Friday, February 23, 2007

First they came for the Jews...



Guardian

Schools Should Accomodate Muslim Needs

State schools should avoid sex education classes and swimming lessons during Ramadan to cater for the needs of Muslim pupils, says the Muslim Council of Britain. The recommendations, issued today, are included in a 72-page document of Muslim-friendly guidelines on topics such as uniform, halal meals, issues relating to Ramadan, physical education and sex education....The MCB claims Muslim pupils may consider it too risky to swim during Ramadan as 'the potential for swallowing water is very high' and they may break their fast....Another suggestion is to avoid teaching sex and relationship education, including aspects that are part of the science curriculum, because Muslims are not permitted to engage in sexual activity during the month of fasting and they are also expected to avoid sexual thoughts and conversation.

Express

Muslims Tell Us How To Run Our Schools


DEMANDS for a ban on “un-Islamic” activities in schools will be set out by the Muslim Council of Britain today. Targets include playground games, swimming lessons, school plays, parents’ evenings and even vaccinations. And the calls for all children to be taught in Taliban-style conditions will be launched with the help of a senior Government education adviser.

HAVE YOUR SAY: SHOULD MUSLIMS TELL US HOW TO RUN OUR SCHOOLS? "If they want to live in our country I firmly believe they should follow our laws and culture. Bringing thier own culture and laws over is an invasion on britain which I believe should be stopped at all costs." "Who are you to dictate to us in our western Christian country.If you don't like it..you know where you can go....." "I cannot believe that the MCB are stupid enough to think that they can take over this country and bend it to Muslim culture."

22 comments:

NickPheas said...

and there was me thinking you'd given up the Daily Express for Lent

Savoy6 said...

You can see where your country will be heading if they ever get a significant number of seats in Parliment. Beware.

Iorwerth Owain said...

savoy6: If by 'they' you mean the readers of the Express, then if they gain a significant number of seats in Parliament, I'm heading for Canada.

If it's Muslims you mean, I can't see how having a significant number of them in Parliament is any worse than having a significant number of High Church Anglicans or Roman Catholics as MPs, since they're as homogeneous a group as the latter two. Which is to say, not very.

Andrew Rilstone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Rilstone said...

Quite so. If the readers of the "Daily Express" readers (or "The British National Party" as I like to think of them, ever got into power), then they wouldn't stop at preventing Moslem children from keeping Ramadan. It would only be a matter of time before laws were being passed against Jews, Catholics, Pooftahs, People Who Saw Monty Pythons Life of Brian, Science Fiction Geeks Who Have Never Had a Girlfriend, etc.

Hence my headline.

The "Daily Express"'s favourite rent-a-quote on religious matters "Christian Voice", thinks that Mosques should not be allowed in the UK at all. They are an abomination before the lord, really worship the devil because everyone knows that the crescent moon is a satanic symbol, are smelly and have shifty eyes, etc.

The scary thing is that, while no British newsagent would sell an openly fascist paper, the Expres is on display everywhere. Why don't people demand that it is taken down from the shelves? Why do we put up with it?

Eric Spratling said...

You're absolutely right, Andrew. The people who write for the Express would like to take away Muslims' rights, and for that they should be censored!

Sylvia Drake said...

You'll always be welcome in my underground bunker, but you'd have to arrange for your own transportation and BYO canned goods, and you probably wouldn't want to flee to the U.S. anyway. . .

Andrew Rilstone said...

Censorship = Police officers coming and closing down your officers, taking away your printing presses, locking up your journalists.

What I am suggesting = Respectable newsagents refusing to see fascist literature. If fascists want fascists books, they should have a perfect right to go to fascist bookshops and buy them; in the same way that there are hard-corn porn shops. But W.H Smug doesn't display hard core porn and fascist literature with the grown-up newspapers.

Is this really complicated?

Eric Spratling said...

Fair enough, if that's who you're doing the "demanding" of. That's obviously a free decision made by the marketplace and not a government prohibition. Here in the States you can find tabloid mags full of outrageous fabrications (not with, admittedly, any fascist content; at least to the best of my knowledge) at most supermarket checkout lines and, well, no one really cares.

