Education chief angers religious leaders

Jan. 18, 2005 at 3:07 PM

LONDON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- British education chief David Bell came under fire Tuesday for saying Islamic faith schools could threaten the coherence of society.

In comments condemned as "irresponsible" and "derogatory" by senior Muslim figures, Bell, the chief inspector of schools, said a traditional Islamic education did not equip Muslim children for living in modern Britain.

Speaking Monday at the Hansard Society -- an educational charity -- he said although cultural diversity and acceptance could benefit Britain, it could also undermine "our coherence as a nation" if taken to extremes.

While discussing the teaching of citizenship, Bell said: "Faith should not be blind. I worry that many young people are being educated in faith-based schools, with little appreciation of their wider responsibilities and obligations to British society."

Speaking to the Guardian, Dr. Mohamed Mukadam, chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, accused Bell of Islamophobia.

"I challenge him to come up with evidence that Muslim schools are not preparing young people for life in British society. It's a misconception of Islamic schools and a further example of Islamophobia. For a person in his position to make such a generalized comment just beggars belief," he said.

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