Education for Muslim children in the UK : a critical analysis of some issues arising from contrasting liberal and Islamic approaches to contemporary problems
An analysis of contemporary trends in the education of Muslim children in the U.K. indicates that in the 1960s and 1970s there was a strong emphasis on meeting the special needs of Muslim children, but these needs were neither defined by the Muslim community nor based on any framework of Islamic values. More recently, some education providers have sought to respond at least to some Muslim demands, and a notion of accountability to the Muslim community is developing in some quarters. Accountability, however, implies rights, and rights are usually understood from within a liberal framework of values. On a liberal view, the rights of Muslim parents to bring up their children in their own religion and the rights of the Muslim community to educate Muslim children in keeping with distinctive Islamic beliefs and values are constrained by the claim that the autonomy of the child must be vouchsafed in any form of educational provision. There is clearly a deep-seated clash of values between Islam and liberalism. From a sketch of fundamental Islamic values, an Islamic view of education may be developed which is in disagreement with liberal education particularly on three points: the need for critical openness, the need for personal and moral autonomy and the need to negotiate a set of agreed values if any common educational system is to be achieved. The search for sufficient common ground between liberals and Muslims is unsuccessful because Muslims insist on building their education around a set of religious beliefs which liberals believe schoolsh ave no businesst o reinforce, while liberals offend Islamic principles by insisting that religious beliefs, like all beliefs, must always be considered challengeable and revisable and should therefore be presented to children in a way which respects the ultimate freedom of individuals to make choices for themselves. The only way out of this impasse in practice is for liberals to back down from their insistence on a common education for all children, and to accept that Muslims should be allowed their own denominational schools. The danger that the Muslim community may become isolated and socially vulnerable may be reduced through increased co-operation with other faith communities, especially Christians. The dissertation thus consists of three intertwining strands: multi-culturalism in educational policy; applied social philosophy, especially relating to rights and liberal education; and Islamic theology. It begins with an examination of contemporary practice, moves to an analysis of the issues and principles underlying that practice, and then finally returns to practice with recommendations made in the light of the preceding discussion.