Hindus also in faith-school tizzle


by Sunny
29th November, 2007 at 10:27 am    

It’s not just the Jewish possibly falling foul of the law on faith schools. Yesterday the Hindu Council UK sent out a circular stating:

Britain’s first state-funded Hindu Primary school, set to open in Harrow, north London, in September 2008, has outlined an admissions policy the Hindu Council UK (HCUK) says may rule out applications from the vast majority of British Hindu children in the area. HCUK is also concerned the policy may cause division within the local Hindu community.

The Krishna-Avanti school is expected to be oversubscribed when it opens and HCUK has no argument with priority being given to children from ‘practising Hindu families.’ However, the school’s definition of a ‘practising Hindu’ is not one that could be said to be acceptable to the majority of Hindus either worldwide or here in Britain.

According to the admissions policy document, the Krishna-Avanti school defines practising Hindus as those who follow a version of Hinduism requiring daily practice of deity worship and prayer either in the temple or at home; undertake weekly temple-related charity work; participate fortnightly in temple programmes; accept and put into practice the teachings of the Vedic scriptures, in particular the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita; and abstain from meat, fish, eggs, alcohol and smoking.

The admissions policy also allows for available places to be filled by children from families ‘broadly following’ the tenets of Hinduism. But even this requires them to attend a temple monthly, be vegetarian, and attend a local temple for the festivals of Diwali, Janmasthami and Ramnavmi.

How. Funny. Is. That. And someone said faith schools would help create cohesion?

They go on to explain how this may exclude many Hindus:

Rather than reflecting the mainstream, such definitions of practising Hindus reflect the beliefs and practices of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) a new Hindu religious movement founded in the 1960s. Perhaps better known as the Hare Krishnas, this particular Hindu group is represented strongly on the Board of Directors of the I-Foundation, the charitable organisation that will run the Krishna-Avanti school. Ten places at the new school will be reserved exclusively for children of families at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the temple headquarters of ISKCON in Letchmore Heath, Hertfordshire.

Jay Lakhani, HCUK’s Director for education says: “While HCUK has no problem with the I-Foundation reserving a stated ten places out of thirty at the school for children of families at Bhaktivedanta Manor, we believe it is unfair to rule out other Hindus by imposing on them the strict rules of one particular, minority Hindu group in order for their children to attend. Because the Krishna-Avanti school was offered state-funding and is being allowed to open as a ‘Hindu’ rather than an ‘ISKCON’ school, that is what it should be, a truly Hindu school that serves and reflects the wider Harrow Hindu community with its kaleidoscopic Hindu diversity.”

In particular, says Mr Lakhani, the current admissions policy as it stands would specifically rule out children from the following Hindu families: –

- Those who do not take a strict devotional approach to Hinduism
- Arya Samajist Hindus who do not believe in deity worship
- Shiva devotees (many Tamil Hindus) and Mother Goddess devotees (many Bengalis) for whom temple attendance at only RamNavmi, Janmasthami and Diwali celebrations would be too restrictive a condition
- Those who are not strict vegetarians and eat – as many Hindus do – meat (excluding beef), fish, eggs and egg by-products, or who occasionally drink alcohol

There is an added complication here too. Jews are defined as an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act, brought in at the time to ensure that Jews would also be protected from discrimination as blacks and Asians were at the time.

So to a certain extent, the Jewish case may be about racial discrimination and be covered by that. Hindus are not defined as an ethnic group (as with Muslims and Christians)… which means that it may be difficult to make this a case about racial discrimination. But this may also end up going to court, if a parent complains, for discriminating on grounds of religion.

This shizzle is going to continue for a while yet. Rohin wrote about the background to this school last year.


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  1. Jess — on 29th November, 2007 at 11:42 am  

    When I was looking into the Jewish schools in London for my young cousins, who may be moving here from Israel and want some continuity, I found the whole set up really problematic.

    For a start, all the schools I could find were Orthodox, which brings with it its own bundle of fun.

    But also, in order to prove Jewishness, parents have to submit a whole bunch of documents, including marriage certificate.

    Ostensibly, this is meant to show they had a religious wedding, but actually sends out the message that even the most religious kid is sub-par if their parents are not married.

  2. Sofia — on 29th November, 2007 at 11:48 am  

    maybe they should invent a religiosity ph test for parents…

  3. sonia — on 29th November, 2007 at 12:05 pm  

    Bizarre this whole thing.

