Campaign for Secular Education
Notes on the BHA policy of 'accommodating' religion in schools
An Asian Minority view
Do Black Boys Need More Religion?
There is much in the BHA education policy with which most secular humanist would agree. In fact much of it would also be supported by many non humanists, even believers who see the dangers in the threat of sectarianism, from their own points of view.
"impartial, fair and balanced teaching about all major worldviews, including non-religious ones" and "inclusive school assemblies suitable for all"
However the BHA is also promoting the idea of 'accommodations' that will have the effect of reintroducing R.I. (religious instruction) into any school that chooses to do so. In fact it is being reported that some schools are already inviting evangelical Christians and Muslim teachers into schools to promote their religions to captive young audiences.
The 'rationale' for these 'accommodations' taken from the BHA website, is that 'offering' the religions the opportunity to teach religion in schools will make them give up their demands for more 'faith schools'. And even some humanists who must be aware that the BHA is not part of the governments negotiating procedure, seem to be being taken-in by this foolish and dangerous notion.
The quotations from the policy document, and the arguments against 'accommodations' are set out below. If we do nothing to stop this notion before the religions get hold of them, we will soon be faced with not only more faith schools, but state schools with predominantly religious intakes, being made into, faith schools and a return to RI - i.e. the promotion of religion in schools in an even more virulent form than in the past.
I beg secular humanists to consider this very carefully and do whatever they can to change this seriously misguided policy.
These are quotations from the BHA website, each one sounds benign, but all have the same sting in the tail . They might not be so damaging if the BHA was part or even any part, of an equal partnership negotiating with the religions. Even in the highly unlikely event of the religions giving up their schools, the situation would be far worse than it is now, not just for children who now go to faith schools, but to all children in state sector. And it would put so much power in the hands of self styled religious leaders of the most fundamental religions, that the pressure on parents would be enormous.
In addition to these quotations taken recently from the BHA website, I have added quotations from the books by Ed Hussein in his recent book, and the warnings of Ed Hussain on the promotion of Muslim fundamentalism through the education system.
(added emphases and numbers for clarity)
1) "We argue that if religious beliefs and practices were properly accommodated in community schools there would be little demand for faith schools, and that society as a whole would benefit from children of all faiths and none being educated together."
( This means in school time and on school property, voluntary or not).
2) " (we want)...inclusive school assemblies suitable for all, thus ending the need for any child to be withdrawn or feel excluded from ‘collective worship’, plus time and designated places for optional worship, prayers or reflection " as is clear from the next quotation:-
3) "Provision for additional optional, extra-curricular faith-based classes on school premises"
4) "More respect for and flexibility on other cultural and religious requirements, for example in matters such as uniform, food, and Sex and Relationships Education."
5) "The involvement of local people in consultations about accommodations. "
"A Better Way Forward"
Almost the only success on religion in schools, over the last 40 years has been in replacing Religious Instruction (RI) with Religious Education (RE). Yet the above policy would reverse this. It persists in it’s delusion that the British Humanist Association is part of the negotiations between the religions and government over faith schools and RE. And for anyone who has argued the case over the last few decades and more, the notion that the religions will give up their schools and doing all they can to instill their beliefs and prevent them from hearing other religious or secular perspectives in state schools, is simply naive and fanciful.
The religions will only give up their schools when they have to - when the government of the day imposes a moratorium on more ’faith’ schools and draws up a programme of integration a policy that an increasing proportion of the general public support - And that will not happen until the clamour, lead by secular humanists is loud enough to force on politicians an imperative stronger than the establishments of church and state.
In reply to the view expressed by a correspondent that "although it is a knotty problem, such a policy might have the effect of stopping more faith schools and make the existing ones 'wither away' for lack of support" - we collated more of the arguments against this proposal and the naive view of the willingness of the religions to consider giving up their schools.
The reinforcement of religion in schools is indeed a knotty problem and one that is set to get much worse if it is not stopped.
You mention 'prayer time' as one example of the 'accommodations' proposed by the BHA, and there are several very good reasons why this would make the situation worse, not least for mainstream Muslims themselves, and particularly girls.
1) In community schools with a predominantly Muslim intake, Islam will be further reinforced and become, ipso facto, Muslim schools - and young women who may not want to comply with religious dress & other requirements will have to conform, for fear of the increased pressure from clerics, parents, and peers. More arguments from an Asian minority perspective
2) 'prayer time' is only the narrow end of a much thicker wedge, an attack on secular schooling, that is being pursued by Islamists and fundamentalist Christians already with some success in some schools - and the BHA proposals would be a set-back in one of the few areas of painfully slow progress humanism has had over several decades - in replacing RI with RE in British state schools.
3) Children and young people spend only some 5 hours in 24 - for five days of the week in school. These children and young people are already indoctrinated by their parents and clerics/imams in their homes and places of worship, why should we want to devote the already crowded school day to yet more reinforcement of belief in one or other of the conflicting religions prejudices and superstitions?
