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  Compulsory Christian Collective Worship and Christian Religious Education (RE) in UK Schools. WHAT CAN MUSLIMS DO?

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PostSubject: Compulsory Christian Collective Worship and Christian Religious Education (RE) in UK Schools. WHAT CAN MUSLIMS DO?   Sat Jul 02, 2011 2:03 pm

Compulsory Christian Collective Worship and Christian Religious Education (RE) in UK Schools.

by Ghulam Sarwar


Muslims form the largest religious minority in the UK and are confronted by many problems of which the maintenance, development and adherence to their faith is the most important. The influence of the Western culture and civilisation in daily life, however, undermines the maintenance and development of Islamic identity. This effects the education of the young generation of Muslims who are born and brought up here.

From August 1989 all County Schools in England and Wales must hold daily Christian Worship (Assembly) and provide Christian religious education according to Sec.6(1) and Sec.7(1) of the Education reform act,1988. This means that all Muslim children in County Schools must now attend Christian worship and Christian religious education (RE) unless their parents write to their headteacher stating "I do not wish my child to attend Christian collective worship and Christian RE"

Parents can no longer ignore what happens to their children at school. The Act requires parents to be more involved in the education of their children and provides a number of ways in which they can influence the status, policy and direction of schools. It is vital for Muslim parents to take an active interest in their children's education.

What must Muslim parents do?

Know their rights and responsibilities under the new Act;

Meet other parents and teachers, to find out how the Act is effecting the education of their children;

Take an active role in the election of the governing bodies of their children's schools by getting representation on such boards;

Find out about Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs) and get competent Muslim representation on them;

Form Muslim parents associations for local schools and participate in meetings concerning the education in their area;

Liase with organisations like the Muslim Education Trust (MET), the Islamia Schools Trust (IST), the Islamic Cultural Center (ICC) London, the Council of Mosques UK and Eire, the Islamic Academy Cambridge, and other local and national bodies for guidance and better cooperation.

The next Question is, what can we do to protect children from the effects of compulsory Christian Assembly and RE?, The Options are:

Option One : Do Nothing

One option, of course, is to do nothing and allow Muslim children to join in Christian worship and Christian RE. They would pray to Jesus as the 'son of God', learn about the 'Trinity', as well as pollute and confuse your children's minds you would allow them to commit the awesome sin of Shirk, associating others with Allah. This is the worst thing a Muslim can do.

Option Two : Withdraw your Child

Section 25(4) of the Education Act, 1944 gives the right to a parent to withdraw his/her child from both collective worship and RE. This right remains unchanged in the 1988 Act. To arrange this withdrawal, all you have to do is to write to the headteacher of your child's school asking that your child be excused from Christian worship and Christian RE ( a sample letter included in Appendix).

All Muslim parents should send this letter to the headteachers of their children's schools. This is the minimum you need to do as a Muslim parent. The headteachers are required by law to agree to this request. The writing of this letter will at least safeguard your child from worshipping as a Christian and receiving Christian RE. However, it creates other problems, such as what your child is supposed to do during Christian worship and Christian RE. Are there any provisions in the Act for alternative collective worship and RE?

Option Three : Islamic Assembly at the LEA's expense and alternative RE

YES ! There are provisions in the Education Reform Act about both alternative collective worship and alternative RE. Section 7(3,4,5 and 6) of the Act provides for alternative arrangements for collective worship.

Alternative Collective Worship (Islamic Assembly)

In those schools where Muslim children are in a clear majority (majority does not necessarily have to involve the whole school, but may be a class or section of the school), Muslim parents should go to the headteacher and demonstrate that the compulsory Christian daily worship will be wholly 'inappropriate' under Sec.7(5 and 6) of the Act and ask him/her to arrange Islamic Collective worship (Islamic Assembly) in the school. Headteachers are required to consult parents about this.

The headteacher will have to consult the governing body of the school and refer the matter to the local SACRE (sec.12 (1)...(10). Every LEA is now legally obliged to establish a SACRE (sec.11 of the Education Reform Act,1988).
As per Sec.11 (4) of this Act the SACRE will consist of four groups representing :

Christian/other religions which, in the opinion of the authority, reflect the principal religious tradition in the area;
Except in the case of an area in Wales, the Church of England;
Associations representing teachers as, in the opinion of the authority, ought, having regard to the circumstances of the area.
The Education Authority.

Muslims must make sure that they will be represented in the third group mentioned. It is the SACRE which will approve the request made by the headteacher of a school. If the headteacher of a predominantly Muslim school gets the approval of the SACRE to organise an alternative Islamic Assembly, he/she will have to get the services of a competent person to conduct the collective worship, bearing in mind the ages and aptitude of the children. He/she may call upon a Muslim member of his/her staff to do this or he/she may invite a suitably qualified person from outside the school such as an Imam of a local Mosque to conduct the collective worship. The LEA, by legal implication, is required to bear the cost of alternative collective worship.

