Solidarity 065, 20 January 2005

Get religion out of our schools!

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 24 December, 2006 - 5:40

Religious indoctrination and religious segregation has no place in schools. Children should be able to learn and work out their ideas without officially imposed or sponsored indoctrination from priests, imams, or rabbis. There should be no faith schools. Schools should deal in inquiry and reason, not faith.

That is the basic issue highlighted by the outcry against the mild comments on faith schools made by the Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, in a speech on 17 January. Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, has endorsed the comments.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/02/2005 - 12:14

As some one that teaches Religious Education and Religious Studies I must object to a few of the views expressed in an article that I otherwise agree with.

Anyone who is involved in the teaching of religions will scoff at the notion that the role of RE/RS is to teach any religion as 'true', rather the point is both to learn about religions and learn from them by constructing a critical engagement of the pupils with some aspects of the religious tradtion that they are looking at. This is not my opinion but is what is laid out in all RE/RS syllabuses.

It seems an arrogant statement to say that all religions and all followers of religion are not concerned with love or truth, rather they seek to be told what to do! This is a gross distortion of what may people will have experienced of religion. How would you feel if some one argued that Communism is not about liberation but about the transmitting of holy texts via the Party leaders/clergy? You wouldn't deny that this can be the case but it is not the whole case!

RE/RS is possibly the one subject on the syllabus where there is no right or wrong answers but an emphasis on the development of critical reason and of opinion. It is also a chance to think about and debate issues that would not crop up in any other subject. It would be odd if people who see themselves as progressive would line up with those reactionaries who see RE/RS as worthless as its not about preparing the next generation of workers for deadend jobs. This socialist, atheist teacher union activist for one would oppose you.

Steve Davies

Submitted by Janine on Sun, 20/02/2005 - 15:11

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I wasn't particularly referring to RE classes. I'm sure they've changed a lot since I was at school, and my kids are as yet too young for RE classes. So I don't feel knowledgable enough to comment.

What I *am* bothered about is compulsory religious worship at schools, religious appointees on governing bodies, and the designation of a school as being of a particular religion. These things are clearly based on telling children that the particular religion concerned is the one truth.

After all, if it is simply a matter of RE lessons teaching about all religions equally (and - I wonder if you could confirm this - about secularism and atheism too), then why have such things as C of E schools, Muslim schools, etc.?

I am also bothered about the so-called 'right' of parents to withdraw their children from learning about things such as sex education, usually on religious grounds. Parents should have no right to deny their kids the right to this knowledge. This is a clear example of putting religious beliefs above concern for passing on facts and learning.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/02/2005 - 18:07

In reply to by Janine

Ok, I'd totally agree with any act of worship being compulsory (a moments reflection tells us that this wrong!). Im against a school being designated a particular religion too, though in practice not all 'faith' schools try to promote the pupils to become members of that faith: I know of inner city CoE schools that are 95% muslim.

For some 'faith' schools it is more a matter of broad principles that they encourage, or a particular mission that they have (such as providing education for recently arrived pupils in Britain) rather than promoting one religion as true. Guess which type of faith schools broadly dont do the above!

I teach Religious Studies AS and A2 level and that explicitly deals with the arguments against the existence of God,as will GCSE at a lower level. In any case, I think often socialists devalue the experiences of religious people and the notion that they might be anything to learn from any religion would be laughed at by most socialists.

I share your concerns about pupils being barred from some subjects on their parents say so on religious grounds, but then for some at least of the parents they will believe that are doing whats best for their child. Do you think the state should make it illegal for this to happen?

By the way RE is the only subject that parents have a right to withdraw their children from.


Submitted by Janine on Sat, 06/01/2007 - 12:56

I don't think that it is just Muslim schools that have raised the profile of this issue. It is also the government's policy of allowing ever more wacky Christians to control state schools through their Academies programme. Fortunately, there are some good examples of school workers and communities defeating this.

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Labour's election manifesto: Profit, Profit, Profit

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:25

In the Guardian on 15 January, Alan Milburn, Tony Blair’s chosen general election coordinator, set out New Labour’s prospectus for the general election likely in May.

Through the fog of buzzwords and spin-jargon in Milburn’s article, the message emerged: more privatisation, more marketisation.

