Gabriel Milland, Daily Express (London), Feb. 21, 2007
DEMANDS for a ban on “un-Islamic” activities in schools will be set out by the Muslim Council of Britain today.
Targets include playground games, swimming lessons, school plays, parents’ evenings and even vaccinations.
And the calls for all children to be taught in Taliban-style conditions will be launched with the help of a senior Government education adviser.
Professor Tim Brighouse, chief adviser to London schools, was due to attend the event at the capital’s biggest mosque.
His presence there was seen as “deeply worrying”, and a sign that the report was backed by the Government.
Tory MP Greg Hands said: “The MCB needs to realise it has to move closer to the rest of the community, not away from it.
“The presence of Tim Brighouse implies Government backing of this report. This is very worrying.”
Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society said the report was a “recipe for disaster”.
He added: “Schools with even just a handful of Muslim kids will find they have to follow these guidelines because there aren’t the staff to have one set of classes for Muslims and another for the rest.
“The MCB shouldn’t try to force its religious agenda on children who may not want it. The Government needs to send the MCB packing. Schools should be about teaching, not preaching.”
The report, Towards Greater Understanding—Meeting The Needs of Muslim Pupils In State Schools, says all schools should bring in effective bans for all pupils on “un-Islamic activities” like dance classes.
It also wants to limit certain activities during Ramadan. They include science lessons dealing with sex, parents’ evenings, exams and immunisation programmes.
The holy month—when eating and drinking is not allowed in daylight hours—should also see a ban on swimming lessons in case pupils swallow water in the pool.
When swimming is allowed, boys should wear clothing covering their bodies “from the navel to the neck”, even during single-sex pool sessions, while girls must be covered up completely at all times, apart from the face and hands.
The MCB adds that schools should ensure contact sports, including football and basketball, “are always in single-gender groups”.
Even school trips are targeted in the report, which wants them all to be made single-sex “to encourage greater participation from Muslim pupils”.
It wants Arabic language classes for Muslim pupils, and says the Koran should be recited in music classes. And all schools should ensure they have prayer rooms with washing facilities attached, it says.
In art classes, Muslim children should not be allowed to draw people, as this is forbidden under some interpretations of Islamic law.
And while the MCB insists that all British children should learn about Islam, it wants Muslims to have the right to withdraw their children from RE lessons dealing with Christianity and other faiths.
The MCB says special treatment and opt-outs are necessary because otherwise Muslim pupils will feel excluded from school activities and lessons.
The MCB claims to be the voice of Britain’s 1.5million Muslims and was heavily courted by politicians including Tony Blair following the September 11 attacks. Its former secretary-general Iqbal Sacranie was awarded a knighthood in 2005.
But other Muslim groups criticised the report. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain said: “There has been no discussion on these issues in the Muslim community.”
And the Sufi Muslim Council—which claims to represent far more British Muslims than the MCB—said the report misunderstood Ramadan.
It added: “This is not what Islam or Ramadan is about. Ramadan is about training yourself while carrying on with everyday life.”
The Department for Edu-cation tried to distance itself from the report last night, and insisted Professor Brighouse was attending the launch only in a “personal capacity”.
A spokesman said it would read the report “with interest”.
The MCB did not comment.
It came as Britain’s first Muslim peer called for women to stop wearing veils, claiming that they represent “a barrier to integration”.
Reigniting the debate over the face veil, or niqab, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham said there was no religious reason why Muslim women should wear them—and claimed that veils now cause society more harm than good.
The peer, who has urged the authorities to clamp down on preachers of hate, spoke during a debate held in the heart of the Arab world.
He told a mainly Muslim audience in Doha, Qatar, that he does not want a legal ban on the veil being worn in public—as many other nations are introducing, including Muslim Turkey and Egypt.
But he said: ”The face veil is a barrier to integration in the West. The veil is now a mark of separation, segregation and defiance against mainstream British culture.
“There’s nothing in the Koran to say that wearing a niqab is desirable, let alone compulsory. It’s purely cultural. It’s an identity thing which has been misinterpreted.
“They were supposed to be worn so that women wouldn’t be harassed. But women, and communities as a whole, are now being harassed because they are wearing them.”
The Muslim Council of Britain’s assistant secretary general, Inayat Bunglawala, said yesterday: “Peoples’ attitudes are responsible for harming integration, not veils.
“And wearing them is very much a matter for individual Muslim women.”