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The Prevent Agenda

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I am someone who is sceptical of government initiatives; sceptical of the latest duty that we have to comply with; sceptical whether government policies actually have much impact on the ground other than make work for us to do and provide Ofsted with a stick to beat us.

But I am not sceptical about the rise of fascist and proto-fascist organisations in this country who march and gather on the streets in immigrant communities to promote fear and hatred.

I’m not sceptical when an MP is murdered by a far-right extremist.

And I’m not sceptical about the continued rise in attacks and hostility against Muslims in this country.

I’m not sceptical when I cycle through Hendon in the morning sometimes and I see security guards outside every Jewish infant school and every Jewish primary school and when I hear recently that Jewish cemeteries in Hendon have been vandalised and desecrated.

And I’m not sceptical when I hear students at schools not far from here in London have disappeared and are then seen again taking part in some crazy religious war thousands of miles away.

Or when a place just yards away from the hotel I stayed in Berlin in October was attacked by a mindless zealot with a lorry and no humanity.

And, so, yes, I do think this is something to do with us, and I do think we have a responsibility to educate the young people in our charge to think critically and sceptically themselves, to base their views on evidence and not just faith.

And so, yes, I do think the Prevent agenda is something to do with us and something to take seriously.

I think it would be a good start to remove religion from schools, except comparative studies and private, individual practice. People should be free in my opinion to choose and practise any religion they want in any way they want. But it can’t be right that there is a legal duty on schools to have a daily act of worship of a predominantly Christian nature. And I don’t think it’s right that so many schools are religious: Catholic, C of E, Muslim, Jewish schools all over the place. Let’s separate education, which is a social function, from religion, which is a private and individual choice. Let’s allow students of any religion to attend any school and, in that way, seek to mix them up as much as possible so that they encounter people from different communities.




  1. Hawwa says:

    It was all going well until I read the last line… *sigh*

    The suggestion of removing religion and all traces of religion in schools would be a ‘good start’ to preventing extremism implies you have some sort of phobia – as if extremism only comes in a religious form, as if no political role is played in this, as if the media isn’t in any way responsible for fuelling hate, as if violence is some sort of core teaching of religion. Really and truly, you can never rid extremism through removing religion – because extremism is not something you can just remove (it’s not tangible) – it’s a mindset. Stripping religion away means stripping one’s identity and human right too.

    The approach of ‘removing religion’ from schools will only be adding to the ‘fear of the unknown’ and ignorance will prevail. The problem is people are misinformed in today’s world where the media is biased with an agenda and influences the way masses think. Social media is a dangerous place where you can get into contact with anyone in the world and can be a victim of brainwashing.

    You mentioned that you have a responsibility to educate the young people to think critically and sceptically themselves, to base their views on evidence and not just faith. As a follower of Islam, I completely agree; the Qur’an itself says ‘ponder’ and tells us to not follow blindly.

    My thoughts on preventing extremism is this:
    Why not use education to eradicate it?
    Why not have workshops and spark discussions? Why not educate the youth on religious extremism – how it’s not mainly rooted from religion? Why not break down stereotypes and clear misconceptions? How about we educated the youth about the fundamental principles of Islam and how extremist groups such as ISIS are motivated with their own ignorant ideologies using Qur’anic verses out of context to justify and excuse their disgraceful acts.

    Peace cannot be achieved through force, it’s achieved through understanding and tolerance.

    • I will grant you that my last comment was a slightly provocative and unexplained last thought to leave you with.
      I do happen to think, however, that religion should be a private matter and not endorsed or pushed on students by schools. At the moment there is a legal obligation on schools to hold an act of collective worship that is “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. I think that is wrong on a number of levels.
      Schools should teach critical and evidence-based thinking which is, in my view, inconsistent with a faith-based approach. If individual people wish to believe supernatural events, that’s fine, but don’t have this endorsed in schools. I also think that religion should be a matter of individual choice: religious schools are a way that parents can force their religion onto their children.
      On the other hand, the comparative analysis of religion and their histories is an entirely suitable one to be studied in the curriculum. Religion is an important social phenomenon which has had a significant impact on human civilisation, and all people should know something about all religions, how they are similar, how they differ, how they were formed, and so on.

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