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Iraq’s missing oil billions

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:23

The effective economic policy of the US occupation in Iraq has been: confiscate Iraq’s oil revenues; hand out the cash to the US administration’s American and Iraqi cronies, with minimal supervision; justify this in the name of the virtues of privatisation; and impose decrees mandating privatisation as the only way Iraq’s economy can develop in future.

A United Nations audit published on 14 December, though cautiously worded, paints a devastating picture.

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The 1905 Revolution

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:13

On Sunday 9 January 1905 — according to the calendar that was then in use in Russia, which was 13 days behind that in use in Europe — troops in St Petersburg opened fire on a peaceful procession of workers, led by a priest, Father Gapon. The demonstration was marching to deliver a humble petition to the Russian aristocratic ruler, the Tsar.

Hundreds were killed.

This massacre and the reaction to it triggered the Russian Revolution of 1905. It has been described as the “dress rehearsal” for the October 1917 revolution.


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An appeal by the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI)

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:09

Since November we have witnessed a marked increase in activities and the formation of a number of branches of FWCUI in many workplaces and factories.

Such developments have attracted the attention of the authorities in the cities of Baghdad, Basra and Saharaban. Labour activists have been threatened by the authorities and prevented from joining FWCUI.

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Just say "yes"?

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:07

Cathy Nugent reviews “Cocaine”, Channel Four, and “If… drugs were legal”, 12 January, BBC2

In the Peruvian Andes, a young woman dances in a seedy night club. Little by little she is slipping towards becoming a sex worker. Her father is a coca farmer, but lately his precious leaves have been damaged by US-financed crop-sprayers. He can no longer afford to pay for his daughter’s education. She must find money where she can.

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Reactions to Racism

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:07

Dan Nichols reviews “Yasmine”, Channel 4

Channel Four’s drama, Yasmine, was an intelligent look at the tensions that exist among today’s British Muslims. The programme followed a young Asian Muslim woman from Yorkshire as she struggles to fit in to both the conservative world of her family and the very different world of her workplace.

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Challenging consensus on Islamophobia

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:05

Sacha Ismail reviews “Are Muslims hated?”, Channel 4, 8 January

In the 1980s, writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik was a member of a peculiar left group called the Revolutionary Communist Party, which always, for reasons one could not trust, took up what they would have called “iconoclastic” views. Perhaps it should be no surprise how sharply the ideas he develops on racism, religion and the idea of “multiculturalism” are in conflict with the conventional wisdom of much of today’s left. But that does not necessarily mean he is wrong.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 31/01/2005 - 17:16

So Sacha Ismail anticipates in advance that the swp et al "will dismiss him (Kenan Malik) by the old Stalinist trick of the amalgam (“Kenan Malik says this, so does the Daily Mail, therefore. . .”)" and then goes on to say "The current “left” obsession with “multiculturalism” is essentially a gigantic popular front, stretching from the SWP and Muslim “community leaders” to the very heart of the new Labour government."

Aside from stretching the meaning of the 'popular front' to beyond any Marxist understanding of the term Sasha engages in clear hypocracy. The Daily Mail did indeed heap prase of Malik's grotesque hack work, Sasha scoffs the idea that Malik and himself can be said to be in some sort of bloc with the racist right over this issue whilst claiming the SWP are in a popular front (sic) with Blair over the issue of 'multi-culturism'!

Just ask yourself who really is helping Blair and co out here: Those who take a firm stance against Islamophobia and stand in solidarity with muslims against police/anti-terror harrasment or those who engage in attempting to play it down or deny it even exists as a social problem?

John Black

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/02/2005 - 00:32

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

John Black does exactly what I predicted the SWP would do: attempt to smear those with Malik or the AWL's view by associating us with the right-wing critique of "multiculturalism" rather than actually engaging with our (left-wing) arguments. If he did the latter, after all, he would be unable to plausibly accuse us of blocking with the racist right.

Look at the facts. I did not, nor does the AWL, deny that racism againt people of Muslim background exists. We denounce and campaign against it. We oppose the so-called "war on terror" and its attendant war on civil liberties. We say without embarrassment that all immigration controls are racist and call for their abolition. We believe that those who want to defend "British culture" from outside infiltration are peddling chauvinist filth.

