The proposals have far-reaching and important bearing on Madaris:
- These will apply to premises where “intensive” education to young people is provided for more than 6-8 hours per week.
- The government, under these proposals, wants all such places to be registered and to be subject to inspection. This is because the government wishes to have an oversight of all institutions that are eligible for registration so as to ensure that young persons rights are safeguarded. These proposals are part of the government strategy to combat “radicalisation”
- If the proposals become law, these will give government powers of inspection of premises to ensure that children are being properly safeguarded – the premises are safe and suitable, the staff is suitably qualified, no corporal punishment is being inflicted and the teachings are in line with fundamental British values. It will give powers to impose sanctions if premises are found to be failing to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and sanctions could include the closure of premises as well as barring of individuals from working with children.
The proposals form part of the broad strategy of the government in its legislative programme on Prevent 2011 and 20145 Counter Terrorism and Security Act/ Counter Extremism Strategy.
AREAS OF CONCERN:
A. The proposals are part of the strategy to counter extremism and therefore have to be viewed in the context of the strong opposition of the Muslim communities living in the UK against the Prevent as well as Counter Terrorism/ Extremism legislation as being unfairly discriminating against Muslims. Muslim opposition to the legislative framework on prevention of terrorism and extremism is based on sincere and genuine concerns about their efficacy. There is plethora of evidence to show that such targeted legislation has given succor to hatred against Muslims and Islamophobia.
B The proposals are not clear on detail. The proposals do not say how registration of eligible institutions will be done and the consequences of non-registration remain unspecified. The proposals for registration use an interesting but undefined word, namely “intensive”. This is leading to apprehensions that the use of this work may be used to exempt teaching institutions of some other faiths.
C. The proposals suggest that OFSTED will be charged with the responsibility of inspection of premises. Experience of muslim education providers with OFSTED has not been positive.
D. The proposals require the teaching of “British values” – a phrase that is not defined. Most Muslims see no conflict in following British Values as these are understood to be the same as Islamic values – Honesty, Truthfulness, Rule of Law, Quest for Justice, Respect for diversity, Do unto others what you would want done to you etc. However if British values include the promotion of secular values over and above or to the exclusion of those religious values in conflict then the proposals are likely to cause great disquiet amongst the Muslim and other faith based communities. Indeed such British values are already heavily promoted within schools /colleges /universities and throughout the general public sphere at large. This country has a long and rich tradition of non- interference in matters of theology of different faiths and departure from that tradition will be extremely divisive.
As responsible citizens, Muslims must welcome and appreciate the interest of the government in looking at our Madaris and facilitate their better governance to become educational centres of excellence. Safeguarding of children is hugely important as is the safety and security of our nation.
Muslims have no good reason to feel fearful of any of the proposals provided we obtain a clear commitment on the following:
(i) That the regime of registration shall be fairly and equally applied to institutions of all faiths.
(ii) That the regime is operated in a non-bureaucratic and friendly manner.
(iii) That the regime of registration gives clarity on consequences of non-registration as registration criteria is unclear in that it applies where 6-8 hours a week of intensive teaching is provided.
(iv) That the body charged with inspection of premises should be a national body with adequate representation from faith organisations and may have representatives from professional and local bodies as members. The ratio of representation between faith bodies and professional bodies should be such that the inspections are and are seen to be non-interfering with theology.
(v) That there should be a separate body to consider inspection reports and to decide on measures to improve standards including the imposition of sanctions. This responsibility should be given to a community led voluntary organization, sufficiently experienced in the area of standard setting and regulating such as the MINAB.
Draft Response by The Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust, Birmingham – Attached to this Guidance document explaining the major features of the Consultative Proposals on Out of School Education is the draft response prepared by one of our members The Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust, Birmingham. This is being done at the request of the member to assist in formulation of your response.