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  • Muslims And Music Lessons


    by guest
    3rd July, 2010 at 10:15 am    

    This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs at Same Difference.

    I love music. I’ve grown up listening to music and playing songs on everything from a Walkman to an Ipod. Today I rarely sit in a car without the radio on. And in school, a few too many years ago, I sang along at assembly and loved the songs used. I even tried, unsuccessfully, to learn to play a couple of musical instruments.

    I’m also, usually, proud to be Muslim. What’s the connection, you may ask? Well, when I heard reports on BBC London News that hundreds of Muslim parents are withdrawing their children from primary school music lessons because their beliefs forbid them from learning an instrument, I was more than a little unpleasantly surprised.

    The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said music lessons were potentially unacceptable to about 10% of Muslims. This could equate to hundreds of Muslim children being withdrawn from the lessons, the MCB said. Eileen Ross, its head teacher, told BBC London: “Some of the parents don’t want children to play musical instruments and they don’t have music in their homes.

    “There’s been about 18 or 22 children withdrawn from certain sessions, out of music class, but at the moment I just have one child who is withdrawn continually from the music curriculum.”

    Even more worryingly, according to the report, school inspection authority Ofsted have sometimes ignored this issue.

    I agree with Open University researcher Dr Diana Harris, who said: I feel there’s a lot in music which gives us great joy in life and I feel sorry for children who want to be part of that and can’t be and particularly when it’s for reasons they don’t even understand.

    The MCB said they want Muslim children to “take benefit of the full range of educational possibilities, including music.”

    I’m disabled, which makes me the first to say that schools should make allowances when something can’t be helped. No child should have to do anything at school that puts them in danger. But I think this is a matter of personal choice which can be helped and shouldn’t be allowed. Muslim children are not put in any danger during music lessons.

    Do these parents realise what they are doing? Not only are they depriving their child of pleasure, and socially excluding them at school- which I know from experience is not a good feeling- but this minority group of parents are also giving British Muslims all over Britain a bad reputation as an over-religious community who don’t want to be included in mainstream British society.

    I only hope we don’t have to see the day when mainstream schools start rejecting applications from Muslim families because they fear they won’t be able to meet a child’s religious needs.

    This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs at Same Difference.


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    1. Kevin Dale Sanders

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    2. GraceBarkwell

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    12. Trouble in Ballybeen and Dunclug - Page 6

      [...] Unless you're a known face and minor personality Picador, no one would have known and nobobdy could have cared less. I did my ''first holy communion'' in the early 70's but no one went to beat me up the other night. Or yesterday as I enjoyed the Mourne Young Defenders in Shaftesbury Square. Ever read Pickled Politics? It's site that is mostly about issues that might be of innterest to Brits of south Asian origin. Pickled Politics Muslims And Music Lessons [...]




    1. susie — on 3rd July, 2010 at 10:30 am  

      In case it’s of interest, the website of Copenhagen-based Freemuse (a kind of music equivalent of PEN) has some interesting constantly updated stuff on music censorship, including items on Islam and music around the world. http://www.freemuse.org/sw305.asp
      Freemuse’s first ever published report, back in 2001, ‘Can You Stop the Birds Singing?’ was on censorship of music in Afghanistan (not only under Taliban, but from Soviets onwards). Written by the leading authority on Afghan music Prof John Baily of Goldsmiths College, the issues it touches are still relevant. Report can be downloaded from her http://www.freemuse.org/sw1106.asp
      and the web page also has some sound samples from the CD that came with the report.
      Re the recent news report, it was good the MCB guy supported Muslim children’s participation in music lessons, although he did say this was conditional on the music transmitting certain values (without defining what). Asked if eg Bach was acceptable, he said very much so as Bach’s music is from a religious source.

      Maybe Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens could contribute to the debate!

    2. Zeno — on 3rd July, 2010 at 10:35 am  

      “Muslim children are not put in any danger during music lessons.”

      I entirely agree, but that, presumably, is not the view of some Muslim parents and is indeed the reason why they are trying to withdraw their children from music?

      There appears to be nothing on the MCB website about this, but does anyone know the full reasons parents are doing this?

    3. boyo — on 3rd July, 2010 at 10:48 am  

      Yet another reason why religion should be banned from all schools (and religious schools should be banned). But it’s never going to happen - rather than embracing common identity, as per the French (or Socialist) model, we have embraced common difference, or communalism by another name (or multiculturalism as it is sold) - it certainly makes the natives more easy to govern (divide and rule) but it balkanises society (MCB, MAB, EDF, UKIP) and of course blights individual’s lives.

      It’s important to understand that this state of affairs suits almost all of the ruling and bourgeois class - keep the “minorities” quiet, sow up the CofE schools in well-to-do suburbs for themselves (privatising education by house prices - the new segregation) and turn the working classes against each other (while at the same time marginalising their concerns about community cohesion and reduced bargaining power as “racist”).

