'Radicalisation' fears if schools halt new religion course
A leading imam has said he is "disappointed" at the Catholic Church's rejection of a world religions curriculum for primary schools - a move he feared could encourage radicalism among young Muslims.
Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, chairman of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, made his comments after it was reported by the Irish Independent that plans by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to introduce a new curriculum on religion had been blocked by figures in the Church concerned about children receiving mixed messages.
Dr Al-Qadri warned that integration of Ireland's Muslims was vital to avoid their potential radicalisation, and suggested visits to mosques, temples and churches as well as school visits from rabbis, imams and priests during which children could put questions to them.
He said that in "a handful" of places in Ireland, Muslims espoused the intolerant views that would, for example, instruct Muslims not to befriend non-Muslims. "That is the beginning of radicalisation," he told the Irish Independent.
Dr Al-Qadri was critical of the current educational provision, where pupils in Muslim schools are not regularly taught about other faiths, and Muslim children in State schools are separated from others for religious education, because he said these practices led to their "isolation from a young age".
Explaining his disagreement with the bishops' position, he said that while denominational schools had a right to teach their faith from their perspective, he believed there would be many benefits to adding "a standard curriculum taught in all schools that reflected the diversity" of contemporary Ireland, and that this "should try to develop acceptance, tolerance and understanding of other faiths in the child".
"I don't know what the bishops were thinking," he said.
Dr Al-Qadri said it was vital that children and young people saw how the Bible and Islamic scriptures promote respect and understanding to one another.
"We're not trying to convert anybody, we're just trying to create understanding . . . I want non-Muslim children to learn that Islamic scriptures teach tolerance; there's so much misconception about Islam," he said.