Islamic academic out of step with Muslims
A leading academic – Dr Ali Selim – has called on all Catholic schools in Ireland to allow their Muslim pupils to wear the hijab and tailor their uniforms to ‘respect their religious identity’.
But two Islamic organisations as well as atheists and evangelicals have rejected his views.
According to this report, although Selim has been involved in Ireland’s inter-faith dialogue for more than a decade, the Islamic Foundation of Ireland (IFI) and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) – the official body for Islamic education in Ireland – have taken opposing views.
The IFI said said in a statement:
As patron of the Muslim National schools in Ireland since 1990, we can confidently assert that such opinions are neither shared by the IFI, the ICCI nor the majority of participating members in the Islamic community here.
The IFI praised schools and management bodies such as Educate Together and the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) and said many Muslim children have passed through primary, secondary and third-level education without losing their cultural or religious identity.
We have found that Catholic school managements have made wonderful efforts to make their schools as inclusive as possible without losing their own ethos.
With regard to schools’ admission policies, the IFI said:
We acknowledge that there is always pressure on schools and on parents of all denominations and no faith seeking places, which sometimes results with many parents not receiving their first choice.
Trinity College lecturer Selim said:
The hijab for Muslims is an essential aspect of character. Depriving Muslims of the right to wear hijabs is very threatening to their identity.
Although there is no legal ban on the hijab in Irish schools, Selim said wearing the headscarf is a “divine obligation” for Muslim girls and urged schools to be more flexible about incorporating it as part of their uniform.
In today’s society we need to apply a more pluralistic approach when it comes to the school uniform.
Selim, whose five children attend Catholic schools, also wants religious crests on school uniforms to be removed.
The author of a new book called Islam and Education in Ireland, Selim also accused some Catholic schools of having “discriminatory admission policies”.
Atheist Ireland said Dr Selim’s version of inclusivity was “not practical”. Said chairperson Michael Nugent:
If he wants schools to promote specific beliefs of other groups then he should recognise that the Islamic schools should also openly respect atheism and other religious views. The only realistic way you can have proper inclusivity in education is to have a system that is neutral rather than one than manifests all beliefs.
Atheist Ireland has found an unlikely ally: the Evangelical Alliance Ireland, which has called for a secular educational system in Irish schools, as proposed by AI.
Commenting on the controversy sparked by Selim, EAI has said its position was closer to that of Atheist Ireland.
EAI executive director Nick Park said:
Evangelical Christians have often felt alienated by an educational system that they are expected to fund as taxpayers, but which has largely been run by branches of the Catholic Church. For example, the amount of time devoted to Catholic rites of passage such as First Communion creates a dilemma for evangelical parents.
Should we allow our children to sit through religious activities which are contrary to our beliefs? Or should we ask that our children be exempted?