      The survival instinct of the British ruling class is truly world class. They side-stepped the revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries and ate the Labour movement from within by the ultimate entryism. You’ve got to hand it to them.

    4. Roger Thornhill — on 3rd July, 2010 at 2:34 pm  

      While kids being denied the joy of music worries me, the thought of what might be the State responses to “solve” this is even more worrying.

      This is a good test of true liberalism/libertarianism vs those who pretend.

    5. Bob — on 3rd July, 2010 at 2:54 pm  

      Sarah would have benefited from reading some other Muslim bloggers who commented on this issue - Yusuf Smith or Inayat Bunglawala - before she posted on it.

      The BBC programme found one child who had been permanently withdrawn from music classes in one London school. Both Yusuf and Inayat point out that the the “18-22″ figure referred to children who had been withdrawn from rehearsals for a Christmas musical - so it was presumably the religious component of the event rather than the musical component that their parents objected to. Even the Evening Standard managed to mention this not irrelevant fact, but the BBC saw fit to omit it.

      What we have here is a non-story sexed up into yet another media campaign against the Muslim community, portraying them as some sort of threat to British values. The MCB spokesperson, who gave some credibility to this nonsense by agreeing that “hundreds” of Muslim children might be affected, should have known better.

      The wave of anti-Muslim bigotry that this irresponsible BBC report provoked was entirely predictable. We covered some of it at Islamophobia Watch. The BBC should be ashamed of itself.

    6. Arman — on 3rd July, 2010 at 4:27 pm  

      I agree Bob that this is a non-story. And the BBC should be ashamed of itself.

      But you say the MCB spokesman should have known better in terms of giving credibility. What should he have said? He is giving a fair overview, saying some parents do consider music to be non-Islamic and do pull their children out. Anything else would have been lying.

    7. boyo — on 3rd July, 2010 at 4:41 pm  

      Yes, scanning Bob’s response I was thinking it read like IW, and sure enough it was. I notice that it’s “Anti-Muslim bigotry” rather than “Anti-Muslim racism” now, which I suppose is a more accurate description, although quite why a Leninist continues to believe stoking Muslim grievance will somehow de-stablise the Capitalist state and lead to the worker’s revolution (rather than playing in to the hands of the bourgeois class) continues to escape me. Still on the salary at City Hall Bob? I suppose one master much the same as any other.

    8. Bob — on 3rd July, 2010 at 4:56 pm  

      I think that the MCB spokesperson should have twigged that this story was going to be used to attack the Muslim community and shouldn’t have been so ready to agree with the BBC reporter that “hundreds” of Muslim pupils were possibly not attending music classes - when the reporter himself admitted that the BBC lacked any reliable figures. The MCB spokesperson should have emphasised that it was a tiny minority of Muslim parents who remove their kids from music classes and that the issue shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. I’m not suggesting that he was consciously trying to assist an anti-Muslim campaign - I just think he was being a bit naive.

    9. Sunny — on 3rd July, 2010 at 5:03 pm  

      BBC journalism fail.

    10. The Fallen Angel — on 4th July, 2010 at 12:19 am  

      I channel music from Satan… is that from a suitably “religious source” for the MCB?

    11. Yakoub Islam — on 4th July, 2010 at 4:17 am  

      I’m aware of music education (as a former teacher and Muslim) as an issue among some Deobandi Muslims in parts of my region (West Yorkshire) going back at least a decade. A perusal of kitabs in my region indicates why some Muslims object - texts represent specifically Western music not just as irreligious (i.e. in breach of Prophetic command), but as decadent and highly sexualised.

      Simply dismissing these views, or demanding they retreat into the private sphere, will not make them go away. However, taking such a condescending stance certainly does contribute towards the negative representation of Muslims as ‘other’.

      It would be nice if liberal blogs like this at least engendered discussion rather than mass sneering. It’s hardly a crime to be a religious conservative. Not yet, anyway.

    12. Boyo — on 4th July, 2010 at 10:08 am  

      Me - I look forward to seeing your evidence that I’m a bigot or a Zionist. Why not just search PP and see what you can come up with? Good luck.

    13. boyo — on 4th July, 2010 at 10:25 am  

      By the way, Me, I can understand why you might want to call me a “bigot” for challenging IW (although obviously I disagree with you) but why would you call me a “Zionist” and what do you mean by that? And actually, given this, I’d be quite interested in our definition of “bigot”. Thanks.

    14. Fallen Angel — on 4th July, 2010 at 11:41 am  

      Some music is “decadent and highly sexualised”.

      Fantastic. That’s the way it should be. Count me in.

      Rock ‘n’ roll is of the devil. Who would have thunk it?

      Christ on a stick. Feck me sideways. Mary Whitehouse in a hijab.

