"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Monday, 22 November 2010

Why doesn't this surprise me?

The BBC investigative programme Panorama has discovered that Muslim run weekend schools are teaching anti-Semitic and homophobic material from a Saudi text book. The schools teach the Saudi National Curriculum and are run under the name of “Saudi Students Clubs and Schools” in the UK. Due to a technicality they are exempt from full Ofsted oversight.
The material, which is being taught to 15 year olds, includes Sharia punishments for acts of sodomy for which children are told that the penalty is death and it states a difference of opinion whether this should be done by stoning, or burning with fire, or throwing over a cliff.
The books also teaches about the ”Protocols of the Elders of Zion” a demonstrably fraudulent text purporting to show a Jewish conspiracy to control the world.
Coalition education secretary Micheal Gove told the programme
“I have no desire or wish to intervene in the decisions that the Saudi government makes in its own education system. But I’m clear that we cannot have anti-Semitic material of any kind being used in English schools. Ofsted are doing some work in this area. They’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”
It is a shame that Mr Gove should equivocate with the Saudi government so blatantly but at least he recognises it is inappropriate for anyone to teach this material here.
We should be clear that we will not allow Islamic intolerance and paranoia to be imported into our society under cover of faith schools. Any institution that purports to teach children in this country, regardless of ethnic origin should have to undergo full scrutiny of Ofsted and be made to adopt a balanced approach. It may be fair enough to teach that the Qu’ran demands the death penalty in respect of homosexual acts, because it does: It is a regrettable and reprehensible fact. It is not acceptable to teach that it is morally correct in the context of a modern liberal democracy however.
It behoves us to be suspicious of the motives of any faith school, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu or whatever. The temptation for them to teach repressive dogma and intolerance will be overwhelming and in many with a fundamentalist bent it will be inevitable.
Hopefully the government will learn the lesson from this and make sure that any of the recently proposed free schools that are set up with a religious “ethos” are not allowed to promulgate similar ideas amongst our youth.

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