Tips on reconciling Muslim practises with German schools

June 25, 2009

The German government and representatives of the country’s large Muslim community said on Thursday they had agreed a number of practical proposals to resolve conflicts between German schools and Muslim practises.

The government cannot legally enforce the proposals because, in Germany’s federal system, each of the country’s 16 states regulates education law.

GERMANY/Yet the proposals — agreed upon at a high-profile summit in Berlin aimed at boosting the integration of Germany’s Muslim residents — testify to an increasingly open and rational debate in Germany about Islam.

“These suggestions are not a cure-all, but should be seen as the groundwork for solutions that teachers, pupils and parents have to agree on together,” the German Islam Conference (DIK) said in statement.

(Photo: German Interior Minister Schaeuble chats with delegates of the Islamic Conference in Berlin, 25 June 2009/Wolfgang Kumm)

New official data shows that between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims live in Germany — a higher number than previously estimated —  meaning about 5 percent of the overall population.

Some 36 percent of Germany’s Muslims described themselves as strongly religious and 50 percent as moderately religious.

The DIK was set up to try to help Europe’s second biggest Muslim population after France integrate into mainstream Germany society, amid worries about the potential radicalisation of disillusioned young Muslims.

Proposals touched on sensitive issues such as Muslim pupils’ participation in sports and sexual education classes to religious holidays.

Delegates at the conference agreed that schools should try to offer separate swimming lessons to girls and boys and to ensure there are separate changing rooms to enable the participation of all Muslim pupils.

Given that legal school holidays in Germany are based on Christian customs, practical consideration should be given to Islamic religious holidays.

“Schools should take these holidays into account when fixing its calendar for the school year. This affects in particular the dates chosen for exams,” the DIK said.

GERMANY-MOSQUE/Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and religious reflection, should be taken into account in particular when planning school trips, internships or school parties.

Regarding sexual education classes, these were necessary and compulsory, but schools should let parents know in advance how and what they planned to teach.

“In the class itself, teachers should be sensitive in their choice of words and carefully select the media, that they show with caution,” the DIK said.

(Photo: Muslim women walk in front of the newly built Ahmadiya mosque in the Heinersdorf district of Berlin, 16 Oct, 2008/ Fabrizio Bensch)

Tips were not only reserved for schools, however. The conference suggested that parents should make sure their children got enough sleep during Ramadan and that, if their daughters wore a headscarf, they should take care it did not lead to ostracism.

Germany seems to be treading a careful path in order to avoid the kinds of conflicts with its Muslim community that other countries have incurred, such as France which provoked controversy in 2004 by banning pupils from wearing conspicuous signs of their religion at school, including headscarves.

But will its tentative proposals be heeded without any kind of legal enforcement?

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Muslim parents teach their children to respect their teachers. From a very young age, we are taught that Islam teaches us that after our parents, our teachers are most deserving of respect.
It must be an extremely confusing time for the Muslim parent in Leytonstone, London. For up to 30 parents may face prosecution for withdrawing their children from school, disobeying the teachers in the school, simply to secure a decent moral upbringing for their children. The school had decided to have a week of lessons about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history. Part of this was a special adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet retitled Romeo and Julian as well as fairytales and stories changed to show men falling in love with men. Rather than filling the heads of impressionable boys and girls with fatuous drivel about gay penguins, schools should be ashamed of the fact that they are sending children out into the world barely able to read, write and add up properly. Muslim children are leaving schools without learning their cultural roots and linguistic skills.

The action was being taken against the parents as part of a policy of ‘ promoting tolerance’. So why not tolerate parents, who, for sincerely-held reasons, consider their children too young to be taught about gay relationships? This isn’t education, its cultural fascism. A record numbers of pupils persistently played truant in 2006-07, with around 272,950 pupils persistently absent in 2007, missing more than 20% of school. We rarely see councils prosecute the parents of these persistent truants. Yet, the parents who removed their children as a one-off to protect their morality may be prosecuted!

If the local council does decide to go through with a prosecution, it would be in line with the government’s approach to the Muslim community. Muslims who believe homosexuality is a sin would be labelled as extremists. Liberal totalitarianism is a growing phenomenon in Britain and the west in general but many people will be shocked that the school can override a parent’s view of what’s appropriate or inappropriate to teach their children.

This latest episode should be a wakeup call for Muslim parents. Muslim parents MUST explain our moral standards to schools and be prepared to take steps to protect our children’s morals and values from a growing agenda to impose liberal values upon them. This is an eye opening for those Muslim parents who keep on sending their children to state schools to be mis-educated and de-educated by non-Muslim monolingual teachers.

The solution of all the problems facing Muslim children is state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. Those state schools where Muslim children are in majority may be designated as Muslim community schools. Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods.
Iftikhar Ahmad

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