    15. Susie — on 4th July, 2010 at 3:31 pm  

      Don’t think it’s fair to completely dismiss the issue as Islamophobia or “BBC journalism fail”. There clearly *is* something going on here, even if the report in question had some defects. (And what about the Muslim lads seen handing out threatening anti-music leaflets outside a secondary school?)

      It’s worth recalling that in 2007 the MCB itself issued recommendations on the teaching of music to Muslims in state schools.
      http://www.freemuse.org/sw17513.asp

      BBC Radio 4 had an item on the issue in the Sunday programme this morning.
      The segment begins at around 26.50 minds on iPlayer.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sw4vr
      It takes as its starting point that BBC London report, and interviews Diana Harris, athour of the book “Music, Education and Muslims” published in 2006. She also appeared in the BBC London report.
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Music-Education-Muslims-Diana-Harris/dp/1858563569

      The amazon blurb on the book says: “The recommendations about how music lessons can be made more appropriate to Muslim pupils are based on the author’s research and experience. She suggests ways to ensure that people are never persuaded to do anything which conflicts with their religion, while extending the opportunity for meaningful music lessons for all pupils.” Sounds like an effort to be accommodating.
      This is a paper Harris presented in 2003.
      http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/files/40530/12669214963musicmuslims.pdf/musicmuslims.pdf

    16. Boyo — on 4th July, 2010 at 6:08 pm  

      Yakoub - surely those Muslims who reject Western culture yet choose to live in the West are defining themselves as “other”.

      Susie - everything you say may or not have an element of truth to it, but at the end of the day you’re simply a Zionist bigot to the “Me”s of this world, so i wouldn’t try too hard.

    17. Boyo — on 4th July, 2010 at 6:11 pm  

      There are nout so blind as will not see. Or hear…

    18. Fallen Angel — on 4th July, 2010 at 6:49 pm  

      Have you not heard - the Devil’s got all the best tunes!

      Cultural relativism is stupid and obscene.

    19. damon — on 5th July, 2010 at 1:37 am  

      Thanks for those links on Diana Harris Susie. Very interesting.

      If this is a story about nothing, then she must be wrong in her analysis.

      ”For many people it comes as a surprise that teaching most Muslims is not the same as teaching any other religious group. Having taught Muslims in a state secondary school in England for several years, I was aware that for many of them music is a problematic area. In this paper I will explain briefly the background to this situation, but I will mainly be talking about how the music curriculum can be adapted to make it more acceptable to Muslims. I believe that tolerance is no longer enough and that what is needed now is sensitivity and understanding. For example, did you know that many Muslim girls have to give up playing instruments when they reach puberty, that is, if they have been allowed to play them in the first place? Did you know that singing any songs with lyrics about love is usually unacceptable, and that boys and girls should not be asked to perform together?”

    20. marwan — on 5th July, 2010 at 2:15 am  

      Thanks for the link Damon
      Them evil Muslims hey. Silly us for thinking they were like other people.Or even that they are people.

      How are you secret undercover spying visits to mosques going? Any plans to visit churches, synagogues, temples, gurdwaras etc?

    21. Ali Bongo — on 5th July, 2010 at 2:55 am  

      Muslims…. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    22. Fallen Angel — on 5th July, 2010 at 8:01 am  

      Yeah, Marwan - let’s leave you to dictate to not just your own community but the entire curriculum of every school every single fine nuance of your absurd bigotry - and when anyone complains we will all cower when you start jumping up and down and claiming that we are not being fair. Fuck off.

    23. damon — on 5th July, 2010 at 10:36 am  

      Personally I find what Diana Harris says - or at least the way she says it there - to be a bit suspect. Maybe I should have added that Marwan.

      I do like going in to churches and temples. I have visited gurdwaras in both London and Malaysia - been to the Golden Temple twice, but find that synagogues are usually closed. As for spying - I’m not religious, but I like religious services.
      I find there’s something spiritual about them.

    24. fugstar — on 5th July, 2010 at 10:58 am  

      Bumped into diana harris some years ago. she’s all over this one and knows her stuff inside out. Most people i know tend to think along the Ghazzalian moral vector of the particular music line of thought.

    25. Trofim — on 5th July, 2010 at 11:55 am  

      For me, the arts are not an add on, but the whole point of life. Eating, sleeping, working, copulating are essentially a mere means to an end. Music, visual arts, literature, poetry are what ultimately make life worth living. With regard to the arts, I have to say that I used to be a CPN and had occasion to go into quite a few Muslim homes in south Birmingham. I couldn’t help noticing that even in well-to-do ones, there appeared to be no art. In even the most humble chav homes, there is a picture on the wall, even if it’s a crap reproduction of Constable’s Hay Wain, but even in the well-to-do Muslim homes, there was usually just this picture of the Ka’aba on the wall. Sensory stimulation is recognised as a vital prerequisite for intellectual and emotional development. To deprive children of it is a crime. Could there be a link between a lack of sensory stimulation in Muslim homes and their relatively poor educational performance? Now if this doesn’t get me called an Islamophobe, I don’t know what will.