  4. sonia — on 29th November, 2007 at 12:10 pm  

    but doesn’t this imply that they wont have kids whose parents aren’t religious?
    sounds like soon they wont have anyone left who will be eligible.
    anyhow, how can public funds be used towards such non-inclusive educational environments? if its a private school that’s another matter, but if its state funded, i dont see how they can go around excluding people on the basis of religion.

  5. vader — on 29th November, 2007 at 12:17 pm  

    This is a blessing for heterodox, meating eating, alcohol swilling mainstream hindus. I am sure that many are relieved that their kids are spared the fate of being brainwashed into grubby weirdly dressed morons who frequent airports and high streets begging for money.

  6. Sofia — on 29th November, 2007 at 12:30 pm  

    Vader..that’s hari krishnas..who have their own issues with mainstream hindus in this country…

  7. swaraj — on 29th November, 2007 at 1:50 pm  

    This has been rumbling for ages. Basically ISKON has got great influence within both HCUK & HFB and so they want to make sure that their version of hinduism the one that is used. But its completely ridiculous – that’s not what hindus do. They are free to pray how they wish. Those at the Bhativenta Manor in Watford are good guys but its their way or not at all.

    I’m quite surprised that the HFB are quiet as its known that they do not like the HCUK.

    Faith based schools are a bad idea – education should be for teaching not indcotrinating.

  8. Cover Drive — on 29th November, 2007 at 2:32 pm  

    “Because the Krishna-Avanti school was offered state-funding and is being allowed to open as a ‘Hindu’ rather than an ‘ISKCON’ school, that is what it should be, a truly Hindu school that serves and reflects the wider Harrow Hindu community with its kaleidoscopic Hindu diversity.”

    Considering the very strict admissions policy I don’t the above statement is truthful. Clearly the school is targeting a particular group of Hindus. Pity really because Hinduism is a very diverse religion.

  9. vader — on 29th November, 2007 at 2:46 pm  

    sofia.. my dear, learn to read.

  10. Morgoth — on 29th November, 2007 at 3:34 pm  

    This is one of those slightly disturbing occasions where I agree with S. Hundal, Esq.

    “Faith schools” are nothing more than religion brainwashing vulnerable children. They should be all shut immediately, and all religious bullshit removed from the classroom. Schools should be for learning, not for the propagation of superstitious bullshit.

  11. Parvinder — on 29th November, 2007 at 4:01 pm  

    We are truly witnessing, quoting Trevor Phillips, Britain “sleepwalking towards segregation”.

    Personally, I’m against all faith schools. Despite having a Sikh faith school near us, we actually moved far away as possible so our son could mix with children of other faiths.
    Although it wouldn’t make sense to abolish them, especially the Anglican and Catholic ones as there are so many of them, and you would also be depriving the parents’ right to send their kids there, state funding should be withdrawn. Having said that, a lot of them are very good academically.

    I went to an all-faith state school and have turned out alright…(although some would disagree). Our RE teacher was a bit nutty though, on one occasion made us all literally hang on a big crucifix so to experience the pain Christ must have felt. So glad he didn’t nail us to it although I think he may have wished it upon some of us.

  12. The Common Humanist — on 29th November, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

    Agreed. Faith Schools are divisive and I deeply resent the use of my hard earned tax pounds being spent on them.

    How about this, if Harold Wilson or Edward Heath had, ala US style, forcibly integrated NI Schools as they did in the US in the 60′s with much success (Ok, until the GOP/KKK/Jim Crowites waded in but thats another story) would we have had the Troubles in the same way and would we now be seeing a calmer NI altogether? (The social/crime side of the IRA and the Loyalists has not gone away, for example)

  13. Natty — on 29th November, 2007 at 4:38 pm  

    I would like to highlight that what Trevor Phillips fails to realise as he crawls ever rightwards is that most of the people who are segregating went to normal state schools yet faith schools get the blame for the lack of integration which normal state schools foster.

    So surely rather than blame faith schools all schools should have a policy regarding the integration issue.

    If a school is based upon faith then it will probably have programmes to meet with other faiths as part of the national curriculum.

  14. mk — on 29th November, 2007 at 7:04 pm  

    Its ironic that iskCON are playing a part in the running of this school when they don’t even use the ‘hindu’ tag….they claim they are not ‘hindus’ (well unless they want donations) yet are playing a full part in the running of a ‘Hindu’ school.

    I agree with Sunny, such schools should never get the go ahead in the first place.Why anyone would want to send their kids to a school just so they can ‘mix with their ‘own’ ‘ is beyond me.

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