Andrew Stevens said...

I believe that the purpose of the Daily Express isn't, in fact, to promulgate its supposed views, but rather to entertain people, many of whom don't agree with those views, like Mr. Rilstone. This is certainly the real point of The Weekly World News, a supermarket tabloid so outrageous that I think it's probably close to literally true that nobody believes anything it prints. The Weekly World News has a circulation somewhat larger than that of the Express, but I don't know anyone who voted for Al Gore because Bat Boy endorsed him in 2000. (I freely grant that it's not fair to compare circulations of weeklies to dailies nor American papers to British papers. I do agree that the Daily Express is actually more popular in Britain than the Weekly World News is in America.)

Looking into the background of the publisher, Richard Desmond, it's impossible for me to buy that he believes even a fraction of what his paper is publishing. He is, after all, a pornographer from a Jewish background who is famous for making a large and controversial donation to the Labor Party and described himself as a "socialist" on the day he took over the Daily Express. I suppose I'll grant the possibility that he has converted to some form of fascism, but I doubt the man has any political beliefs at all other than that he should die very, very wealthy.

So I'd guess that the answer to your question of why people put up with it is simply that almost nobody takes it seriously. Their target market isn't really fascists, but people who will buy anything even mildly entertaining, a startlingly large market as any marketer would tell you. This isn't to say that Britain doesn't have some racists. 0.7% of the population did vote for the BNP in 2005, which makes it the eighth most successful party.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I am genuinely confused. Is the claim that what the Express is printing does not ammount to race-hate literature? Or merely that it is okay to publish race-hate literature because no-one believes it?

The analogy between the "Express" and the "Weekly World News" doesn't stand up. Supermarket tabloids publish urban folklore and invented science fiction stories about Roswell aliens, bat-boys and Elvis Presley. The "Express" print lies about current political events. The Diana conspiracy theory is simply not at the same level as the "Elvis is alive and well and living in Bognor." The UK is about to embark on a very expensive inquest (following the very expensive public enquiry, and the previous French inquest) to find out if Diana was murdered or not. Every political pundit in the country was taken in by the "wogs ban Christmas" hoax.

If the Express starts running headlines that say "NOW, JEWISH BANKERS REDUCE THE VALUE OF YOUR HOME", "99% SAY BAN THE SKULLCAP", "IS THE BANKING SYSTEM RUN BY THE ZIONIST BRIGADE? YOU DECIDE." "JEWISH MAN CONVICTED OF CHILD ABUSE" "JEWISH MAN CONVICTED OF MURDER" "RITUAL SLAUGHTER RIDDLE AS JEWISH MAN KILLS BABY", would we be prepared to say "Oh, they're just being silly, like when the Sport ran stories about Roswell aliens?" Is it okay to go back the 1980s when "NO BAN ON PULPIT POOFTAHS" "20 WAYS TO SPOT IF YOUR VICARS IS A POOFTAH" stories were printed openly? Or is equating very moderate Islamic statments with the Taliban different from homophobia and anti-semitism in some complex way which I have missed?

Louise H said...

There's an interesting question about the relationship between state schools and the religions of their pupils (or, to be more accurate, the parents of their pupils in the case of younger children.) But it is swamped by the Express type response of knee-jerk hostility to Muslims.

You end up in a position where it is very difficult to stand up and say that the education authorities should not necessarily follow the advice of the Muslim Council on all these points, without feeling uncomfortably as if you are on the side of the Express.

What would have happened to a similar report, on, say, the desirability of catering for children observing Lent? Or of providing fish on Fridays (do people still do that?) Presumably the Express wouldn't have cared, being as we are a "Christian Country".

Gavin Burrows said...

Presumably the Express wouldn't have cared, being as we are a "Christian Country".

'Christian' is but a codeword for 'Caucasian' here, I fear. I doubt many of these 'Christian' Express readers go to church for example; if they did the congregations might be much fuller than they are.