    26. Sarah AB — on 5th July, 2010 at 12:44 pm  

      I don’t think not having pictures on the wall necessarily means one is being deprived, culturally, intellectually or emotionally. One might choose to find visual stimulus in a slightly different way, through public art, architecture or gardens. Or a culture might privilege other arts - literature, dance, music, theatre. But yes, if one is being cut off from all of these mediums, or from large parts of them, that does seem a pity.

      I haven’t looked in detail at the information about Islam and music. I find myself unsure how to negotiate the divide between cultural relativism and reasonable compromise. Someone above said that lyrics about love were normally unacceptable to many Muslims. Should one, as a music teacher, perhaps just choose a nice song which *isn’t* about love in that case? Or would that lead to unfairly restricting the experience of the others? It’s not just Islam which leads to censorship or self-censorship. My son’s Christian teacher stopped the children from singing ‘Imagine’ (atheist) and Abba’s Gimmee Gimmee Gimmee (too suggestive).

    27. sofia — on 5th July, 2010 at 12:54 pm  

      I think the headteacher who participated in this non news ‘story’ was completely irresponsible.

    28. fugstar — on 5th July, 2010 at 1:25 pm  

      robert plant fixed lennons imagine with the word ‘division’ instead of religion.

      look at it another way, theres a lot of embodied practice in muslim life that you might call ‘art’, rememberence, recitation communal orchestration.

    29. MaidMarian — on 5th July, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

      Yakoub Islam - Hold on there!

      ‘Simply dismissing these [Islamic] views, or demanding they retreat into the private sphere, will not make them go away. However, taking such a condescending stance certainly does contribute towards the negative representation of Muslims as ‘other’.’

      That representation is not wholly unreasonable. Whilst this story looks to have been blown out of all proportion (and I accept that may be a function of Islam being involved), it is of a piece with the them and us narrative. Demanding that this sort of dogma is reserved for the private sphere may not make it go away, but I most certainly can demand it in the first place. I am not obligated to bend my knee before every cultural taboo, negative representations notwithstanding.

      ‘It would be nice if liberal blogs like this at least engendered discussion rather than mass sneering. It’s hardly a crime to be a religious conservative. Not yet, anyway.’

      Well it is a crime to criticise religion, hence the charges of ‘religiously aggravated.’ You are getting a much better discussion on here that you would likely find elsewhere - that you don’t like what some people are saying is not their fault.

      Now if you will excuse me, I am going to listen to Puff the Magic Dragon.

    30. bananabrain — on 5th July, 2010 at 2:02 pm  

      if this is indeed as it appears to be about pulling kids out of a nativity play or something else with a strong christian element, then it isn’t about music and i find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with islamophobia watch, so fair play for that and yes, this is a non-story. even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    31. boyo — on 5th July, 2010 at 2:18 pm  

      Sarah, I presume your son goes to a faith or private school? I think it’s fair to say this is a problem for all mainstream faiths one way or another. If a school forbade my child singing Imagine, i would be pretty annoyed.

    32. Trofim — on 5th July, 2010 at 2:32 pm  

      Sarah A B:
      ‘I don’t think not having pictures on the wall necessarily means one is being deprived, culturally, intellectually or emotionally. One might choose to find visual stimulus in a slightly different way, through public art, architecture or gardens. Or a culture might privilege other arts – literature, dance, music, theatre’.

      Essentially the same as saying that you don’t need to have books in the house, because there are always some down the library. Access to cultural stimuli should be as immediate as possible. I make sure my little grand nephews and nieces encounter some stimulus ever time I see them, because I have so memories of things which became embedded in my memory and had an influence on my personality and outlook. Not from a didactic point of view, simply sensory impressions. Last time they came, I showed them the end of the Russian film ??????? ?????? - Russian Ark - by Sokurov, depicting a great sumptuous imperial ball. It was irrelevant that it was in Russian, they were spellbound by it. When I was a kid there wasn’t a day went by without my dad, a pub pianist, sitting down at the piano and bashing out a bit of highly imperfect Chopin. My love of Chopin stays with me to this day. Russian Ark is unique, incidentally, in being one long 96-minute unedited take, improbable though it may seem.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Ark

    33. dave bones — on 5th July, 2010 at 2:55 pm  

      If its against someones religion to eat pork they dont have to eat pork. No one says that it gives jewish people a bad name to not eat pork. No one suggests that their kids should be forced to eat it at school. If it is against someones religion to listen to music (I believe they listen only to Nasheeds) then it is against someones religion to listen to music. Why is it a big deal? Its one of those religion things. No one cares except for Richard Littlejohn and his daleks no?

