'Muslim handbook' urged for schools

18th November 2005 at 00:00
All schools should receive a "Muslim youth handbook" explaining basic Islamic concepts, a government taskforce has advised.

The 16 Muslim academics and educationists made their recommendation in a report designed to tackle Muslim alienation after the London bombings in July. They say there is a lack of accessible information in English.

The group, headed by Yusuf Islam, formerly singer Cat Stevens, urges a re-examination of how Islam is taught across the national curriculum and asks the Government to consider offering Arabic as a language option in schools, along with French, Spanish and German.

The report, published by the Home Office this week, said schools should "correct the current, alien image of Islam, and represent a more faithful reflection of Muslims as an integral part of British society, and European history and heritage".

Marilyn Mason, the education officer for the British Humanist Association, said: "It could be to the advantage of young Muslims to learn more about their own faith. But I don't want to see a whitewash of Islam in schools."

The report was published in the same week that one of the most extensive sets of teaching materials devoted to secular and atheist views of religious education was produced by a private education company.

The series of six films, and accompanying classroom notes, includes interviews with former Christians, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hindus about why they eventually lost their faith, a focus on humanist ceremonies and a debate with Roman Catholic sixth-formers about their beliefs.

The project, aimed at 11 to 18-year-olds, follows the publication of the first national framework for RE last year, which recommended that children as young as five are taught secular philosophies alongside mainstream faiths.

Michael Rosen, the writer and broadcaster behind the films, said: "For decades secularism and atheism have had no place in schools.

"You've either had religious education, concentrating on the major faiths, or nothing."

The Home Office report is available at www.communities.homeoffice.gov.ukraceandfaithWhy Atheism?, produced byTeam Video, costs pound;38 and is available by emailingadmin@team-video.co.uk

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