4) The demand for prayer time does not apply to any of the other religions so why allow this tiny minority to drive a coach and horses through our education system in this way?
5) And what possible effect will an 'accommodation' for Muslim prayer-time have on the other religions, least of all the Christians who have by far the most segregated schools. Will they opt for equal Christian prayer-time, or will they welcome only 'Muslim prayer time' in schools? If this is intended to encourage them to give up their schools it has to be a non-starter.
6) This is just the beginning, but Islamist activists will not stop with demanding ‘accommodations’ for 'prayer time', halal meat and the 'hijab' in schools as in society at large.
7) And the BHA policy even goes further itself in proposing the reintroduction of Religious Instruction and practice by clerics/imams, on school premises, in or out of school time, as is already being done in some non-faith schools where evangelical groups are being invited in by the schools.
8) And what of the rights and views of teachers and the wider community in all this, do we not care how it affects them?
9) Perhaps we should look at what other 'accommodations' our education system should make:
10) Do any of them accommodate or validate the views of parents who are atheists, secularists and humanists? No they are specifically excluded.
11) Do they /accommodate/ the children who are opted out, by providing worthwhile alternatives? No -'"not enough time or teachers"
12) Do they /accommodate/ the rights of children not to be taught opinion as fact - on any subject? No. Not on religion they don't.
13) Do they accommodate the right of children to honest, objective teaching on every subject, that includes the malign effects of religious dogma, over history and today, in Britain, Europe and the rest of the world - on conflict, on health, on attitudes to and the treatment of women and gays and other minorities, subverting education, in order to promote their religions. No they just teach religion as 'all as good as each other'.
14) Do they protect children from the bullying that results from the prejudices taught by the religions such as homophobia, scapegoating, intolerance of dissent and violence towards 'the hated ones'- Bullying persists.
15) Do they encourage a critical faculty on all matters - Certainly not on religion
We hear a lot these days about 'social cohesion', 'respect', 'human right's, 'free speech' and 'the value of education'. Perhaps it is time we heard more about these from a secular humanist perspective. (You may not have read on the BHA website that humanist is far more than Atheism and Secularism, which it calls "these negative concepts")
Religions demand their own segregated schools, with the aim of protecting their children from 'influence outside their religion’ so where is their commitment to 'social cohesion', respect, rights, free speech or education (other than as a vehicle for RI).
Humanists constantly asks, why no-one knows about humanism, and wonder why. It wonders why of the millions of Britons who live a secular humanist lifestyle do not join humanist organisations.
Perhaps a bit more analysis of humanism its purpose, aims and objectives and less 'wondering' might give them some of the answers. What is the purpose of secular humanists, promoting humanist organisations if they don't promote secular humanism and secular education?
The threat from Islamist pressure on schools:
Many Muslims and Ex Muslims in Britain are becoming increasingly worried at the extent to which the organisations that claim to represent and pressure Muslims, are following the lead of Islamists And Muslim writer Ed. Hussain in his recent book ‘The Islamist' names the MCB and Hizbut-ut-Tahrir as organisations that promote Islamist ideas that are not those of mainstream Muslims.
He goes on to discuss one of the books ’Islam:Beliefs and Teaching’ by Gulam Sawar, which he says is written for Islamists but has been used in British schools, and quotes from the book :
" Religion and politics are the same in Islam, they are intertwined. We already know that Islam is a complete system of life just as Islam teaches on how to pray, fast, give charity and perform the Haj. It also teaches us how to run a state, form a government, elect counselors and Members of Parliament, make treaties and conduct business and commerce." and
".....he (Sawar) commended the efforts of several organisations that were dedicated to the creation of 'truly Islamic states' and mentioned several groups by name, including Muslim Brotherhood / in the Middle East, and /Jamat-e-Islamie/ in the Indian Sub-continent, which were working for the establishment of Allah's Law in Allah's land."
The problems of violence and anti-social behaviour in the young people, particularly boys, from ethnically Afro-Caribbean families arête be solved, according to small 'c' conservatives and the media, by "stronger parenting". And of course all children and young people need the care, guidance and support of their parents - those with lone parents more than most.
Yet in these families parents are disproportionately more likely to be highly religious, especially in Baptist, Pentecostal and other evangelical fundamentalist Christian sects. With this goes the strong authoritarianism and ambition of many Afro-Caribbean parents. Those who can send their children to faith schools where they think there is more rigid discipline. And this ambition creates pressure for them to work long hours to make money to compensate for social disadvantage.
These families many without fathers, are more likely to be poor. Because most lone parents are women, it follows that those lone mothers who are employed outside the home have to work in low paid, low status occupations, cleaning, serving and caring that demand work in unsocial hours - out of school time, early morning, evenings, night work and week-ends - the very time their children and young people need their presence most.
More religion and more of the authoritarian pressures in schools, that have already failed these young people is the last thing that humanists should be risking.
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