A heavy reliance on what could be argued to be Christian fundamentals (say compulsory Church attendance and banning Christmas) would get the Express on about our "traditions of tolerance."

Andrew Rilstone said...

If you have a lot of people in your school who think that they shouldn't go swimming in June, then you're options are

1: Excuse those people from swimming lessons, drawing everyone's attention to the difference.

2: Force them to go swimming whether they want to or not. Punish them if they refuse. Beat them for speaking Welsh in the playground. Their parents withdraw them from school, set up their own "no swimming in June" schools. Another victory for integration!

3: Force them to swimming whether they want to or not and PREVENT their parents from setting up special no swimming schools. Forcibly convert them, invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.

4: Don't schedule swimming lessons in June

5: Re-think your system so that, e.g. everyone gets a choice of which sport to play on Tuesday afternoons, meaning that some kids can happen to not choose swimming in June without drawing attention to themselves too much.

6: Don't have any swimming lessons at all.

This isn't a specifically religious question: it applies equally to say, forced nudity in gym classes; vegetarian options in the cafeteria; dissecting animals in biology, compulsory army training cadets, etc. Granted that the state pays for your education, does this imply that the state is free to make you do whatever it likes inside the school gates, regardless of your personal feelings?

Given that there were Jews in England for several hundred years before the Moslim Hoards arrived, I assume we have already worked out a way of accomodating Jewish customs? i.e Presumably we allow Jewish kids to go home half an hour early on Fridays in the winter, and presumably, civilisation has somehow managed to survive?

Phil Masters said...

Given that there were Jews in England for several hundred years before the Moslim Hoards arrived...

On and off. In the period before Cromwell let some non-conversos back in, Elizabeth I was receiving Moorish ambassadors with a view to winding up the Spanish...

Sorry. Pedantry reflex twitched there.

I can't actually remember what my school did regarding special requirements for the Jewish kids, though there were one or two. Weird really.

Sylvia Drake said...

Second what Andrew said about the Weekly World News (or even the Enquirer etc., which take themselves more seriously) vs. the Express. The WWN in particular is evidently written (and enjoyed) primarily by cheeky left-wing English majors.

We're easily confused about what "tabloid" means because in most of the USA, publications analogous to the British daily tabloid simply don't exist. Closest thing would be the New York Post, and perhaps there are others in big East Coast cities, but west of DC, not so much.

Louise H said...

I seem to recall that my school felt itself free to make me do cross country in the middle of winter, regardless of my strong opinion on the matter.

I'm not saying that Muslim children who wish to observe Ramadan strictly (which may be a relatively small subset of all children of Muslim parents) should necessarily be made to swim.

But I do think that religious observance should not automatically trump educational benefit or even administrative convenience. If a school head takes the view that "can't swim because might swallow a bit of water" is pushing the boundaries of required religious adjustments and preventing him or her from running the school effectively then a line should be able to be drawn without being Express-ist.

Sex education is a bit different because we already have an opt out for parents who would rather their children grew up and encountered the modern world in a state of dangerous ignorance. But it strikes me that the argument that one ought not to think about sex during Ramadan could easily be extended to arguing that it is sinful to think about sex at all. I know schools can't impose sex education without the parents' consent but I strongly feel that they ought to be able to.

Many of the proposals of the Muslim Council are minor and reasonable and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that they have the slightest interest in changing the behaviour of non-Muslim children. But state schools are just that- state schools. They don't educate children according to the religious beliefs of their parents, and I don't see why they should make numerous awkward adjustments for what appear to be pretty random sets of rules from a number of different religions.

In some cases it ought to be the religion which adjusts- for instance which accepts that children at state schools will occasionally be in a position where religious rules are broken because those schools are not run along religious lines.

And that's the same for Jews, Muslim, Christians, Pagans and all the rest. But I doubt that it will happen- the move seems to be more towards trying to follow everybody's rules at once. It's Political Correctness Gone Mad, I tell you. (and there you go- if you dissent from the Muslim Council, it seems that you inevitably end up in the arms of the Daily Express)

Andrew Rilstone said...

