Iftikhar Ahmad of the London School of Islamics has (it appears) been spamming blogs and discussion boards with an essay arguing for the state-funding of Islamic schools in the UK as a way of improving the academic lot of British Muslim children. He prophesies that “A day will come when all Muslim children will attend state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role model [sic].”
I want to begin by acknowledging the least objectionable, and in some cases semi-reasonable elements of his argument. Islamic schools are not just faith schools, he contends: they are also bilingual schools.
Bilingual Muslim children need to learn standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity.
Agreed. And I would add the obvious point that proficiency in English will enable these children to function as productive citizens and workers in Anglophone societies like the UK.
They need to be well versed in Arabic to recite and understand the Holy Quran.
Hmmm . . . OK. If a knowledge of Arabic affords one an enriched understanding of Islam and the Koran, and facilitates a critical/heuristic approach to the religion, then by all means should these kids learn Arabic. If the aim is to inculcate a submissive, dogmatic approach, whereby the main objective is for the kids to learn the text by rote, then I can’t see why the UK Government should embrace that as a funding priority.
They need to be well versed in Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.
Again, that seems valid to me, but there seem to be cognitive advantages to multilingualism that are (in my view) even more important than keeping immigrant children in touch with their cultural roots (not that the latter isn’t a valuable objective). Moreover, as Ahmad rightly points out: “A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village.” (Underline the words “global” and “village” here. They will become important later on.)
So far, so good. Ahmad then goes on to claim that the “British school system has been failing large number of Muslims children [sic] for the last 60 years.” Over a third of British Muslims, he notes, have no qualifications. Most of the half-a-million or so school-aged Muslim children in England and Wales, he says, are educated in state schools by “non-Muslim monolingual teachers.” Connecting dot X with dot Y, Ahmad argues that the “Majority of them are underachievers because they are at a wrong place at a wrong time [sic].”
Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. As far as higher education is concerned, Muslim students can be educated with others. Let Muslim community educate its own children so that they can develop their own Islamic, cultural and linguistic identities and become usefull members of the British society rather than becoming a buden. [sic]
Bzzzzzzzzt. Wrong. Bruce made this point in his reply to you on his own blog, but it bears repeating. What was that you were saying before about Muslims being citizens of “this tiny global village”? Being a good Muslim citizen of the global village entails learning to accept non-Muslim citizens of said global village. It entails accepting non-Muslims as fellow pupils. It entails accepting non-Muslims as the teachers of your children. I’m happy to go along with the proposition that teachers and schools should endeavour to establish links with their local communities and be (within reason) attuned to the cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds of their students. That’s not political correctness gone mad–it’s just common sense. What makes absolutely no sense whatsoever is the notion that locking children away in gated communities will somehow develop them into useful members of a multicultural liberal democracy like the UK–much less the global village.
As for the notion that it is in the public interest for governments to finance these gated communities; to endorse with the taxpayer’s largess the idea that “There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school;” to expect non-Muslim taxpayers to foot the bill for state institutions that will discriminate against non-Muslims as employees, and non-Muslim children as pupils, purely by virtue of the fact that they are not Muslims–something no other state institution would be allowed to do . . . well, that’s not just wrong. That’s fractally wrong.
You, Mr Ahmad, are guilty of precisely the same kind of cultural chauvinism you condemn in the British state education system. Your proposal is based on the premise that non-Muslim Britain is a poisonous society full of nefarious influences that threaten to infect your pristine religious community and corrupt your children, were they not wrapped up in the cotton-wool of a Muslim-only education. Furthermore, you are proposing that British education authorities adopt a funding policy (not to mention a policy of granting your schools special exemption from anti-discrimination laws that other state institutions must abide by) founded on exactly this premise. Good luck selling that!