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The teachers with a tabloid grasp of Islam

news | Published in TES magazine on 16 September, 2011 | By: Adi Bloom

All bombs and burqas

Terrorism is an intrinsic part of Islam, all religious Muslim women wear the hijab, and the image that best represents the religion is a bomb.

This is the alarming perception most primary teachers have of Islam, according to new research from an academic at Canterbury Christ Church University. When Lynn Revell questioned more than 350 primary and trainee teachers she found that their understanding of Islam was largely formed by the media.

Almost three-quarters of those questioned thought that jihad referred to a physical war. They made no reference at all to it as a spiritual battle. Around a quarter also believed that terrorism was an intrinsic part of jihad. When asked to draw an image that represented Islam, the third most popular option - after minarets and women in burqas - was a bomb.

Understanding of the role of women in Islam was similarly limited. Eighty per cent believed that the extent to which a Muslim woman covers her body indicates her level of faith. The majority also believed that arranged marriages are required by Muslim law.

A quarter said that they would struggle to teach about women in Islam because of their personal feelings on the matter. Others went further, identifying Islamic practices as objectionable, or too controversial for primary pupils.

Headteachers are concerned. "It's perturbing that stereotypes are prevalent among student teachers, brought up when there's been broader global awareness," said Chris Davis, former president of the National Primary Headteachers' Association.

Remarkably stereotypes were reinforced by RE textbooks. Very few trainees had even a GCSE in RE, and so most relied heavily on them. But, Dr Revell said, these repeatedly make generalisations about the lives and beliefs of Muslims.

But Rosemary Rivett, of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education, is unsurprised by the findings. "Most primary teachers are generalists," she said. "Islam is one of the religions they would feel uncertain about, and some of the textbooks don't help. Then again, I could look at some of the books about Christianity and find the same thing."

See feature, pages 40-43.

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Comment (3)

  • I would love to see these teachers' backgrounds because I have never come across a primary school teacher (also being one myself) who holds these opinions

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    16 September, 2011


  • This piece is inaccurate and extremely offensive to primary teachers. If anything they are more educated about, and sympathetic towards, the belief sysyems of others than most people. Oh and muslims can be teachers too. The worst journalism I have read in a long time. twitter jamie909

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    18 September, 2011

    jamie 909

  • If Canterbury Christ Church University is a mono-cultural institution I can guess that the media is providing most of the knowledge on Islam to their students.

    I can also imagine that limiting oneself to christian textbooks could ensure that 'stereotypes were reinforced by RE textbooks'.

    So called 'Terrorism' like 9/11 should be used as a starting point for ridding schools of all religion..............................We should meet the causes of 9/11 head on in classrooms: The causes of acts of so-called terror like 9/11 & suicide bombing are FAITH & BELIEF.

    This isn't about the madness of any one faith or any one 'belief' this is the madness of all FAITH & BELIEF. Without FAITH & BELIEF 9/11 would not have happened.

    Sam Harris in his book 'End of Faith' got it spot on, though he does tend to lay 'blame' on just the Islamic faith, but all his arguments can be applied to any faith.

    9/11 was a purely religious act of faith; I have heard religious leaders call it 'evil' without actually THINKING about their words.

    The 9/11 attack has a common thread that links all religious terrorism with the total irrationality of religious faith. Please note I am not having a go at any individual and I am not pointing the finger at just Muslims, Hindus, Jews or Christians; I'm pointing at all faith. From the Spanish Inquisition, to the bombings of Northern Ireland, the 9/11 bombers, to the suicide bombers in Isreal we see the murderous consequencies of devout faith.

    Personally, I'd remove RE from the school curriculumn and replace it with something like Evidence-Based Studies. That way we can help kids overcome the sheer irrationality of accepting things for which no evidence actually exists. Things are going on in schools like creationism that really shouldn't be taught. Steiner Waldorf Schools include the belief that all humans possess an 'innate spirit' that, having passed through previous lives, in the current life develops in a 'karmically appropriate environment' before returning to the spirit world where it will prepare for a future reincarnation. Should we expose kids to this nonsense?


    Before anyone calls ME an extremist; I could ask if anyone could name one person who was killed (or even one act of 'terror' undertaken) by an atheist or a secularist in the name of atheism or secularism?

    (THink hard before you mention Nazi's or Stalin.)

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    20 September, 2011

    Brooke Bond

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