From the archive - Assemblies help pupils in wake of 911 attacks

6th May 2011 at 01:00
21 September 2001 - 'Are we at war, Miss?' Terror spreads to UK classrooms, while Muslims fear reprisals

Special assemblies and church services have been held in schools across Britain as bewildered children struggle to come to terms with the terrorist attacks in America and fears of the aftermath.

Measures have been taken at Islamic schools to protect pupils, with the Muslim community's fear of a backlash showing little sign of abating. England's first state-funded Islamic primary schools, which closed to protect children in the wake of the attacks, re-opened on Monday. The three Islamic schools in London closed last week.

Islamia primary took several abusive phone calls and reported an attempted break-in. "We closed the school as we feared for the safety of the staff and the children," said Zafar Ashraf, secretary of the trust which runs the school.

The vast majority of pupils returned to lessons as normal this week, but the situation remained tense at the near by Al-Khoei Foundation schools.

Director Al-Khoei Yousif said: "There is an atmosphere whipped up by the media. We have had some incidents of abuse and stone throwing, mainly by kids. I fear the situation will get worse if there is a war. We do not want the children to grow up in a climate of fear."

Outside London fewer problems were reported. Zahida Hussain, head of the Al-Furqan primary in Birmingham, said "the community has been supportive". And Dr Muhamed Mukadam, principal of Leicester Islamic Academy, said: "Obviously there is tension out there given what has happened. But it is business as usual for us."

Teachers in schools containing large numbers of American children have been very careful about the message given out. Jan Oldfield is head of Beck Row primary in Suffolk, opposite the giant US Mildenhall air base where 40 per cent of pupils are US service children.

She said: "We wanted to keep it very low key and not stir up extra worry, especially for those whose parents may be going away on duty. Quite a few of the children have been going on about it. One little boy asked me if we were at war. I told him we weren't."

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