UK Ofsted on Ramadan and Sunday schools
In the latest twist of this story the head of schools inspectorate has said that exam boards should not adjust exam timings to fit in with Ramadan as it would set the wrong precedent.
Read The Telegraph articleComment: This is a welcome move, although it should be noted that his comments are based on the purely practical consideration that it would become unmanageable for schools if the timetable was adjusted for all faiths, rather than looking at this in terms of the additional social pressure that such a move would put on many Muslim children to observe Ramadan.
However, he also defended government plans to send school inspectors into both mosque schools and Christian Sunday schools to look for signs of radicalisation. This again reflects an approach of being so concerned to be seen to be treating all faiths equally that it ignores where the real issue of radicalisation is and instead is imposing a form of state regulation that has the potential to seriously curtail freedom of religion.
Germany – rise of far right and refugee crisis
In Germany four men have been charged with forming a terrorist group to plan attacks on refugee shelters and mosques.
Read Deutsche Welle article
Read The Telegraph articleComment: Fears over large scale Muslim migration, exacerbated by the Cologne sex attacks on New Year’s Eve have given added impetus to the rise of Neo Nazis. Governments need to acknowledge that there are real issues relating to how women are viewed in the culture of some Muslim majority countries, that whilst by no means universally held, have been brought into Germany by some Muslim young men. At the same time it must be made clear, that this is some Muslims – NOT all Muslims.
A court has ordered the New York Police Department to no longer use an anti terrorism handbook that details typical stages in the radicalisation process that Islamist terrorists go through.
Read The Washington Free Beacon articleComment: Whilst there is a need to avoid stereotyping all Muslims, the fact remains that violent jihad is an exclusively Islamic word and concept. Attempts to deny that there is any link between terrorism and some forms of Islam do not help either prevent terrorist incidents or Muslims who seek reform of Islam to make it peaceful and tolerant of members of other faiths.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on a visit to President Obama following his tour of Afghanistan, Iraq and the UAE stated: "We shouldn’t be so delicate as to say ISIL has got nothing to do with Islam, but equally we shouldn’t tag all Muslims or Islam itself as responsible for a tiny minority of criminals,".
Read The Washington Post articleComment: This is a welcome statement given in a country where the government increasingly appeared to deny any link between Islam and Islamist terrorism. There is a whole spectrum of Islamic belief held by Muslims ranging from those at one end who affirm values such as freedom of religion for all faiths, freedom of speech and democracy to at the other end those such as IS who use extreme violence to enforce Islamic government and shari’a on the entire world, Muslim and non Muslim alike. In between are many ordinary Muslims who follow a primarily devotional form of Islam, and those who want to use the political process in the west as a one way street to impose Islamic government and shari’a. It is as wrong to say that that IS has nothing do with Islam as it is to suggest that all Muslims share its ideology.
UK Immigrant Muslim women must learn English language
The UK Prime Minister has said that Muslim women who come to the UK to get married must learn English if they are to be allowed to stay. The PM stressed the important role of Muslim women in combatting extremism.
Read Sky News articleComment: This has generated considerable controversy as there is little evidence that not speaking English leads to terrorism. Islamist terrorists are primarily motivated by ideology – the desire to create an Islamic state with shari’a enforcement. Indeed a disproportionate number of British Islamist terrorists have actually been converts to Islam. However, there is a recognition here that potentially mothers can play an enormously important role in preventing young people becoming radicalised and to do that they need to be fully integrated into UK society.
UK MP defends segregation and wearing veil
Muslim MP Shabana Mahmood defended women who choose to wear full face veils, after the Prime Minister said he would support schools and courts which demanded women remove face coverings.
Ms Mahmood also said women should be free to be segregated from men if they choose, although she said personally did not agree with segregation outside of religious settings.
Read Birmingham Mail articleComment: Whilst some women wear the veil out of choice, for others there is pressure to wear it from male members of their family or within the wider Muslim community. All employers are entitled to set an appropriate dress code for their staff that reflects the ethos of the organisation and schools are no exception to this. If someone is working as a teacher or teaching assistant it is perfectly reasonable that their face should be visible – both in terms of the effectiveness of their relationship with children and because insisting on wearing the veil in the workplace is an overt political statement of Islamism, and that is something that schools should be seeking to prevent. If staff in schools start wearing the veil, then some Islamist parents will insist that their daughter also wears it at school. When that happens, as we have seen with attempts to introduce the hijab (full head, but not face covering), there is strong pressure for all parents to follow suite even if they do not wish to.