What does this approach, which counterposes a democratic, internationalist and socialist common culture to the cultural relativism of the multiculturalists, have to do with the British cultural chauvinism of the tabloid press? By contrast, both the SWP etc, much of the soft left and the more stupid liberals do not criticise Islamism, Islamic chauvinism and conservative Muslim "community leaders" even slightly. This is so much the case that Ken Livingstone and his bag-carriers accuse of racism those who criticise Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Islamist so right-wing that thousands of Muslim clerics have written to the UN denouncing him as a "sheikh of death". In other words, we are demonstrably not in any sort of popular front; the multiculturalist "left" demonstrably is.

Lastly, let us be very clear what we are talking about. If all "multiculturalism" meant was supporting freedom for people to look, dress, speak, eat, dance etc however they chose - in other words if referred simply to the material artefacts of various societies - then of course no democrat could or should do anything but vigorously support it. But "culture" can also mean the moral/political values and practices of a given society: and, given this, "multiculturalism" inevitably means accepting discriminatory, oppressive and exploitative practices on the grounds that "it's their culture". As consistent democrats, it is our duty of socialists to oppose this nonsense.

"I like my food, and I like my dress. These are the things I will keep. But why should I accept the tradition of oppression? Freedom is not just for you, it is for me too." - Taslim Nasrin

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/02/2005 - 10:49

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

It’s a shame that Sacha choices to obfuscate instead of responding to my actual arguments. My point was not of that Malik/AWL have the same views on multiculturalism as the racist right but that Sacha was engaged in double book keeping by claiming that the SWP had the same views of multiculturalism as the Blairites.

I understand the SWP (of which I am not a member btw) approach to multiculturalism is something like as follows; Multiculturalism is the product of 30-odd years of anti-racist campaigns and insofar as it represents an advance on discrimination it is a positive development. However, multiculturalism stops short of explaining causes and divorces "culture" from the economic motors that generate change; inequality, exploitation etc and is thus cannot solve the problem of racism in itself.

There is obviously clear water here between this Marxist understanding and the faux-liberal platitudes of New Labour. There can of course be distinctly right and left critiques of multiculturalism, but Sacha must in turn recognise that support for multiculturalism can too come from different perspectives.

Anyhow, my actual concern here is not "multiculturalism" at all, a concept I have never looked into at any great deal. What concerns me here is that Malik/AWL are, intentionally or not, in a de-facto alliance with the racist right on the specific issue of denying Islamophobia.

It is worrying that Sacha uncritically cites Malik’s flawed and selective statistical research that apparently "proves" Muslims are not particularly victims of police harassment post 9/11, try telling that to Barber Ahmed! So Sasha can bang on about how the awl are not denying "that racism against people of Muslim background" exists all he likes but he is positively citing "research" that seriously downplays it.

Denying or downplaying very real police discrimination against a minority group should be shameful for a self-styled ‘socialist’.

"Truth is on the side of the oppressed." ~ Malcolm X

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." ~ Mark Twain

John Black

Submitted by Mike Wood on Fri, 04/02/2005 - 16:11

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sacha does not attack your position by reference to the Blairites similar position. He quite clearly states that they are similar and then attacks the position independantly of that. There would be reasons for that position being bad even if the Blairites did not hold it.

The problems with multiculturalism are not that it stops short of a critique of culture but that it never gets close. I think you may have a slightly skewed understanding of what multiculturalism is to be honest, as your description of it sounds more like toleration than multiculturalism. Multiculturalism, in its strong form, states that distinctions between people are intrinsic - that no culture is any better or worse than another but that they are different. When this is applied to moral values you can see the problem for socialists as any critique of a cultural practice, hoewever reprehensible it seems to us (e.g. female genital mutilation) cannot be attacked as we share no common ground from which to do so. It becomes unjust for us to campaign against injustice, as to do so is to apply our own standards to others.

The drawbacks should appear obvious, and as a moral theory this is fraught with inconsistencies and paradoxes. Egalitarianism and multiculturalism are oppositional doctrines, not progressive bedfellows.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/03/2005 - 14:44

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

The alliance between the Left and Islamofascim shows the true face of a bankrupt ideology.

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The future of the Socialist Alliance

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 28 January, 2005 - 6:04

An AGM for the Socialist Alliance has been called for Saturday 5 February, 2pm, at ULU, Malet Street, London. If the SWP have their way it will be the last ever conference of the Socialist Alliance. They are proposing resolutions to wind up the Socialist Alliance and donate its remaining funds to Respect. Nine current or former members of the SA Executive have written a letter of protest.

Open letter to the Executive Committee of the Socialist Alliance.

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