I seem to recall that my school felt itself free to make me do cross country in the middle of winter, regardless of my strong opinion on the matter.


Yes; and my school felt itself free to beat me with a gym shoe. (Only theoretically; I was a good boy.)

It was eventually decided that

a: In non-essential matters, schools should respect the philosophical convictions of parents.

b: Some parents objected philosophically to people hitting their children.

c: Having hitting schools and non-hitting schools; or hitting streams and non-hitting streams in the same schools was more trouble than it was worth, therefore.

d: Best to give it up altogheter in state schools and let Telegraph readers pay extra if they wanted their kids thrashed.

And of course, lots of people flung up their hands in despair and said "beatings aren't a non-essential matter, it's fundamental to the whole idea of education", And somehow, civilisation survived.

And yes, whenever someone requests special treatment because of a philosophical conviction, the Sgt. Major can say "What? Serve VEGETARIAN food in the mess-hall, just because some nancy-boy doesn't like eating dead-animals? Next thing, all the soldier-boys will develop a religious objection to peeling potatoes or polishing their boots, and then watch Johnny Foriegner walk all over us." And yet prisons and the army do make attempts to deal with people's dietary requirements, and somehow, civilisation survives.

In general, organisations require you to give some kind of evidence that this is really is Philosophical Conviction and not just Trying It On. I believe that Prisons take you a lot more seriously if you were already a member of the Vegetarian Society before you got put in clink. This is why Moslems and Jews get more attention paid to them that Christians. Ask a Rabbi what you can do during Passover and he will quote chapter, verse, the names of three dissenting Rabbis and two jokes by Lionel Blue. Ask a Christian what you can do during Lent, and he will say that in a very real sense, it's up to you. This is why Cross Lady got so very little sympathy from anyone.

I'm not saying that Muslim children who wish to observe Ramadan strictly (which may be a relatively small subset of all children of Muslim parents) should necessarily be made to swim.


Is it possible, do you think, that some radically anti-integrationist Muslims are coming up with the strictest possible interpretations of the rules specifically in order to make it hard for Muslims to attend secular schools? In which case the cleverest possible thing for the state schools to do would be to say "Yes: we'll do all we can to accommodate even your most extreme requests."


But I do think that religious observance should not automatically trump educational benefit or even administrative convenience. If a school head takes the view that "can't swim because might swallow a bit of water" is pushing the boundaries of required religious adjustments and preventing him or her from running the school effectively then a line should be able to be drawn without being Express-ist.

I think personal conviction always trumps administrative convenience in non-essential matters; and of course, that means that we will have to have tedious messy discussions about what we mean by "essential". You ought to be able to do "O" level home economics without touching an animal that chews the cud by divides not the hoof; but that if you want a Masters Degree In Hotel Management, then you might reasonably be told that non-kosher cooking is Essential.


Sex education is a bit different because we already have an opt out for parents who would rather their children grew up and encountered the modern world in a state of dangerous ignorance. But it strikes me that the argument that one ought not to think about sex during Ramadan could easily be extended to arguing that it is sinful to think about sex at all. I know schools can't impose sex education without the parents' consent but I strongly feel that they ought to be able to.

I wasn't aware that parents could withdraw their children from sex lessons. This seems utterly ludicrous and therefore probably a sensible pragmatic decision.

It would seem to be unarguable that knowing basic facts about reproduction is an essential part of being educated; and that if someone says "I have a philosophical objection to my children knowing where babies come from", the correct answer is "hard luck."

The trouble is that we all more or less agree about where babies come from; but that there are as many individual opinions about relationships as there are individuals. So, if emotions and relationships and messy stuff comes into sex-ed classes, how do we handle it? I believe that it is the settled opinion of the British State that Marriage is the bedrock of British society. In the 1980s, the British State thought that homosexuality and masturbation were perversions. You'd be doing pretty well to find three people who agree about Gay Marriage. So your options are:

a: Stick with the facts of life and don't have any relationship counselling at all

b: Teach the Settled Will of the British State, whatever it happens to be that week, and if the kids don't turn up to the lesson, stick the kids in detention and their parents in jail.

c: Teach the settled will of the British State, but allow parents to withdraw their kids from the lesson if they don't agree with it.

d: Come up with a pluralistic lesson in which a number of different views are represented and the school doesn't appear to favour any one of them.

