Election dashes hope of state aid for Muslims

4th April 1997 at 01:00
Britain's 1.5 million Muslims will have to wait even longer for the first state-funded Islamic school, because the election has ruled out all chance of a government decision on the matter.

There were hopes of an imminent breakthrough after the Funding Agency for Schools, a government quango, came out in favour of two Muslim schools that have applied for grant-maintained status.

But the Al Furqan junior school in Birmingham and the Islamia junior school in Brent, north-west London, have now learnt they must hang on for a new government.

The Department for Education and Employment this week confirmed there was no chance of official approval in the remaining time.

Moreover, a Labour victory could further complicate and delay matters. The two applications for GM status will almost certainly have to be re-written to fit in with Labour's new plans, which will abolish GM status and introduce "aided" and "foundation" categories.

Approval for an Islamic school would be a symbolic victory for British Muslims. The failure to produce a single one has been a longstanding source of complaint, leading to allegations of official discrimination.

Muslims will not have been best pleased to learn that the DFEE has recently managed to grant state aid to three Catholic schools.

Nor have they had many assurances from the Labour party, which traditionally takes their vote. Labour will go no further than promising to look at each application for state funding on its merits.

Akram Khan Cheema, a prominent campaigner on the issue, said: "Islamophobia is so great that people are even frightened to acknowledge it. It is playing havoc with what we are trying to do.

"I'd be very surprised if the Government approved these schools before the election."

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