LONDON: Britain is funding a curriculum aimed at teaching Muslim children in madrassas how to steer clear of extremism, but some of the lessons are raising eyebrows among Muslim educators.
One lesson plan goes something like this: A group of Islamic extremists want to buy fertilizer that could be used to make a bomb. Should the shop keeper sell it to them, even if she suspects it will be used for "holy war?" Or take Ahmad, whose jihadi friends want to attack a local supermarket in retaliation for the war in Iraq. Is it right for Ahmad to harm innocent Britons just because their government invaded a Muslim country?
The curriculum's answer in both cases is no, but the fact that these scenarios are being considered at all has prompted concern among Muslim educators, who question whether they are appropriate for young students.
Some also feel insulted that the program appears to make the assumption that madrassas — or Muslim religious schools — are teeming with budding terrorists. "In an educational setting, those propositions are a bit stark," said Tahir Alam, chair of the Muslim Council of Britain's education committee.
The British government acknowledged that the curriculum raised sensitive issues, but said they were needed to give Muslims the practical skills they needed to reject extremism. "The project ensures that young Muslim students learn the true teachings of Islam," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government, while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy. "There will be difficult issues and scenarios to discuss — but it would be wrong to shy away from them," she said.
Ten Muslim clerics have been teaching the lessons in six madrassas and a school in Bradford — a religiously diverse city about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of London. About 500 students have already completed the course, versions of which the communities department hopes to roll out nationally.
Hmm. Since when were the Department of Communities and Local Government competent to pronounce on the true teachings of Islam ?
The project, called "Nasiha," or "guidance," draws on the Quran, Shariah law, and traditional Muslim scholarship to show that British laws are in harmony with Islamic values. Its lessons will be taught in madrassas, which in Britain are usually unregulated after-school programs based in mosques or private homes. The stated objective is to teach children, most between the ages of eight and 14, "to realize that to harm or terrorize citizens in the UK is not something permitted in Islam," and "to be able to identify individuals or groups who preach hatred and learn ways of avoiding them."
I hate to suggest this. But what if it should ever happen - and God forbid - that some British laws aren't in harmony with Islamic values ? Presumably all bets are off at that point.
It looks to me as if the British Government are engaging with the theorists of jihad on the jihadists own terms - arguing that the laws must be obeyed not because in a democracy you obey the laws, but because they can be shown to be in line with Islamic teaching. In itself this is a defeat for democracy - a sign that the government seem to be giving up the idea that Britain's Muslims are bound by the obligations which apply to other people. It's a kind of weird parallel with the BNP. They (BNP) think Muslims won't obey the law if it clashes with Islam. The government think they can't even reasonably be expected to.