Imam calls for syllabus on Islam to be taught at faith schools

Muslim leader welcomes plans for new religion classes as they would teach ‘tolerance’

A prominent Muslim leader in Ireland has called on the Government to facilitate preparation of a syllabus on Islam to be taught at the community's faith schools in Ireland. This, he feels, would help avoid radicalisation of Muslim youth.

More generally Shayk Umar Al-Qadri also believes a specific faith should not be taught in schools “to avoid an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation”.

“There should only be ‘us’,” he said.

Imam at the Islamic educational and cultural centre in Dublin’s Blanchardstown, he said his main worry was that “there is no standardised syllabus taught in the madrassas [Islamic religious schools] in Ireland at the moment and those teaching are unqualified in Islamic studies.”

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Muslim children “learn about the religion at the weekend schools” but currently what they are taught and who teaches them is unregulated. He had raised this issue at meetings of the Irish Council of Imams “but nothing has happened,” he said.

Parents had come to him “expressing concerns about what is being taught in the madrassas”, he said, and he also referred to Department of Justice estimates that more than 20 Irish-born Muslim youths had been radicalised and were fighting abroad.

He estimated the number of madrassas in Ireland at “45-50, one for every mosque and catering to a population of 60,000 Muslims here, but there are probably more [Muslims].”

“Ireland is very unique. The Muslim community here is is very young and if we do things right, then what happened elsewhere won’t happen here.”

Tolerance

Standardisation of the syllabus was necessary to prevent what happened in Britain and in other countries where Muslim children “were brought up to feel alienated. They were not taught tolerance of others or what is really jihad,” he said.

A Muslim umbrella body should oversee what is taught in the madrassas in Ireland, he said. “The Irish Council of Imams was set up because the Government wanted it,” Shayk Al-Qadri pointed out.

“That was in 2006, almost 10 years ago.”

He said he was asking for the support of the Government in facilitating this preparation of a syllabus and regulation of teachers of Islam in the madrassas.

The Imam also welcomed proposals that primary schools set aside teaching time for new classes on religion and ethics as part of planned changes to the national curriculum.

It would “teach respect, and tolerance”, he said. However he believed faith itself should not be taught at school.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times