Plan to beat faith bullies

10th November 2006 at 00:00
As a girl, 11, is attacked while praying, ministers draw up guidance for teachers

Measures to prevent Muslim and other children being bullied are expected to be announced by the Government for National Bullying Week. Teachers have warned that attacks on Islamic pupils have increased since the July 7 bombings.

Muslim girls at a comprehensive in Nottingham were abused and hit by a white pupils last week after the school prevented them from praying inside.

One girl was earlier called a suicide bomber.

In another case in Manchester two weeks ago, Mohammed Tamazul, aged eight, was attacked on his way home from school. A group of older boys asked him if he was Muslim then pulled off his mosque cap and punched him in the face, before kicking him.

Jim Knight, schools minister, is expected to announce plans that would help to protect the 450,000 Muslim pupils in England and Wales. He is due to speak at a conference on prejudice-related bullying which the teachers'

union NASUWT will hold on Monday.

"Bullying of any kind should not be tolerated," he said. "It is not part of growing up and it doesn't make anyone stronger."

School guidance which the union will present at the conference warns of an "inflammation of racial and religious tensions in some towns and cities", leading to a resurgence of Islamophobic bullying. At Nottingham's Manning comprehensive girls' school, parents have complained that Muna Mansur, 11, was hit repeatedly while praying with about 10 others. Another girl, Sundus Al-Ameen, 11, was previously called an "Iraqi suicide bomber".

Their parents have complained to the police and the school, which is legally required to provide rights of religious observance. One in six of the Manning's 600 pupils is Pakistani, with other Muslims from Middle Eastern backgrounds.

Dr Sanaa Al-Ameen, who emigrated to Britain from Iraq more than 30 years ago, said the school had initially declined a request from his older daughter Yasameen and 70 others for a supervised place to pray during Ramadan.

A group of 13 girls held noon prayers outside this month after two meetings with Jo Horsey, who shares the job of headteacher with Lesley Lyon.

Ms Horsey agreed to provide a room for the girls to pray the following day, but the next day Ms Lyons told them there would not be a room available.

The girls prayed outside for the second day running, when they were abused by other pupils. One repeatedly hit the 11-year-old girl at the end of the prayer row.

"Muslim girls are bullied, they are taken advantage of because they are not argumentative," said Dr Al-Aleem. Ms Horsey said that the race or religion-based incidents had been treated "seriously" and dealt with under the school's policy for restorative justice, but she believed the school's problems with anti-Muslim bullying were below average.

An Ofsted report this year on Manning said it had experienced incidents involving racist abuse or bullying, but staff dealt with them quickly and effectively.

A survey of 4,772 children published this week by the charity Bullying Online, in advance of National Bullying Week later this month, found that 43 per cent of racist bullying against pupils involved violence.

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