Charity puts its faith in Muslim boarding school

18th December 2009 at 00:00
But MP says plans for country's largest Islamic college will threaten community cohesion

Original paper headline: Charity puts its faith in Muslim boarding school to rival size of Eton

An Islamic charity is planning to open England's largest Muslim faith school in Burnley, accommodating up to 1,500 young women.

The TES understands that the Mohiuddin Trust, a Birmingham-based organisation, is in the process of setting up the Mohiuddin International Girls' College after purchasing the former site of Burnley College for pound;2 million.

The new institution will accommodate post-16 students and, when at full capacity, will be more than double the size of the country's current largest Muslim faith school, Feversham College in Bradford.

The news follows a similar proposal in nearby Pendle where another Birmingham-based charity, Islamic Help, put forward a scheme to open a 5,000-pupil all-Muslim girls' boarding school. But the plans were scrapped due to public opposition.

The new Mohiuddin International Girls' College will provide boarding facilities of its own to attract young women from across the globe, making it the largest boarding school in the country - bigger than the 1,330- pupil Eton.

According to the charity, the school is being privately funded thanks to donations from members of the trust and will provide a range of qualifications, understood to be a mix of mainstream and faith studies.

Dr Mohammed Iqbal, a Mohiuddin trustee, said: "At this moment in time it's difficult to offer a detailed response about the courses hoped to be offered as we are still in the preliminary planning stages.

"We do, however, expect to offer a variety of skills and courses. A-levels are also being considered but may not necessarily be available as soon as the college starts. Our objective is to offer young women the opportunity to empower themselves with better qualifications with the aim of improving chances of securing better employment."

The college expects to open with approximately 500 students, expanding to 1,500 over time.

But the proposals have been vehemently criticised by Gordon Prentice, Labour MP for Pendle. He believes the creation of the new college will be to the detriment of the existing schools and colleges as well as the local community.

"There has been huge investment in schools in Pendle and Burnley thanks to Building Schools for the Future," he said. "The last thing we need is single sex, single faith schools for girls. It pulls against community cohesion. It makes me weep to think so much time, energy and effort has gone into the community to get people to mix together. (This) goes against all public policy."

The Mohiuddin Trust, formerly known as the Al Ehya trust, states that it aims to promote community cohesion by "strengthening inter-community relationships".

All eyes on Islam

Muslim faith schools have been under particular scrutiny over the last two weeks .

  • An investigation was carried out into the north London-based Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation (ISF) school after Conservative leader David Cameron claimed it had links to extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
  • Last weekend, both Haringey Council, which carried out the investigation, and Schools Secretary Ed Balls dismissed claims that there was any evidence of "inappropriate influence" at the school.
  • Teachers working at another school run by the ISF have claimed the foundation is being "used" by politicians.
  • There are approximately 130 Muslim faith schools in the country out of a total of more than 7,000 faith schools in England.

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