By Majed Iqbal- In the last few years there has been an intense effort by the government in taking direct hands on approach in the affairs of the Muslim community in the name of tackling ‘radicalisation’ and combating ‘extremism’.
For some, this has been a welcoming gesture, seeing the Government playing a ‘positive’ role in understanding the issues of the Muslim community. For the majority, this has been viewed as intervention and a concentrated effort to make Muslims swallow ideas with a carrot and stick approach.
No other faith group in the country has been subject to so much scrutiny as the Muslim community has with project after project being designed to tackle all possible sectors and groupings of Muslims.
Muslim women groups like the Muslim women’s assertiveness course, Youth groups, National Mosque Groups like MINAB, ‘Extremism’ tool kits for schools and Colleges for Muslim pupils, New Government endorsed curriculum’s for Mosques in the North West titled ‘Nasiha’ and local councils given thousands of pounds to give to groups to promote key ideas which the government is interested in imparting to local Muslim residents- the list can continue with numerous more examples.
In this line up comes a new national drive to get Mosques and Madrassah’s to roll out an “Islamic” version of Citizenship courses across the country in areas like Leicester, London, Bristol, Kirklees, Bradford, Oldham and Rochdale.
The Islam and Citizenship Education Project has been funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government under the banner of the project “Prevent”- the Governments anti-radicalisation agenda which has seen over £12.5 million pounds spent already out of its £70 million pound budget over three years.
It claims to “to teach citizenship values through the Islamic perspective” and state that “citizenship values and Islamic values are broadly compatible”.
However the 44 lessons (22 for Key Stage 2; 9-11 year olds and 22 for Key Stage 3; 11-14 year olds) discusses many issues in the curriculum that are already widely addressed in many Mosques like morals, respect and good speech and character. So why does the Government feel the need to promote a state controlled version of an Islamic curriculum for mosques?
A closer look reveals that some topics are addressed in line with the Government’s view that Muslims have false grievances on international issues like Pakistan, Iraq Palestine and Afghanistan.
In Lesson 9 of Key stage 3, pupils are being taught to become pacifists by remaining silent and patient and controlling ones anger to ‘resolve disputes’. This would apply to attending demonstrations against perpetrators of war crimes against humanity like Musharraf or Zardari for declaring war on its own citizens in Pakistan on the orders of America and Britian. However, the curriculum would teach pupils that this is an ‘extreme’ response and that muslims should be patient.
In Lesson 10 pupils are being questioned on suicide bombings- “Is it ever right for people to threaten to blow up other people, or actually to blow them up? Why do some people take actions like this?”
Would there be any room in this curriculum to discuss the illegal war on Iraq where over 100,000 were killed, many of whom were innocent men, women and children?
In Lesson 11 pupils are being taught to understand the concept of “tolerance, respect and love for humanity”. Would the lesson aid pupils in questioning why politicians in Britain are encouraging segregation of communities through their highly controversial remarks on Islam like Jack Straw on the Niqaab or Jim Fitzpatrick on the segregation of Weddings?
In Lesson 12 pupils are being taught about community cohesion and how Islam embraces people of other faiths and beliefs. Would the lesson discuss why the Government has made Islam and the Muslim community the subject of intense suspicion with comments from Former Prime minister Tony Blair describing “aspects of Islam as an evil Ideology” or highlight Charles Clarke, the former foreign ministers statements who said that “Shariah law for the Muslim world is non-negotiable and the British state would never tolerate it”?
In lesson 14, Living and Working with Others, pupils are presented with a confused idea of the compatibility of Secular Democracy and Shariah law at a State level by claiming that the Constitution of the Messenger Muhammad is similar to that of Britain. This is despite that Islam has many social, political, economic rules that directly conflict with Secular liberal laws from Democracy.
Whilst even Gordon Brown has difficulty in defining what it means to be British and will be a subject of many conversations even amongst the indigeneous population, surprisingly the curriculum seems to force a sense of “Britishness” down the throats of pupils in Lesson 15 titled “British or Muslim, or British Muslim”.
In Lesson 20, “Understanding Democracy” pupils are presented with this model of Governance as an ideal to aspire to where it is only democracy which somehow has a monopoly and exclusivity on elected government, free and fair elections and the rule of law. However, pupils are not presented with the controversies surrounding Liberal democracy like MP’s Expenses, cash for Questions in Parliament, ‘Donations’ to parties, Foreign Millionaires meeting British Politicians on Holiday Yachts or the growing social problems, Financial crisis where bankers are being given thousands in bonuses while banks close down and unemployment rates soar exponentially.
Any independent observer will not fail to notice that the contents of the curriculum come in the backdrop of the Governments agenda to make the Muslim community embrace ideas, values and political persuasions more closer to its own, despite Islam’s and the Muslim Community’s contrasting views on these issues.
The Curriculum has been officially endorsed and mentioned the Governments Prevent Document in 2008 and will be launching officially on the 24th October 2009 at Central Westminster Hall in London.
However, like its predecessor, the Nasiha project piloted in Bradford nearly two years by the then Communities Minister Ruth Kelly which was rejected by many Mosques, Groups and Muslim bodies, the ICE project seems to already be heading for the same fate with its credentials of being a Government Sponsored Agenda.