    34. MaidMarian — on 5th July, 2010 at 3:24 pm  

      dave bones - Not caring is one thing, but this is coming dangerously close to institutionalising offence. OK, these people can come out of music lessons and there is no problem.

      What about playing music in a car on the street? Could that then be taken as a religiously aggravated crime? In your example, would it be a religiously aggravated crime to sell pork if there were complaints?

      Live and let live is great, and I am certain that that is how many live. But just to dismiss this as, ‘Littlejohn,’ is blithe.

    35. bananabrain — on 5th July, 2010 at 3:28 pm  

      Over at Spittoon they are viciously attacking IW and on here he is defending it.

      i’m not defending IW - even ken livingstone is right about certain things once in a while and when someone is right i will give him his due.

      If the the boot was on the other foot and the story were about pupils wanting to withdraw from a school visit to a mosque, Spittoon and Harrys Place would, along with the right-wing press, be supporting their right to do this

      in fact, i think the authors of the spittoon would actually look at the case in question and then make up our minds. as a long-term advocate of mosque twinning with synagogues and churches, it would have to be a very mad mosque indeed before i would object to people actually encountering each other in the real world. you see, unlike your boilerplate bletherings, we at the spittoon have a wide range of opinions which you are unable to appreciate. i see you’ve been unbanned and are free to spread your toxic-waste opinions again. i wonder why.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    36. Sarah AB — on 5th July, 2010 at 4:38 pm  

      I seem to remember something on HP recently about a visit to a mosque where girls were required to wear headscarfs and some weren’t happy - it might have been a point raised in a comment rather than a post though. I sympathised with the girls - I remember feeling very unhappy having to wear a headscarf when I went to an ‘Old Believers’(?) orthodox church once. I think an additional problem with the mosque visit was that the children weren’t allowed to withdraw from the visit.

    37. bananabrain — on 5th July, 2010 at 4:56 pm  

      I seem to remember something on HP recently about a visit to a mosque where girls were required to wear headscarfs and some weren’t happy

      that is just bad manners, imho - in any place of worship you should dress appropriately according to the rules of that place of worship for visitors.

      The hypocrite Bananabrain supports the most offensive blasphemies against Islam and Christianity and its holy figures on the Spitoon site yet screams “anti-semitism” if anyone so much as challenges his hard line version of Judaism.

      who is this other bananabrain you’re on about - did he steal your crayons, nutbar?

      Spittoon viciously attacks Pickled Politics and Sunny Hundial yet he has the chutzpah to come and post here !

      sunny and i differ on a number of questions, as do i and the other spittoon writers, but, as i’ve said many times, i prefer to do so civilly. i wonder how much more you can gibber before the dribble shorts out your keyboard?

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    38. boyo — on 5th July, 2010 at 5:24 pm  

      Calm down Me, have a cup of tea, listen to some Brahms. They’re really not all out to get you, and those gentlemen in the white suits? They’re just to take your tray away.

    39. boyo — on 5th July, 2010 at 5:27 pm  

      Tell you what though, if that fails - you should try hanging out in some of the comment sections of HP - they’re just as bonkers as you!

      http://hurryupharry.org/2010/07/05/israel-needs-to-renew-the-freeze/#comments

    40. Shaytan Plucks My Oud — on 5th July, 2010 at 5:46 pm  

      Me

      You write of: “Sunny Hundial”

      Is that some sort of happy speed-dialing moment had by Germans?

      Just so we know.

    41. Sarah AB — on 5th July, 2010 at 6:01 pm  

      me - I’m not sure I *did* say Muslim parents shouldn’t be able to pull children out of music. I was responding to the tone of the thread which seemed more to be saying that music itself wasn’t a problem, probably, just certain kinds of music - and I expressed uncertainty but a preference for finding an accommodation if possible. But if I *had* taken the position you said I did it might not have been unambiguously inconsistent because music is an entire subject, and part of the national curriculum. There’s a difference between opting out of an entire subject and opting out of one school trip. I took my son out of a school trip recently because it involved a very long coach journey and he is prone to migraines/sickness which would be no fun for him or the teachers - I had no problems.

      I think my position wrt headscarfs is consistent with my feeling that people should be allowed to wear religious head covering in any context - unlike in France - the flip side is that I think secular types like my family should be free not to wear them - or not to enter a building where wearing them is compulsory. (In practice I wouldn’t absolutely object if for some reason I was visiting a mosque, nor would I absolutely object to my daughter wearing one - but I would support her right not to as well.)

    42. Rumbold — on 5th July, 2010 at 7:37 pm  

      Try not to respond to Me/Munir/Blah. He will just end up being deleted.

    43. Pink Oboe Player — on 5th July, 2010 at 8:13 pm  

      Why has this arsehole me/Munir/Blah/Marwan even been un-banned in the first place?