I'm not at all sure that "A" wouldn't be best; "C" is the pragmatic compromise we use at present; :"D" is, apparently, political correctness gone mad. "B" is the only one I am dead against; I'm almost inclined to call it Fascist.

Granted, if you go along with "D", then some fringe group is going to say "You have to incorporate and give equal time to our belief that no-one should have any sex at all and spend their time making chairs instead."

But the fact that someone may make an unreasonable request is not an argument against granting reasonable ones. The thin end of the wedge is a slippery slope.


Many of the proposals of the Muslim Council are minor and reasonable and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that they have the slightest interest in changing the behaviour of non-Muslim children. But state schools are just that- state schools. They don't educate children according to the religious beliefs of their parents, and I don't see why they should make numerous awkward adjustments for what appear to be pretty random sets of rules from a number of different religions.

Ah. "It depends what you mean by" state schools. "State Schools as opposed to Private Schools, ones which the state happens to fund"; or "Schools runs for the benefit and convenience of the British State." (c.f "Secular" -- "giving no particular advantage to any religion or lack of religion" or "pursuing a robustly anti-religious ideology".)

On my view, Muslims are as much part of the British state as anybody else; on the Daily Express's view, they are a foreign Other on whom the British state acts. On my view, Muslims should no more be made to eat pork than English people should be made to eat Roast Cat and Spider; we don't think of them as eating animals, and most of us would be physically unable to put them in our mouths. On the Express view, if a British person happens to be a Muslim, then he should be the kind of Muslim who doesn't even keep the Pillars of the Faith, becasue allowing Muslims a few minutes a day to say their prayers is a crime against Christmas...or something.

You say it isn't the job of a state school to educate children according to the beliefs of their parents. I agree. But I also say that it isn't part of the state's remit to prevent children from practising their religion. When the state said "We are going to require that all children are educated and to this end we'll provide schools free of charge" I didn't hear them add under their breath "And if any of them are Jewish, then we'll damn well feed them pork chops, see if we don't."

There should be no difficulty with allowing a Muslim to follow the rules of his religion in a state school. If we can't deal with people wearing, to our eyes, comically modest swimming costumes and slightly unfamiliar hats, then there really is something wrong with us as a country. The difficulty comes when you try to make other people follow the rules of your religion. I would defend to the point of getting a clip round the ear from the gym teacher the right of a Jew to wear his kippah in P.E; but if he started to insist that I wore one as well then I might think he was taking the mickey. (Naturally, if skullcaps were banned by law, I would expect all Jews, Muslims and Heathens to start wearing them.)

There are grey areas even here: if I happened to be one of the minority of gentiles at a school in Golders Green, I would probably not expect to find cheeseburgers on the menu very often. But then my religion permits me to eat milk and meat; it doesn't oblige me to do so.


In some cases it ought to be the religion which adjusts- for instance which accepts that children at state schools will occasionally be in a position where religious rules are broken because those schools are not run along religious lines. And that's the same for Jews, Muslim, Christians, Pagans and all the rest.

Are you happy to add "atheists" to the list, by the way? I mean, does the person of No Religion have to say "The Muslim has to to look at more flesh than he is comfortable with in Gym Class, so I will have to feel uncomfortable and bow my head because the Christians want to say Grace before meals?" If so, then you are basically saying "We should all be flexible and fall over ourselves to accommodate other people's customs and taboos; we just ask for some give and take in all directions." To which I reply "Amen". Or possibly "Duh!"

Andrew Stevens said...

Mr. Rilstone, I was actually simply and only pointing out that, in my opinion, it is very likely the case that the people writing the Daily Express don't even believe what they're writing. I actually didn't mean to disagree with your argument at all. If you wished to circulate a petition asking newsvendors to remove the Daily Express from their shelves, I'd be perfectly willing to sign it, though I doubt my signature would carry any weight.

