Muriel Gray wrote in the Sunday Herald about Home Secretary John Reid’s recent warning to Muslims to look out for signs that their children were being ‘radicalised’,
“… and should they come home with bags of fertiliser and detonators, they might have a bit of a word with them.”
How ‘fundamental’ do your beliefs have to be to represent a danger to society? As Muriel points out, ‘fundamentalism’ is an accepted part of British life, as long as we encourage faith schools and avoid discouraging the isolation of minority communities who try to keep their children from being influenced by modern secular, liberal values. She wrote that in many Muslim homes, children,
“…have been brought up to genuinely believe that Allah intended women to have a single purpose in life as subservient wives and mothers; gay people are perverts; freedom of speech does not apply to any kind of criticism of their belief; democracy is a man-made sham; and the values of the West are inferior. If the family are devout then TV, cinema, theatre and art will be banned, and the children’s lives will resemble the upbringing of 1950s Presbyterian children, with school, prayer and chores being their lot.”
Instead of challenging these beliefs and values, we’re expected to politely ignore them for fear of causing ‘offence’, because the muddled-heads who run the country imagine that multi-culturalism’s a good thing. School RE lessons must include religions other than Christianity, but the subject is taught completely differently from any other subject. Children learn about what Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and Muslims believe (to name a few), but not why they believe what they do, and they’re not encouraged to ask if they should believe what they do. They learn about religious traditions and festivals, but not about the history of religion. If children learned, for example, that the story of the Christian nativity is more or less the same as other nativity stories in other religions, and that there have been other Jesuses too, they might be less willing to listen to the old lies. If they learned that the development of the major monotheistic patriarchal world religions supplanted earlier matriarchal religions, for sexist and political reasons, they might be less willing to defer to religious leaders who claim moral authority on behalf on a God. It won’t happen, of course, because there’s not a lot that RE teachers can do in the short time they have available, even with the greater freedom of a revised syllabus since the new guidelines were introduced. The underlying principle of modern religious education is to encourage tolerance and respect, social cohesion and multiculturalism, no matter how absurd the religious beliefs that children are learning about. Whatever they do, RE teachers mustn’t upset anyone by suggesting that all religion is nonsense.
This was first written for my blog.
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