    44. Bob — on 5th July, 2010 at 8:25 pm  

      The visit to which Sarah AB refers was by pupils from the Ellesmere Port Catholic High School to the Al Rahma Mosque in Toxteth, Liverpool. See coverage by Islamophobia Watch here.

      One mother refused to let her daughter participate, stating: “I objected to Amy being made to dress like a Muslim girl, the original letter from the school gave a dress code for the visit, including long skirts, leggings or tights and covering up her head. She’s been brought up in the Catholic faith and religion, Amy is not a Muslim and shouldn’t be told to dress like one.”

      Other parents followed her lead and altogether around 10 pupils were withdrawn from the visit.

      As bananabrain says, all that was required by the school was that pupils should dress in a manner appropriate to a visit to a place of worship.

      I attended a Jewish funeral last year and was asked to wear a kippah. I didn’t walk out complaining that I was being “made to dress like a Jew”. If I had, I think most people would have had no difficulty in finding a term to characterise that.

      Mind you, not all the parents who withdrew their children from the Al Rahma Mosque visit bothered to justify their action with reference to the required dress code. As another mother stated: “I’m not racist or anything but I live in England, I send my daughter to an English speaking catholic school, so I don’t see why she should go to a mosque.”

    45. Trofim — on 5th July, 2010 at 8:41 pm  

      dave bones 2:55 pm:

      “If its against someones religion to eat pork they dont have to eat pork. No one says that it gives jewish people a bad name to not eat pork. No one suggests that their kids should be forced to eat it at school. If it is against someones religion to listen to music (I believe they listen only to Nasheeds) then it is against someones religion to listen to music. Why is it a big deal?”

      What a ludicrous and dishonest equivalence, between a substance which passes through the alimentary system and a cultural phenomenon which, at minimum, enriches the individual and hence society, as well as providing solace, emotional catharsis and much more. Dave Bones’ basic thesis is this: if activity X is not in accordance with someone’s religious beliefs then it should not be enforced.
      So how far do you go Dave Bones? If I claim that my religion disapproves of, for instance, looking at pictures, learning to read, or education for certain groups, such as women, do I have a right that my child does not take part?
      All this is very reminiscent of that proverbial yokel who won’t have his children doin that new-fangled book learnin, because it do spoil em.

    46. Sarah AB — on 5th July, 2010 at 8:42 pm  

      Bob - that last comment you quote is simply bigoted. But it’s not all down to (possible) Islamophobia - which is why I wanted to cite my example of feeling really uncomfortable covering my head in an orthodox church. I think it might have worked best to be less prescriptive about dress - if the children had been told what was preferred/usual but allowed a bit of flexibility I think that might have brought out a reciprocal courtesy, a willingness to wear something which one found objectionable in order not to give offence. I do think wearing a kippah is perhaps a little different as wearing a headscarf is sometimes interpreted as a sign of the sexualisation/subordination of women - and that’s rather how I felt when in the orthodox church in Russia - and is punitively enforced in some countries, whereas I don’t think the kippah has that kind of resonance for men.

      Judging by this report

      http://www.christian.org.uk/news/pupil-labelled-truant-for-refusing-visit-to-mosque/

      the school does seem to have acted in a rather heavy handed way.

      “The school responded by sending Miss Davies objections with a sternly worded letter, parts of which were in bold and underlined, claiming that the visit was “REQUIRED” to promote “community cohesion”.

      And earlier this week Miss Davies received a phone call saying that her daughter’s absence had been recorded as unauthorised.”

    47. boyo — on 5th July, 2010 at 8:45 pm  

      Well that’s an interesting point Bob, especially for a supposed Socialist like you, isn’t it? Male Jews wearing Kippers does not represent the same thing as female Muslims wearing veils, does it? Also I suppose there is a huge issue around the veil - in many Islamic countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia this clothing is enforced upon women whether they’re are in the mosque or on the street. I suppose you would encourage your daughter to visit mosque and dress as required, but how would you explain the meaning of the veil? I’d be fascinated to see how you squared that particular circle, although I don’t doubt it is beyond your not inconsiderable skills.

    48. Kismet Hardy — on 5th July, 2010 at 10:08 pm  

      Sufism

    49. Don — on 5th July, 2010 at 11:17 pm  

      Nobody should ever be required to visit a place of worship, take part in a religious service or adhere to any religious requirement, custom or protocol.

      If they choose to do so, be polite.

    50. persephone — on 6th July, 2010 at 12:11 am  

      Upthread a comment suggested that the lack of paintings & restrictions on music leads to low educational performance in muslims. This is ludicrous in the light of this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/art/art_1.shtml

      Also, ensuring community cohesion should not have to entail a religious element as this immediately sets up a position of having another religions beliefs/cultural norms foisted on to you - as in mothers not wanting their daughter to wear a headscarf. Why not pick another non-religious aspect of that community instead? And why stick to music as an art form? Why not cover other art, including from around the world (such as the beautiful geometric art in moghul pieces) otherwise it can lead to a very insular idea of what art is. When at school I remember music lessons (dreaded recorder lessons) but little by way of art appreciation in other forms.

