The Rights of U.K. Parents to Remove Children from Religious Education Classes (Part 1)

Headteachers in the UK. have complained about parents removing their children from religious education classes, especially those about Islam. The Independent has the story:

Parents should not be allowed to selectively remove their children from religious education (RE) lessons, headteachers say, as study reveals many withdrawal requests are over the teaching of Islam.

But parents have a perfect right, under both the 1944 and 1988 education laws, to remove their children from any classes on religious education they wish to, and are not even required to give a reason. Do the headteachers not know the laws that are in place? Or do they hope to persuade Parliament to undo them?

More than two in five school leaders and RE teachers have received requests for students to be withdrawn from teaching about one religion, research from Liverpool Hope University has revealed.

Islam is the dominant focus of these parental withdrawal requests, according to the study of 450 school leaders and heads of RE.

One participant, who received requests for children to be withdrawn from mosque visits said: “The students that have been removed are the ones that need to understand different cultures the most.”

Really? Perhaps these children are being withdrawn by parents who know perfectly well what Islam is all about, do not wish their children to be subject to indoctrination, and do not believe that their children will better “understand different cultures” by visiting mosques — for what will be a carefully-choreographed visit where a friendly reception makes visiting Infidels overlook the fact that nothing of substance is being learned.

The majority (71 per cent) of teachers believe a law allowing parents to withdraw their children from RE is no longer required, according to the study in the British Journal of Religious Education.

The right of parents to “withdraw their children from RE” is “no longer required”? Given that classes on Islam, complete with a visit to a mosque, are in the opinion of many parents not so much education as  indoctrination, the right of parents to  withdraw their children from RE classes is “required” as never before.

It comes after a report from Thurrock council revealed that parents in Essex were withdrawing their children from religious education lessons on Islam and stopping them from visiting mosques.

Iman Atta, director of Tell Mama, an activist group which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in Britain, told The Independent: “We have been hearing about cases where parents are pulling their children out of mosque visits as part of religious education since they do not want them to be near a mosque.

“This has been taking place over the last five years and shows that there are parents who have fears or dislike Islam. This is also concerning, since what kinds of views are their children being exposed to? It does not bode well for the future of people and communities living together”.

Iman Atta apparently thinks, without a shred of evidence, that parents who do not wish their children to be subject to Islamic indoctrination are thereby “exposing” them to anti-islamic views. Objection to one’s children being indoctrinated in a particular faith is not the same thing as preaching hatred of that faith.

When Iman Atta raises the concern that children may be exposed to (anti-Islam) views which “do not bode well for the future and [religious] communities living together,” she does three things, none of them acceptable. First, she wants you to believe that any parents who remove their children from the classes on Islam are necessarily exposing them to anti-Islamic views, when the parents may simply explain that they would not object to a neutral presentation of Islam, but will not have their own children subjected to what, they have strong reason to believe, amounts to indoctrination rather than education.

Second, she is silent on the behavior of Muslim parents. Are they willing to have their own children participate in classes in Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism, including visits to churches and synagogues and temples? We have every reason to doubt it. Nothing has been said about this. And if Muslim parents object, would  the headteachers be as ready to force those Muslim students, despite their parents’ wishes, to participate in such classes and such visits, just as they now are trying to force non-Muslim students to take classes in Islam and to visit mosques? Or are there different rules for Muslim parents and students?

Third, Iman Atta worries about the effect on non-Muslim children if they are excused from classes on Islam. She fails to understand the gravamen of the parents’ complaint, which is not against all classes on Islam, but against classes on Islam that amount to indoctrination, by leaving out so much of what the Qur’an contains that is so disquieting, and mendaciously presenting what is included. Further, she and those headteachers determined to thwart the desires of parents fail to recognize that the right of parents to withdraw their children from RE and from collective worship has been in enshrined in law by both the 1944 and 1988 education acts. Parents can withdraw their children from some or all of the RE curriculum without giving a reason. These laws are still in force.

Fourth,  Muslims have the chutzpah to claim they are worried that non-Muslim children who withdraw from classes on Islam or visits to mosques will be sending a message to Muslims that is not conducive to (faith) “communities living together.” Can they think of anything in Islam that might send an even more disturbing message to non-Muslims, not conducive to “communities living together?” In more than 100 verses the Qur’an commands Muslims “to fight” and “to kill” and “to smite above the necks at” and “to strike terror in the hearts of” Infidels — are those verses helpful for promoting “communities living together”? And what about the verses that tell Muslims not to take Christians and Jews as friends, “for they are friends only with each other”(5:51)? Are the verses where Muslims are told that they are the “best of peoples” (3:110) and non-Muslims are “the most vile of created beings” (98:6) likely to promote “communities living together”? Surely these verses do far more to prevent “communities living together” than the parents who do not wish to have their children forced to visit a mosque or be subject to other forms of Islamic indoctrination.

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