My thoughts on "Faith Schools Undercover"

Channel 4 Dispatches have created a documentary looking at the influence and effect that faith communities have had on the way a school functions and the changes it has had to their approach on certain practices. As usual they went undercover. 

There were several issues that were brought up and I'd like to focus on a few of them. The first was no clapping in class or assemblies. Studying at an independent Muslim school (which is very different to a free school or state school), I was never taught not to clap, no teacher addressed the issue nor did any student bother to clap anyway. Not clapping didn't seem to be a problem to anybody.

I moved on to a selective grammar school sixth form and there wasn't a single assembly where clapping didn't take place. We would have to clap from the moment a student got up from her chair to the moment she sat back down on her chair. The sound filled the entire hall and drowned any other noises. By the end of it, it got quite tiring but it's a school practice - everyone had to do it - myself included otherwise you'd get noticed.

If I didn't sing the hymns mentioning beliefs about Jesus which contradicted my own personal religious beliefs that wasn't that much of an issue. My sixth form was very diverse. It's known for how diverse it is. I assumed the people around me understood why I didn't always join in. Sometimes I wondered why I had never seen any Sikh or Hindu or Atheist not sing and why they continued to sing even though they probably didn't believe in what they were singing.  

Am I wrong to think that Muslim teachers should not impose "no clapping" and "no whistling" rules on other Muslim children in an environment which is for academic education and not religious teachings? Or should they be allowed to because teachers are in "loco parentis" and perhaps their parents would expect that from their teachers? Am I wrong to think that teachers should allow students who want to clap, to clap and students who do not wish to clap, to not clap or must it be the same for everybody?

Secondly, there was a claim which a woman made in which she said that about 60 male pupils were given a worksheet which categorically stated that a woman cannot say no to sex with their husbands. She felt that "it makes the boys feel that they have got that power over girls". However, the school responded by saying that “there was “a single incident in 2011 when a group of… boys misunderstood a historical reference to cultural expectations of marriage’ and as soon as the school was made aware of the misunderstanding ‘a special assembly… was held". In that assembly they addressed rape. 

I don't know which of the two is the truth but I'm not very sure how I feel about this. In Islam, I've heard about the expectations of women in respect to their husbands and I remember reading something which said that a woman shouldn't refuse and she should tend to him straight away and fulfill his sexual needs. But I also know and understand what rape is. Is there such a thing as "rape within marriage"? Am I embarrassing myself by asking such a silly question? Maybe it's because I'm single and I can't seem to understand how this is possible within a marriage.

The content within the documentary focussed more on Islam than on any other religion but they did highlight 10 illegal Orthodox Jewish schools in London known as Yeshivas in which GCSE subjects are not taught, rather the only subject is religion. 

One student said "I didn’t speak English. I only spoke Yiddish. I didn’t even know what the word science meant, I didn’t know the definition, I hadn’t heard this word before. We didn’t come out with anything we could use in daily life or even in the future. When I was a kid I was told terrible things about non-Jews. The thing in the community is that in order to keep such a vast number of people enclosed... they are indoctrinating from a very young age that everything outside is bad, that everything outside is evil except Haredim is bad".

I feel it is important for every person in the UK to stay in education until they are 16. Every child should be given the opportunity to have a wide spectrum of ideas, concepts and teachings and should not have a limited and narrow minded view. I also feel every child should be safe in the environment they are being taught in. They should not be in crammed classrooms with too many students either. 

I think it is wrong for any Jewish child or a child belonging to any other religion to be taught terrible things about people other than those who follow their own religion. Maybe it's because I'm the daughter of a devout Muslim man who is very passionate about religious education and has been lecturing about religions for several years. Maybe it's because my beloved father taught me about religious freedom and religious tolerance. Maybe it's because he taught me not to hate other religions and people who follow those religions. Maybe it's because he exposed me to his writings. Maybe it's because he made me firm on my own religion.

I can't say the same for other Muslim households. I'm not sure what their parents teach them about other religions. I can't say the same for Jewish households either. I have absolutely no idea but i do feel that it is the parents duty and responsbility to not create hatred for others from such a young age and I definitely believe that teaching this within Yeshivas is wrong too. 

Surprisingly, Hackney Council, Ofsted and the Department for Education know about these schools yet they haven't made it one of their priorities. Something should be done about this. I think there are a lack of legal Jewish schools in this country and more should be done to accomodate for them so that these children can have an academic education as well as being taught about moderate Jewish teachings.

Then, for less than 2 minutes, the documentary addressed Christian faith groups who taught that evolution was false and who taught creationism instead. I agree with what they're being taught but I think schools should not be biased and incline towards "one is wrong, one is right". They should be taught that there are several opinions like so and so and I'm sure evolution from the Christian perspective will be taught in Religious Studies so they will liken their religious beliefs to what the textbook says about Christians.

If you'd like to watch the documentary yourself then here is the . Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.