide, and not merely for the Jews killed by Hitler. It produces a steady stream of excuses for suicide terror in Israel and Kashmir. Yet the council professes moderation.
Now, however, its authentic agenda is discernible in its new recommended guidelines for accommodating Muslim students in British state schools--equivalent to the public school system in the United States. Just published, the guidelines are entitled "Towards Greater Understanding--Meeting the Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools: Information & Guidance for Schools" and can be downloaded at www.mcb.org.uk. The guidelines call upon British schools to "respond positively to meeting the needs of Muslim pupils." It's a tall order.
The first challenge is to grasp the comprehensive nature of the Muslim faith. "The faith commitments of Muslim pupils and their families encompass all aspects of everyday life and conduct, including daily life in school," explains the foreword. To realize this, school teachers and administrators should undergo cultural awareness training. Indeed, the ordinary assumption that pupils' religion is a private matter is problematic. As the guidelines explain:
Some community schools adopt a policy where the religion and faith of their pupils is strictly regarded as a matter of private and personal concern for each pupil and is therefore not appropriately addressed within the school. This approach makes it more difficult for schools to appreciate and respond positively to meeting some of the distinctive spiritual, moral, social and cultural needs of Muslim children.
Instead, schools should not only "recognise and affirm" Muslim needs, they should protect Muslim children from "situations involving conflicts of belief or conscience . . .likely to have an alienating effect where pupils may feel that they are not valued and may give rise to inappropriate assumptions that in order to progress in society they will have to compromise or give up aspects of who they are, and their religious beliefs and values."
This is important for standard multicultural reasons--"for Muslim pupils' sense of self-esteem and worth"--but also because Islam is special. "Although there are many similarities with other faith groups, many of the issues facing Muslim pupils are different in kind and in degree. Schools need to be better informed and have greater and more accurate appreciation of their Muslim pupils' needs."
On the matter of clothing, the MCB explains, "In principle the dress for both boys and girls should be modest and neither tight-fitting nor transparent and not accentuate the body shape. In practice this means a wide variety of styles are acceptable. In public boys should always be covered between the navel and knee and girls should be covered except for their hands and faces, a concept known as 'hijab.'" A footnote adds, "For some Muslims fulfilling this requirement may mean the wearing of the jilbab (a long outer garment down to the ankles)." Further, "schools should accommodate Muslim girls so that they are allowed to wear a full-length loose school skirt or loose trousers, a long-sleeved shirt and a head scarf to cover their hair."
These comments presume that many British Muslim school children will be dressing in the manner of women in Saudi Arabia. Strict hijab and jilbab are largely absent from such Muslim countries and regions as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Turkey, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, and are rare among the urban population in North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the crescent of "normal" Gulf states from Jordan to Yemen.
A two-page section of the MCB guidelines calls for a Muslim diet at meals. Then there is the need for time and facilities for prayer by Muslim children at least once a day. Again, the MCB is careful to stipulate the special requirements of fundamentalists: "Schools should be aware that some pupils may request separate prayer facilities for boys and girls, as they may feel more comfortable praying in a single-gender group." Schools should also provide extra "water cans or bottles" for washing of the hands, mouth, face, arms to the elbow, feet, and private parts before prayer.
On Friday afternoons, Muslims attend collective prayer including a sermon (Muslim males, that is: the guidelines state this is "optional or recommended" for females). The MCB suggests that "a suitable external visitor, a teacher or an older pupil" may lead the observance. This opens the door to the entry of extremist imams in state schools, much as radical chaplains have been incorporated into the American penal system.
The council urges special "awareness training" for teachers about the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Further, MCB warns, this is a poor time to schedule examinations "since the combination of preparing for exams and fasting may prove challenging for some pupils."
Some rescheduling of studies may also be in order. We read, "Whilst fasting, Muslims are not permitted to engage in any sexual relations and are expected to take measures to avoid sexual thoughts and discourse. Schools are therefore advised to avoid scheduling the teaching of sex and relationship education, including aspects that are part of the science curriculum, during Ramadan." Thus, Islamist thought control is to be insinuated into British schools. The MCB holds up as "good practice" in state schools to include all children, not just Muslims, in celebrating "the spirit and values of Ramadan through collective worship or assembly themes and communal Iftar (collective breaking of the fast)."
Given such special pleading for Ramadan, it is unsurprising that the MCB also calls for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (the end of the pilgrimage or hajj month) to be appropriately observed:
Schools may want to share sweets amongst all children to mark this event. In addition, schools may make the normal school meals a special Eid meal for all the children and invite some parents and special guests. Holding balls and discos to celebrate Islamic festivals would be considered inappropriate by Muslim parents.
Piling one entreaty on another, the guidelines explain the complications of the Sunni calendar that makes consultation with outside authorities advisable for schools:
As Eid days are based on the lunar calendar, there can be some uncertainty in determining the exact dates of the two Eids in advance. This makes planning for Eid holidays difficult. Schools are advised to liaise with their local mosque or other Muslim organisations for more information. . . . There are a number of other important occasions in the Islamic calendar which schools can recognise through assembly themes. They include the Islamic New Year (Hijrah), Night of Power (Lailatul Qadr), Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the day of Ashurah.
