As a father and an educator for most of my adult life, and a considerable amount of what remains as a child, I know the influence we have on children and young adults. We know the power of a smile, a raised eyebrow, the crossing of the arms and a frown. These subtle actions bring about huge changes in a child’s confidence, self-esteem, self-value and behaviour.
In a world which is ever-changing and challenging, children seek to make sense of their surroundings and yearn for stability and certainty. In the midst of this chaotic environment they also navigate and determine their own identity and attempt to answer the question – ‘Who am I?’
Parents and teachers, the home and the school, and for some the place of religious learning, are entrusted and empowered by God and country to be facilitators for these future generations, in guiding them through the terrain of life. One key aspect of life which can be one of the most difficult to navigate is engaging with those that are different to us.
Religious minorities in particular suffer, we know. We are Muslims, and have suffered extreme vilification across all spheres of society as so has our religion and what we hold sacred within it.
Fortunately, we have the Equalities Act, which ensures that individuals’ rights are protected by the law to ensure parity irrespective of one’s “race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.” It is therefore the parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities to ensure that they inculcate within children the tolerance and respect for the views of others.
However, this must be conducted by taking into consideration age-appropriateness and the children’s beliefs and religion, which are equally protected characteristics under the Equalities Act. It smacks of blatant hypocrisy to expect children with the support of their parents to tolerate and respect the views of others, whilst in the process the school in its methodology is trampling on their protected characteristics.
This is not sound from a legal, pedagogical or philosophical standing.
It is in the interest of the children that parents and teachers work together on agreed principles and practices to meet the statutory obligation in schools. I am aware of good practice and we are all aware of bad practice. I adjure all schools to work with their respective communities that they provide an invaluable service to, and meet on common grounds to protect all the characteristics of children.
We have gathered together many Muslim faith leaders from across the UK who have agreed to a statement released yesterday, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Some members of the public have asked what our objectives are for the statement; they are as follows:
- We wish to answer the call of our communities who have asked for support and religious clarity on the matter.
- We wish that our voices are heard on this matter; if we are a true democracy then all stakeholders should equally contribute to this debate.
- We wish to share our narrative in our own words without the prejudice of Islamophobic media outlets.
- We wish to build a consensus with non-Muslims groups, particularly from the religious authorities, who agree with our position
I encourage my fellow Muslim scholars from all schools of thought to exercise their divinely appointed responsibilities and speak out for the betterment of all.
As I move into the autumn of life and look forward to experiencing time with my potential grandchildren then my aspirations and goals remain the same as they did for myself as a child, and for my children that there is respect and tolerance for all.
If any scholars or imams want to put their name on the joint statement, please visit Islam21c.
Originally published at 5Pillars