The Catholic Church in Britain has become embroiled in controversy after it effectively banned schools from teaching students about Islam as part of religious studies on Sunday, Express newspaper reported.
Under new General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) reforms, UK schools are required to teach more than one faith in religious studies, which came as part of a governmental plan to integrate students from different religious backgrounds, and it is intended to drive extremism out of classrooms.
The education reforms were drawn up after the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, in which individuals were found to have been introducing fundamental Islamic teaching into Muslim schools in Birmingham. However, Muslim leaders have said the plan hasbackfired as Catholic schools have ruled out teaching Islam to students. Catholic schools have opted to only teach students about Judaism alongside Christianity. This decision effectively rules out teaching about the world’s second biggest religion.
Iqbal Sacranie, the former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that this decision has undermined Pope Francis’s message of greater tolerance between the faiths. He urged Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols to think again.
Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service, said that teaching about the Jewish faith would ensure pupils are given a solid grounding in Christianity. He continued that students could learn about other religions during typical religious education lessons.
It is noteworthy that critics say that a significant numbers of pupils who attend Catholic Church schools in Britain come from an Islamic background and that the Catholic Church has more than 2,000 schools under its domain in the country.
“This is not a good decision. It does not reflect well on the messages that are coming out from the Church for greater tolerance of other faiths”, said Sacranie. “This is a difficult time for religions, and the last thing you would expect is a major faith making such a statement”.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, said: “I urge all religious authorities to allow individual heads the freedom to decide what is best for pupils”.