Turning to children's sports, the MCB reinforces its fundamentalist program for sex-segregation and modesty:
Some sports involve physical contact with other team players, for example basketball and football. Most Muslim parents would find it objectionable for boys and girls to play such sports in mixed-gender groups. Schools can respond positively to this concern by making sure that contact sports are always in single-gender groups. . . . Some schools may have policies for children to shower at school after sports activities. These arrangements sometimes take the form of naked communal showering, which involves profound indignity. The practice of allowing Muslim children to shower in bathing costumes or shorts does not solve the problem if other pupils are naked in the same communal shower area. Islam forbids nakedness in front of others or being among others who are naked. . . .
The practice of boys and girls swimming in mixed-group sessions or being exposed to complete nakedness of others, when changing, is unacceptable for reasons of modesty and decency to Muslim parents. . . .Schools should make every effort to provide a single-sex environment for swimming and allow Muslim children to wear swimwear that complies with the requirements of modesty and decency according to the teachings of Islam. Some schools have been able to meet these requirements in providing an appropriate single-gender environment and also allowing girls to wear full leotards and leggings in the pool. Provided these guidelines are adhered to, there should be no reason why Muslim children should be withdrawn from swimming lessons.
In another forthright statement of Islamic fundamentalism, the guidelines object to most dance and music.
Muslims consider that most dance activities, as practised in the curriculum, are not consistent with the Islamic requirements for modesty as they may involve sexual connotations and messages when performed within mixed-gender groups or if performed in front of mixed audiences. Most primary and secondary schools hold dance in mixed-gender classes and may include popular dance styles, in which movements of the body are seen as sexually expressive and seductive in nature. . . . [M]ost Muslim parents will find little or no educational merit or value in dance or dancing after early childhood and may even find it objectionable on moral and religious grounds once children have become sexually mature (puberty). Some parents may consider it to be acceptable within a single-sex context provided the dance movements have no sexual connotations. As dancing is not a normal activity for most Muslim families, Muslim pupils are likely to exhibit reluctance to take part in it, particularly in mixed-gender sessions. By the same token, dance performances before a mixed gender audience may also be objectionable. . . . [P]arental requests for children to be excused from dance should be treated as an issue of religious conscience and respected accordingly.
These strictures would seem absurd to Muslims coming to Britain from many Islamic societies in which dance is an accepted art form, including Turkey, which accounts for up to 15 percent of Britain's two million Muslims. They reveal the ambition of the MCB to press its radical agenda among all British Muslims.
As for music--sometimes considered one of the great achievements of Islamic civilization--the MCB warns in the fundamentalist manner, "Traditionally, music is limited to the human voice and non-tuneable percussion instruments such as drums." This is an ideological falsehood of some audacity. Moroccan, Algerian, Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, Balkan, Central Asian, and other Muslims have excelled in the composition of music on diverse stringed instruments, as well as instruments shared with neighboring cultures, such as the clarinet, piano, and Chinese percussion. To suggest that the British school system start treating this aspect of Islamic civilization--not to mention world civilization--as dangerous is to seek the impoverishment of schools and the relegation of Muslim students to the crabbed and rigid program of radical fundamentalism.
Given that British parents have no right to withdraw their children from music education, the MCB urges schools to set up procedures for the adjudication of parents' complaints. In the field of art, the MCB advances another fundamentalist dictum: "In Islam the creation of three dimensional figurative imagery of humans is generally regarded as unacceptable because of the risk of idolatress [sic] practices and some pupils and parents may raise objections to this. The school should avoid encouraging Muslim pupils from producing three dimensional imagery of humans."
The MCB skirts the hot-button issue of depiction of Muhammad, proposing only that students not be asked to draw pictures of the prophet. But it propagates another fundamentalist lie when it baldly asserts, "All Muslim children learn to read and recite the Qur'an in Arabic." Students in fundamentalist madrassas in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and a few other countries do this. But this is certainly not the case either in the United Kingdom or in most Muslim lands.
The guidelines then devote a full chapter to Islamic standards in sex and relationship education. Schools are cautioned against asking students to shake hands with members of the opposite sex, and if teachers recognize symptoms of domestic conflict in families, they are enjoined to consult a Muslim member of the staff.
The MCB pamphlet concludes with an offer of a research pack for teachers, priced at about $500. This includes a hijab and a prayer cap of a kind fundamentalist and other militant Muslims habitually wear (although such caps are standard Muslim headgear in Central Asia regardless of religious views). Finally, an appendix offers a list of recommended websites, including www.harun yahya.com, a Turkish Islamist enterprise that produces crude books attacking evolution, expressing prejudice against Jews and Freemasons, and propounding elaborate conspiracy theories that tie the mafia to the Kights Templar. Harun Yahya's venomous literature, which is translated and printed in every language Muslims read, should not be promoted in Western schools.
The inclusion of materials by a disreputable Turkish Sunni fanatic in guidelines for British state schools is a clue that should not be missed: The ambitions expressed in this booklet are not limited to the United Kingdom. The Muslim Council of Britain's vision for the etablishment of a little Saudi kingdom inside every state school amounts to a manifesto for the penetration of the West by a dangerous form of Islamic fundamentalism.