    51. Trofim — on 6th July, 2010 at 9:16 am  

      persephone @ 12.11 am:
      a huge body of research shows that children brought up in environments where there is constant exposure to varying sensory stimuli, are more intelligent, and for that matter, more interesting as people, than people brought up in an impoverished environment. An enriched environment in practice means one rich in cultural artefacts - primarily music, art, books.

    52. bananabrain — on 6th July, 2010 at 9:36 am  

      I do think wearing a kippah is perhaps a little different as wearing a headscarf is sometimes interpreted as a sign of the sexualisation/subordination of women

      plenty of people think that wearing a kippah is interpreted as a sign of the subordination of men - to G!D, that is. the headscarf is definitely to do with sexualisation, but not, i would argue, to do with subordination, it’s a matter of degree. you don’t go to synagogue with your boobs out and a miniskirt, or barechested if you’re a man, neither do you show your hair if you’re a married woman; neither male nor female dress codes indicate subordination here.

      Male Jews wearing Kippers does not represent the same thing as female Muslims wearing veils, does it?

      my views on this are well known - my tolerance of religious piety in dress ends where people’s faces are obscured, hence i have no problem with a hijab, chador, jilbab or indeed a turban, snood, wig or stupid fur hat in the middle of summer, but i draw the line at veils for various reasons which have to do with universal truths of facial communication and security - although i do think they should be permitted in, say, a mosque or islamic community centre, if decorum in a religious space is an issue.

      An enriched environment in practice means one rich in cultural artefacts – primarily music, art, books.

      umph - i don’t think anyone is on especially secure ground claiming that islam is impoverished in the area of cultural artifacts, given the architectural, calligraphic and literary fields. i mean, there’s no jewish sculpture, but we do all right. i don’t like the idea of no music, it seems to me absolutely extreme and mad and, not to mention, impractical to ban, but there are idiots and loonies in every religion as well as outside it entirely, i’m afraid.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    53. mostly harmless — on 6th July, 2010 at 9:50 am  

      It’s probably the same type of parents who don’t celebrate birthdays - yes you heard me, there are some muslims who don’t allow their children to celebrate the day of their birth because of some ruling which forbids ‘innovation’ and replicating the ways of the unbelievers. Sad, very sad.

      On the question of music, are talking about triangles and glockenspiels or ‘pump and grind’?

    54. sarah — on 6th July, 2010 at 9:54 am  

      boyo- on the comment about ‘my son’ which I’m ‘presuming’ was aimed at me, I don’t have children. If I did, though, they certainly wouldn’t go to a faith or private school.

    55. Sarah AB — on 6th July, 2010 at 10:38 am  

      sarah - no, boyo was addressing me!

      bananabrain - I too don’t mind what religious head coverings other people wear at all - but I do think being subordinate to God is different from being subordinate to the opposite sex, and surely Judaism (like most religions) does accord a higher status to men. I certainly *felt* wearing a head covering in a church was a badge of subordination and I’m sure I’m not alone - I don’t see why my response, even if partly subjective, should be accorded less importance than someone’s else’s belief in a religion.

    56. bananabrain — on 6th July, 2010 at 10:59 am  

      I do think being subordinate to God is different from being subordinate to the opposite sex

      agreed.

      surely Judaism (like most religions) does accord a higher status to men

      i disagree with the presumption implied by “surely”. the short answer is no, it doesn’t, if anything the other way round - however, there is a *cultural* presumption (which i feel whether fairly or not to be a product largely of 2,000 years of church influence and mixed prayer) that communal public worship is somehow felt to be more important than personal private prayer, observance and study - familiarity with the actual Torah principles and halakhah, however, reveals the exact opposite, as evidenced by the requirement that if communal funds can only afford to build either a synagogue or a ritual bath (required for both sexes) then the latter must take precedence. similarly, a study house also takes precedence over a synagogue. private family life also takes precedence over the synagogue - the thing is, you wouldn’t know this from the way most people behave, which is why it ends up looking as if the men have all the fun while the women are stuck at home. this ain’t how it’s supposed to be. men are *enjoined* to gather as a group because they can’t be relied on to do so otherwise, whereas women can - think of a prayer quorum (“minyan”) as a “men’s group” - if you don’t have problem with women having a women’s group, why should that not hold true for men? obviously i’m not saying that there isn’t an awful lot of cultural and practical sexism, but this is in breach of Torah principles and halakhah rather supported by them.

