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Ofsted exposes extremism in Islamic schools

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Ofsted is uncovering disturbing teaching in Islamic schools. But it is also exposing a frustrating laxity in dealing with the problems and stopping them happening in the first place. Christian Concern's Islamic Affairs Director, Tim Dieppe, reports.

A High Court judge has ruled that Ofsted was right to place a state-funded Islamic school into 'special measures' this week. The school lost its appeal, but retained its anonymity - at least for the time being. Just why anonymity is in place remains unclear though, especially since Christian schools which are criticised by Ofsted have not been able to remain anonymous in the past.

One of Ofsted's key concerns that the judge upheld was the discovery of "offensive books in the school library which clearly do treat women as subordinate to men". One of the books stated "that a wife is not allowed to refuse sex with her husband". This is a standard Islamic doctrine based on the teaching of Muhammad.

From the Hadith, it is narrated that Muhammad said "If a husband calls his wife to bed (i.e. to have sexual relations) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning." This text is used to justify the doctrine that a wife is not allowed to refuse sex with her husband on internet rulings such as this one.

Another book found in the school library said that "women are commanded to obey their husbands and fulfil their domestic duties." Two books made clear that a husband may beat his wife in certain circumstances "provided that this is not done harshly". These ideas are taken from the Qur'an 4:34 which states:

"Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand." (Sahih International Translation)

One of the books was prominently displayed in the library, though the head teacher claimed he was unaware of these books and described their content as "abhorrent". One wonders if he would describe this verse of the Qur'an as 'abhorrent'.

But the court sided with the school in supporting their stance on practicing segregation of boys and girls. Ofsted had criticised the school for segregation, and argued that it made the girls feel inferior. The judge argued:

"[Ofsted's] argument would only be well-founded if it could be established that faith schools in general, and Islamic schools in particular, segregate the sexes because they regard the female gender as inferior, and/or that girls should be separately prepared for a lesser role in society."

The judge is right to say that segregation, per se, is not something which should attract Ofsted's attention. What the judge appears not to realise, in spite of the obvious nature of the texts in the school library, is that Islam does teach that women are inferior to men. The text above would be enough to establish that on its own, but one could also cite the teaching that a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man (Q 2:282), or that men are a degree above women (Q 2:228), or multiple other Qur'anic texts. On what basis should Ofsted or the judge determine that an Islamic school is not teaching these standard Islamic doctrines?

It also emerged this week that four other Islamic state schools that have been ordered to close following inspections are still operating. One of these schools was found to teach that men can beat their wives. A former pupil says she was taught that women can be raped and beaten by their husbands and that music is the voice of the devil. These schools have launched appeals against their closure and are able to continue operating until a ruling is made. Two MPs have spoken out about this situation.

It is good to see that Ofsted is exposing some of the disturbing teaching that is going on in Islamic schools. What is disappointing is that we ever allowed these things to go on in the first place, and that it is taking so long to enforce closure orders. Confusion remains about what exactly the 'British values' are that schools are required to teach. Only when we recover a strong sense of Christian identity as a nation will be able to properly insist on the teaching of Christian values in all our schools. 

Related Links: 
Islamic schools Ofsted report censored  
Ofsted wrong to penalise Islamic school over gender segregation, court rules (Guardian)  
Segregating boys and girls at state-funded Islamic school 'not unlawful discrimination', High Court rules (Telegraph) 
The 'extremist' schools we can't close: Four Muslim colleges ordered to shut down by the Government use the courts to defy ministers (Mail)