Festival to challenge Islamic stereotypes

13th June 1997 at 01:00
Stereotypes labelling Islam as a religion of fanatics will be challenged during a schools' festival next month.

Performers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco will take part in workshops and concerts aimed at 10-year-olds. Resource packs for teachers are available, and more than 2,000 pupils from Islamic and non-Islamic communities will be involved in the festival, at the Museum of Mankind in London.

The initiative follows a report from the Runnymede Trust earlier this year identifying a tendency towards "Islamophobia", the negative stereotyping of a Muslim world populated by erratic ayatollahs and violent extremists. A number of mosques around Britain have now started running Islamic awareness days for non-Muslims.

The programme is part of the Sufi Music Village, a celebration of Islamic culture which runs from July 3-12. A centrepiece of the festival will be free open-air concerts in Regent's Park on July 4, 5 and 6. Up to 40,000 people are expected, and pupils will also be invited.

Prakash Diswani, artistic director of the Music Village, said the schools programme was central to the festival. "In a way the event is an educational exercise, trying to show in a positive light the diversity of the Islamic world," he said.

Andy Padgett, education co-ordinator for the Music Village, said: "We aim to show that Islam is a very ancient, rich cultural tradition and a very sophisticated one. Many of the pupils will be from Islamic families whose first language is not English. Yet their culture remains very submerged. We aim to reinforce their own sense of identity and complete the loop between home and school culture.

"We don't want simply to give them a nice, exotic day out, we also hope to counter the growing Islamophobia by reinforcing the positive aspects of Muslim culture. This is very much part of the agenda of cultural pluralism as set out in the national curriculum."

Pupils at seven half-day sessions, to be held at the Museum of Mankind, will hear a simple talk on the Sufi tradition and attend workshops on singing, drumming, story-telling and painting.

Performers will include Mehr and Sher Ali, one of Pakistan's top qawwali groups, and whirling dervishes from Turkey.

For further details, write to the Sufi Music Village at Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6LS, or call 0171 247 8808

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