LONDON, England – England’s Muslim leaders are outraged after the country’s Catholic schools opted not to teach Islam to students as part religious studies exams for graduation.
Last year, the government decreed schools are required to teach two religions instead of one for GCSE exams, otherwise known as General Certificate of Secondary Education exams, the Daily Mail reports.
In response, the country’s Catholic Education Service announced the church’s 2,150 primary and secondary schools would focus on Christianity and Judaism for the graduation test to comply with the new rules and ensure pupils “are given a solid grounding in Christianity,” according to the news site.
Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service, told the media students would still receive instruction on other religions, like Islam, during normal religious education lessons, Express reports.
Perhaps ironically, the government-imposed reforms follow a “Trojan horse” scandal at Park View Academy in Birmingham where school employees allegedly brainwashed students into following the faith’s hardline religious principles, and used their classmates to enforce the ideology, according to the site.
“Teachers at the ultra-Islamist school in Birmingham took a bizarre and unhealthy interest in the love lives of their students even spying on those they suspected of being in relationships, the panel was told,” the Express reports.
“It is claimed that youngsters were handed passages from the Quran warning them that they would face hell and damnation if they did not adhere to hardline Muslim principles of marriage.
“Leaflets written in Arabic and promoting Islamic ideology were also handed out to students and a team of school prefects, known as the ‘Morality Squad’, were tasked with rooting out their teenage peers suspected of being in relationships.”
Regardless, British Islamic leaders are apparently outraged by the Catholic Church’s decision to stick with Christianity and Judaism, and are calling on Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols to reconsider the move.
“This is not a good decision,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former secretary general for the Muslim Council of Britain. “It does not reflect well on the messages that are coming out of the Church for greater tolerance of faiths.
“This is such a difficult time for religions and the last thing you would expect is a major faith making such a statement,” he said.
Sacranie and other critics of the Catholic Church’s decision also pointed out that some Catholic schools, such as Rosary Catholic Primary in Birmingham, are attended by mostly Muslim students, according to the Daily Mail.
Still others, like Rabbi Honathan Romani at Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, think individual school leaders should make the call on which religions students learn about for the GCSE exam.
“I urge all religious authorities to allow individual heads the freedom to decide what’s best for pupils,” he said.
The religious GCSE requirement is also under attack by non-religious folks represented by the British Humanist Association, who believe the rule discriminates against atheists, according to the Guardian.
Three parents are suing the government to change the rule to include consideration for the non-religious.
“I completely recognize the importance of children learning about the different religions, especially in our increasingly diverse society,” one of the parents, Kate Bielby told the news site.
“What I object to is the lack of parity between religious beliefs and non-religious world views in the school curriculum, which in the eyes of children may well lead to the belief that religion, in whatever form, has a monopoly on truth and on morality.
“This is not accurate, it reflects neither the views of the population nor the traditions of the country, and we shouldn’t be encouraging our children to believe it.”
According to the Guardian:
“Lawyers representing parents will argue that under the European convention on human rights and corresponding case law, the state is obliged to treat different religions and beliefs on an equal footing and that religions should not be elevated above non-religious world views in the school curriculum.”
The country’s Department of Education declined to comment on the case.