I am familiar with the fact that the Daily Express purports to be a legitimate newspaper, unlike most tabloids in the States, and my analogy to the Weekly World News was solely so I could have my little joke about Al Gore and Bat Boy. (I used to enjoy the Weekly World News a great deal myself, though I was neither an English major nor cheeky.) I didn't use the National Enquirer as a comparison because, journalistically speaking, the National Enquirer is on a whole other level, way above the Daily Express.

When I implied that many of the Daily Express's readers might have opinions directly contrary to their editorial position, it's because I think the Express is being deliberately provocative and controversial in order to sell papers, including to their political opponents who buy the paper to work up a righteous anger. This is, I think, a lot more common than is generally supposed. I suspect that a great many of Anne Coulter's readership are people who hate her and buy her book so they can tear it apart (figuratively, though perhaps literally as well).

Mr. Rilstone is, I am sure, perfectly correct that the banning Christmas thing was taken seriously and this absolutely should be fought. (I suspect the expensive inquest has a lot to do with Mohamed al Fayed and not much to do with the Daily Express. I'd certainly be willing to accept correction on that since my opinion is, I am certain, ill-informed.) My own opinion is that the Express should be neutralized by refusing to take it seriously, rather than rebutting it point by point, or you risk people believing that they are producing actual journalism on occasion. I hope it goes without saying that I mean no disrespect here. Mr. Rilstone should write whatever he wishes to write. I certainly find even his point-by-point rebuttals of the Daily Express to be more entertaining than 99.99% of other Web content.

Ms. Drake's analogy of the New York Post is an excellent one. It certainly is the closest thing the U.S. has to the Daily Express, at least since Murdoch bought it.

Phil Masters said...

Andrew recognises that the question of "Who is going to decide what's a reasonable compromise?" is difficult, but (being British) gets around this by making jokes about it. I'm not sure how long this approach can last in practise.

There's also the problem that accommodating one group's rules and beliefs could be offensive or harmful to another, in a very practical way. For example, we're lucky in Britain in that - I think - most people recognise that creationism is a bit silly, and would say that Young Earth creationism is goofy to the point of justifying vulgar abuse. However, there are places in the rest of the world where people take these things seriously, and not only claim the right to withdraw their sprogs from lessons in which Darwin is mentioned (which is close enough to abuse in my book), but want creationism taught in schools. Whereas, if I had children, I'd regard any school which som much as mentioned the bloody idea in science classes as flatly unacceptable for them. That makes it impossible for any school to act in a way that's acceptable to both sets of people; one lot regards science lessons without creationism as immoral, and one lot has the exact opposite position. And merely permitting parents to withdraw their offspring from specific science lessons isn't going to work, because (a) it generates problems about the nature of truth, and more importantly (b) it generates problems when exams come around with questions about what was taught during the previous term.

Andrew also slips into the complacent assumption that children have religions and beliefs of their own. I'm not sure that this is true, for practical purposes; at the risk of sounding D*wk*ns**n, parents have religions and beliefs, which they tend to want schools to inculcate. And there has to come a point where schools, being run primarily for the good of the children and partly for the good of society, may have to say "No, we won't help you brainwash your offspring, and we won't help you shield your offspring from contrary opinions to yours".

Sam Dodsworth said...

Andrew:
You'd be doing pretty well to find three people who agree about Gay Marriage.

A Pedant Writes:

I know at least six, not counting myself. Is this a record?


Phil:
I'm not sure how long this approach can last in practise.

One answer would be: "Long enough for the next generation to grow up more relaxed about their parents' beliefs because they didn't feel their way of life was under threat." Which is, I understand, part of the point of multiculturalism.

As for the rest... one of the things that makes compromise unpopular is that it usually includes fuzzy terms like 'reasonable' and 'fair' that make it easy to ask where you draw the line. But the alternative is the tyranny of the majority, which always looks reasonable until you find yourself on the wrong side.

Andrew Rilstone said...

New thread created.