By Ahmad Abu Hayyan
On Wednesday 7th October 2015, David Cameron made his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference. It seems over the years there is no tory party conference complete, without a healthy balance of austerity cuts, salutations to the Queen and a demonization of the Muslim community. This conference was no exception and did not disappoint.
Speaking in Manchester, Mr Cameron told delegates: “Did you know, in our country, there are some children who spend several hours each day at a madrassa?
“Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with children learning about their faith, whether it’s at madrassas, Sunday schools or Jewish yeshivas.
“But in some madrassas, we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions; being beaten; swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people.
“These children should be having their minds opened, their horizons broadened, not having their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate.
“So I can announce this today: if an institution is teaching children intensively, then whatever its religion, we will, like any other school, make it register so it can be inspected.
“And be in no doubt: if you are teaching intolerance, we will shut you down.”
This is about Madrassahs and nothing else
The issue of madrassas is one that has been high up the agenda in recent months. In July, Cameron delivered a speech in Birmingham on the subject of extremism, and focussed on the need to improve integration in the education system, and dismantle religious emphasis. It was this speech where he first signalled the intent to crackdown on the radicalisation which he believed takes place in madrassas.
Downing Street said that the new inspection regime would apply to religious institutions offering eight or more hours of study a week to children in England. This could include a minute number of Christian Sunday schools and Jewish yeshivas, but it is more likely to cover up to 2,000 Muslim madrassas in England.
It is only a year since plans for a voluntary code of conduct for madrassas were shelved by the Department for Education. Now, the government is going considerably further, with plans to consult then legislate to require supplementary religious schools to register and face what is being described as a “light touch” inspection regime. While any just and equal law would be broadly framed to include all religions, the thresholds of numbers of children and hours per week are likely to be set at a level that would exclude conventional Sunday schools as well as home education.
A 2011 report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimated that 200,000 Muslim children attend roughly 2,000 madrasas in the UK. According to the IPPR, children typically attend up to two hours every night until the age of 14-15. While it said many madrasas made a valuable contribution to society, the IPPR found that a “significant minority” did not provide adequate standards of teaching or child protection.
The report also claimed that some madrasas still use corporal punishment. An investigation in 2011 on BBC Radio 4 claimed to have uncovered hundreds of allegations of abuse relating to Britain’s madrassas.
Preferential emphasis on Madrassahs
Cameron and his band of merry men and women have become accustomed to spreading hate and have conveniently ignored a number of incidences from other religious communities that host education:
Orthodox Jewish Schools rated ‘outstanding’ that teach next to no English– A study carried out by the British Humanist Association (BHA) of Ofsted reports on independent Haredi or ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools during the period 2007-2014 found they were rated as “good” or “outstanding” 71 per cent of the time when inspected by a member of the Jewish community, but only 22 per cent of the time when inspected by a non-Haredi inspector.
The study was launched after evidence was given to an All-Party Parliamentary Group last year by a former British-born Haredi school pupil who described how he grew up in north London speaking almost no English and received less than an hour’s non-religious curriculum teaching a day.
One former pupil of a Haredi Jewish school said:
“ Haredi inspectors have consistently given good and outstanding ratings to schools where the curriculum is almost entirely focused on studying religious scriptures. Hundreds of children leave these schools every year barely able to speak a word of English or calculate basic arithmetic. Such schools should not be receiving good/outstanding solely on the basis of a biased inspector”
Beis Rochel’ secondary school– it was revealed that three-year-olds were told that “the non-Jews” are “evil” in a nursery worksheet handed out at ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools in north London. A whistle-blower showed The Independent a worksheet given to boys aged three and four at the school. The document refers to Nazis only as “goyim” – a term for non-Jews some people argue is offensive.
Durham Free School (DFS) – it was failing in all areas earlier this week – a verdict which prompted Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to announce she intended to withdraw funding for the 18-month-old Gilesgate secondary. Ofsted took the step of publicly defending its conclusions, saying its inspectors considered “a wide range of evidence”.
The statement continued: “Inspectors found that senior staff at DFS had allowed a culture to develop where it was acceptable for racist words and sexually derogative and homophobic terms to be used.
“Leaders were failing to properly tackle or challenge this type of language and behaviour.”
These are serious matters however the speech of David Cameron has emphasised Madrassas as the real issue. A subtle hint towards other religions does not negate the heightened emphasis towards the Muslim community. This is a concentrated and clinical effort- not directed towards supplementary schools of all religions rather it is towards Islamic supplementary Schools.
Reformation of Islam is the agenda
Cameron’s poisonous narrative and hate speech is linked to the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which is intertwined with the Prevent agenda. It’s a continuation of trying to reform Islam into a ‘British Islam’ that interprets this way of life in a secular manner and not as a holistic way of life. We can imagine what type of Islam they wish to see being taught; one which sees all religions as being essentially the same, that homosexuality is a valid lifestyle choice, that there shouldn’t be any segregation between the genders, or that adhering to Islam or not is simply a personal choice etc. This is in addition to being taught that there is no political system in Islam nor that the Muslims here are apart of the global Ummah, or that the ultimately loyalty is to Britain and the crown.
The Government has a problem with Muslims having a distinct value system that encompasses political opinions and values that they do not agree with. The problem is that Muslims would rather use Islam as a reference point, than what David Cameron and Theresa May want to teach.
Mosques, Islamic community centres and Islamic learning institutes will be monitored and forced to only convey Islamic beliefs that are acceptable to British secular liberal standards, until a new generation of Muslims adopt a secular version of Islam that ignores Islam’s distinct ideological beliefs. This is an ideological war against Islam.
Muslims need to be informed of discriminatory government designs and counter the counter-extremism policies in order to safeguard the Muslim community in the UK. Muslims also have a duty to develop the madrassa system to address the contemporary challenges facing Muslim youths living in Britain with the aggressive attempts to secularise and change their Deen.
Indeed many Muslims will recognise the need for the madrassa system to improve however the Government’s plans are not to change it for the better but to change it to change the teaching of Islam.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ
وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ إِنْ يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَى أَنْ تَعْدِلُوا
وَإِنْ تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
O you who believer! Stand out firmly for justice, witnesses for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, Allah is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, Allah is aware of what you do.” [An-Nisaa: 135]