Don’t Stare At Muslims Says Advice To Schools

Jason Allardyce and Abul Taher, London Times, April 15, 2007

PUPILS and teachers have been told by an official body not to stare at Muslims for fear of causing offence.

A document intended to educate against religious intolerance and sectarianism urges teachers to “make pupils aware of the various forms of Islamophobia, ie stares, verbal abuse, physical abuse”.

But Learning Teaching Scotland (LTS), which issued the advice to schools north of the border, has been criticised by politicians and Muslim leaders for going “over the top”.

The document states: “Some Muslims may choose to wear clothing or display their faith in a way that makes them visible. For example, women may be wearing a headscarf, and men might be wearing a skullcap. Staring or looking is a form of discrimination as it makes the other person feel uncomfortable, or as though they are not normal.”

Osama Saeed, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, accused officials of going too far. “There are far more serious elements of Islamophobia. People look at all sorts of thingsthat can just be a glance. A glance and a stare are two different thingsglances happen naturally when all sorts of things catch your eye whereas a stare is probably gawking at something.

“Personally I have not encountered much of a problem with people staring. I don’t know how you legislate for that.”

Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “In a multicultural society like ours there are people with all different forms of dress and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect children in particular to look at those who are differently dressed from them. To describe this as a form of discrimination seems to go completely over the top.”

Meanwhile, a survey of London’s Muslims shows that more of them identify with Britain than do the majority population. The Gallup poll, which is part of the biggest global survey of Muslims, shows 57% of Muslims identified with Britain as their home, compared with 48% of the rest of the population.

The poll also found that 74% of Muslims believe they are loyal to Britain and 78% of Muslims said they had confidence in Britain’s police forcea higher proportion than the rest of the population.

The survey shows 67% of Muslims have confidence in the judicial system and 73% believe in the British democratic process. This compares with 55% and 60% respectively among the general public.

[Editor’s Note: “Islamophobia Advice for Schools and Colleges,” issued by Learning and Teaching Scotland can be read here.

It can be downloaded here, where a summary can be read.]

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