You knew it had to be in The Sun really didn’t you?!

The story they describe is that Helen Green, deputy head at Wakefield’s Newlands Primary School, had pupils writing Muslim oaths such as “Allah is the greatest” and “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah” as handwriting practice. The event was reported to them by the stepmother of one of the pupils who when she had asked for an explanation from the school was told that the children were learning about Islam in RE (Religious Education). Hayley Clayton, the stepmother claimed this was unsatisfactory “this was like he was taking an oath. A Muslim child would never be asked to write a Bible passage. Why didn’t she choose a passage from a normal story book to teach handwriting?”

However The Sun, not unexpectedly, does not go into any great detail regarding the actual logistical facts of the story. Why muddy the waters of a good bit of hysteria with facts eh?! They do not take Ms Clayton to task on the fact that in an RE class the likelihood is that “normal story books” will not be used. That is of course unless like me you are an atheist and therefore see RE as being entirely a study based on story books.

Recommendations are made in Unit 5A, Section 1 of DfES guidelines for religious education in the National Curriculum for children aged 10 that they copy the Shahadah (the oath that Muslims take when they affirm their faith) and write a short explanation of the beliefs it expresses.”. Now one could certainly critique the prudence or necessity of religious education as I frequently do but the reality of a study on the Shahadah portrays a different picture to an indoctrination of children by some evil fundamentalist teacher as The Sun article would seek to portray.

Another cul-de-sac point made in the article which is widely reproduced is that this issue is especially sensitive because the 7/7 bombers came from Leeds 15 miles away. What significance does this play? I live not far from the Battle of Bosworth where King Richard III was killed in 1485 – does this mean I have to be careful what I say about republicanism?! Is there an islamic exclusion zone around Beeston, Leeds because 3 men who blew people up came from there and happened to do so in the name of what they perceived to be Islam? If so where is the Catholic and Protestant exclusion zone around Ulster? I don’t see many American bloggers citing that in pieces about Ireland. What about the militant Israelis? Or does this arbitrary mistrust only apply to Muslims at the moment?

What precisely is the nature of the objection? Is it that the teachings of Islam are fundamentally wrong? I cannot imagine so since Islam shares so much of it’s teachings with Christianity drawing much from it just as Christianity had drawn from Judaism beforehand. Were this to be the objection it would be tantamount to an exoneration of the Crusades, something that most people with an ounce of education and sense look back on as shameful totalitarianism and intolerance almost exclusively from the Christian side. Were it to be the case why would the Christian world not be roundly denouncing the texts of other religions as being false prophets and false idols?

Or is the objection to do with the fact that it is now going on here? In which case this would suggest a deep-seated insecurity in how to combat the spread of Islam for anyone who knows their argument has won and has the evidence to prove it has nothing to fear from an open debate and a complete dismantling of their opponents ideas. Those however who recognise that their house is built on the sand have everything to fear. Witness as an example the numerous right-wing political commentators in the US and across the Western World who if they cannot win a debate with someone by shouting them down will instead wait and have their say when their opponent is no longer their in order that there be no right to reply and no recourse to counteract supposition and lies.

The trouble with the religious is so often their assumption that they are the only ones with any morality. I see Christian missions and others go and offer aid and services to empoverished countries in an effort to alleviate their plight. This is not necessarily because they are religious, there are after all many areligious and apolitical NGOs who go out and work equally hard to achieve the same ends, it is because their suffering is a blight on our comfort and goes against the teachings of so many religious texts that teach compassion, understanding, tolerance and to treat ones neighbour the way one would have them treat us. Right-wing religious is such a ridiculous oxymoron if one actually reads the religious texts in the allegorical spirit to which they are intended. It is just a pity that the literalists are not deep enough to understand the irony of their position. What a pity God won’t be there to judge them on it!

The fundamentalists preach a concerted program of mistrust and hate. They are not interested in compassion, tolerance, redistribution of wealth, they are out only for their own ends, reminds me of the Pharisees and from what I recall Jesus dealt with them rather well! One only has to look at how quickly this Sun article (which was published today) has spread around the United States. What is also noticeable is that none of the rehashes of the report in the US seek to find any further information or context about the story, which approximately 1/2 hour’s research yielded for me. Furthermore a google search on the story brings up a deluge of religious right-wing bloggers commentaries and you have to delve past the first page to garner any factual information. These bloggers serve it up to a greedy conservative audience who are already looking for excuses to justify their war and who wade in on how disgraceful it is that there is one law for the Muslims and one for the Christians, they are right on that score the Christians make the laws for the Muslims to follow and now Islam is strong enough and widespread enough to be voicing an objection to that hegemony. I have even been accused of being part of a liberal pro-Muslim agenda which I confess made me smile because I do love right-wing insults, I was called Red Ba-fuck-ron, and my initial thought was immediately, ‘damn I’ve clearly so lost the argument because this guy knows his stuff!’ Sadly he calls himself ‘homer simpson’ which also signifies that he misunderstands Matt Groening’s creation in much the way many ignorant right-wingers misunderstood Johnny Speight’s Alf Garnett!

I have entered into the debate at the Ace Of Spades HQ and Assaulting The Spire a site which boasts the lofty claim of providing “An endless assault upon all topics where the zealous shall reside”. I leave you to decide whether or not one should call in a breach of the Trades And Descriptions Act! Feel free to wade in and enjoy. Tell your friends, make it a family day out. It’s like the 2005 fly pasts all over again!

*Wakefield Trinity happens to be the name of the local rugby league club, I think it amusingly ironic.

Song Of The Day ~ The Black Seeds – The Answer