Alternative RE (Islamic RE)

The Act does not provide for alternative RE in the same way as for Collective Worship (assembly). Nevertheless, alternative RE or Islamic RE can be organised in a school with majority Muslim pupils by parents exercising their right of withdrawal. (Sec.9(3)(b)(c) of the 1988 Act). The Muslim parents of such schools should ask the headteachers to arrange for suitably qualified teachers to organise Islamic RE. As the majority of pupils in the school would be involved, the LEAs should bear the cost of such RE. If the LEAs do not take on this responsibility the community will have to arrange for the funding of Islamic RE.

Option Four : Islamic Assembly and RE at the Community's expense

Collective Worship
Where Muslims are in the minority, Muslim parents will have to withdraw their children from Christian collective worship and ask the headteacher to provide them with a time and place to hold their own assemblies. Parents may arrange with the headteacher directly, or through the LEA, to send in a suitably competent person to these schools to conduct Islamic collective worship. Neither the school, nor the LEA, is obliged to bear the cost which has to be arranged by the Muslim community.

Religious Education
Withdrawal from religious education lessons in those schools where Muslim children are in the minority can be difficult. Yet, because of the compulsory Christian RE, Muslim parents have no choice but to write to the headteacher asking for withdrawal. In these schools, the Muslim parents can, by arrangement with the headteacher or the LEA, send in a competent person to teach Islamic RE as has been described above. Alternatively, Muslim parents can ask the headteacher to exempt their children from attending Christian RE and allow them to study suitable books; for example, 'Islam : beliefs and Teachings' (Secondary Schools) and 'Islam for younger people' (Primary schools), both of which have worksheets in them. This can be done in a classroom or in the library of the school. Even if there are only one or two Muslim children in a school, the Muslim parent should exercise his/her rights of withdrawal.

Appendix 1

ADDRESS ..................................
Date ................

The Head Teacher.,

Dear Sir/Madam,
I would like to inform you that I wish to withdraw my child (ren).............
from Christian Collective Worship and Christian RE as per Section 25 (4) of
the 1944 Education Act.

Yours Faithfully,


To succeed in obtaining rights, all Muslim parents should, from now on :

Keep in close contact with the school, in order to be informed of what is happening in the school;
Make effective efforts to get competent representatives on the SACRE;
Attend governing body meetings as observers (a legal right)
Prepare themselves for the next governing body elections and seek to get appointed by election or co-option as a member;
Maintain a close contact with the local MPs and elected Councillors;
Liaise and coordinate with the local Mosques and other Muslim organisations in their area.

A list of Demands to be submitted to LEA's
The following is a list of demands which the Muslim community of different areas may submit to their Local Education Authority (LEA) for necessary action :

Headteachers of schools should be asked to arrange Islamic assembly and Islamic RE where Muslim children are in the majority with the approval of the local SACRE. In those schools where there is a sizeable number of Muslim pupils, a Muslim teacher should be allowed to take Islamic lessons at least twice per week during the school assembly and such teachers be allowed to take registration of the Muslim pupils to ensure that time for the Muslim assembly is not less than half an hour.
Headteachers should be asked to ensure that the information booklets for parents should contain all information relevant to their children (including the right of withdrawal, school meals, holidays, changing and showering and sportswear). These booklets should be translated into the appropriate languages when necessary (section 6 of 1980 Education Act).
The LEAs should ensure that authentic and reliable books on Islam are used in schools and stocked in school and the local libraries (a list of books on Islam in English should be supplied to the LEAs, schools concerned and the libraries).
Headteachers should be asked to allow Muslim girls of secondary school age to wear trousers and blouse with pinafore (or Shalwar and Qamis) matching the colour of the school uniform. They should also allow Muslim girls to wear sportswear compatible with their religious requirements.
Prayers facilities must be provided in the schools with Muslim children. Headteachers should ensure there is adequate washing (wudu) facility with a prayer room within nearby.
Headteachers should also be asked to arrange separate accommodation for changing and allow Muslim children to wear swimming costumes while showering.
Headteachers should be asked to bear in mind the dietary regulations of Muslims and make these known to the school kitchen staff to ensure that halal food is available to Muslim children. LEAs having a substantial number of Muslim pupils should look into the possibility of providing halal meat for school meals.
Headteachers should allow Muslim pupils to be excused from dance, drama, music and sex education lessons when a request is made to them by the Muslim parents.
Headteachers should be asked to allow Muslim children to absent on the days of their religious festivals, eg. Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Adha (Sec.39(b) of the 1944 Education Act).
LEAs should keep as many single-sex schools as possible opened to meet the requirements of the Muslims of their area.
LEAs should ask schools to arrange for GCSE and 'A' level examinations in Islam for Muslim pupils who may opt for it.
LEAs should appoint Muslim teachers and other staff in those schools which have a substantial number of Muslim pupils.
LEAs should ensure that the Muslims are represented in their decision making process and actively co-ordinate with the representatives of the Muslims on matters relating to them.
Headteachers should be asked to allow Muslim pupils to form a Muslim club on a request from the pupils.
LEAs should encourage and subsidize the activities of the Muslim organisations concerning advice, youth forums, Qur'an and Arabic teaching, sports activities and the like.
LEAs should arrange for the training of Muslim teachers in the teachers' training colleges to produce trained teachers for teaching Islam.

Based on the pamphlet by Ghulam Sarwar, Muslim Educational Trust 130 Stroud Green Road, LONDON N4 3RZ

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