      I certainly *felt* wearing a head covering in a church was a badge of subordination and I’m sure I’m not alone

      however, in most churches, you’re supposed to *uncover* your head - is that a badge of subordination too? how about the bareheadedness required (as i recall) in buddhist monasteries? i’d argue that this is simply subjective cultural conditioning rather than what is intended.

      I don’t see why my response, even if partly subjective, should be accorded less importance than someone’s else’s belief in a religion.

      well, in a public space, i agree - but this isn’t a public space. if you go into someone else’s space, you ought out of common courtesy demonstrate an acknowledgement of their right to define the norms of that space. for example, we have a shoes-off house and if you come round, you take your shoes off. that’s because it’s our house. at your house, you can tell me to take my shoes off and i will. i don’t really see the difference if it’s a private dwelling or a community/religious one.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    57. Sarah AB — on 6th July, 2010 at 11:14 am  

      I take all your points bananabrain - wrt uncovering/covering head - it’s only the gender specific things that bother me really. Of course, in practice, I would only ever be in a situation where I was entering a mosque or whatever voluntarily so I’d just go along with whatever was required. But these girls were effectively being forced to go to their local mosque and cover up.

    58. bananabrain — on 6th July, 2010 at 11:34 am  

      ok, so so there are no circumstances under which you think people ought to be made to participate in community cohesion activities against their will, right? how about muslim kids being able to opt out of visits to a synagogue or church? how about white kids being able to opt out of visits to a caribbean cultural centre?

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    59. Jai — on 6th July, 2010 at 12:02 pm  

      i don’t think anyone is on especially secure ground claiming that islam is impoverished in the area of cultural artifacts, given the architectural, calligraphic and literary fields.

      Music too, in the case of the Indian subcontinent. The historical “father of North Indian classical music” as a formal art form was Amir Khusro, a Muslim affiliated with the royal court of the Delhi Sultans and someone very closely associated with Nizamuddin Auliya, a major historical figure from India’s most influential Sufi order (they’re even buried at the same shrine in Delhi).

      The impact of subcontinental Muslim culture on the music of that part of the world has been enormous, especially in the northern half, both in terms of the high-end formal classical “Hindustani” style and associated genres such as ghazals and qawwalis, and also less formal popular & folk forms of music.

      For those of us from Asian backgrounds (non-Muslims as well as Muslims), the suggestion that Muslims have no connection to music and little or no musical traditions is so far from the truth where South Asia has been concerned that it’s completely ludicrous. In reality, the opposite has been the case for the last thousand years. With a minority of notable exceptions, the Mughal emperors (and their immediate families) in particular were enthusiastic patrons of music throughout the extensive territories under their rule, this was also emulated by the local aristocracy in the various Hindu-ruled royal states which the Mughals were allied with, and the encouragement & development of music as a sophisticated art form continued in Muslim-ruled states in India long after the Mughal Empire itself declined.

      In fact, it continues to this day in Indian cities and regions which were historically centres of Indian Muslim culture and which still have high local populations of Muslims, particularly as the dominant interpretation of Islam in the majority of cases derives from Sufism, not the far more austere and narrow Wahhabi and Deobandi interpretation which is currently so problematic in some parts of the world. It’s also worth remembering that, whilst Muslims are proportionally a “minority population” in India, that nation actually has the third-highest number of Muslims of any country in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan. The Indian subcontinent as a whole of course has more Muslims than anywhere else on the planet.

      Paintings, particularly portraits, also became an extremely highly developed and widespread art form in the subcontinent due to Mughal royal patronage. And it wasn’t just confined to the “Great Mughal” era either, as the mountain of surviving historical paintings by local artists of European (including British) diplomats, traders and residents in India who eagerly embraced the prevailing dominant cultural influence of the Indian Muslim elite during the subsequent centuries also demonstrates.

    60. joe90 — on 6th July, 2010 at 12:22 pm  

      Oh great another mountain out of a molehill just when we thought the muslim bashing stories had died a death. Back with a vengeance comes some parents of the muslim persuasion don’t want music lessons for kids world is going to end now i belive!

    61. Sarah AB — on 6th July, 2010 at 12:42 pm  

      It was just the head covering bit - not the participating - bananabrain - I really don’t think anyone should be forced to wear it just as I don’t think women should be forced to remove their head covering in a secular space. As I’ve said, I think community cohesion would be better achieved by a little more flexibility. If the trip (as all school trips usually are, partly because they cost extra)had been optional and if the head covering had been optional then I suspect some of those girls might actually have gone - and covered their heads too. It’s like Aesop’s fable of the wind and the sun - it’s the sun rather than the wind who persuades the man to take his hat off (or hijab on in this case!). Being forced to participate, and participate in a particular way, may actually work against community cohesion. As I think someone else said earlier, there could be some community cohesion event, focusing on Islam, which took place outside a mosque and so got round the religious dress issue.

    62. damon — on 6th July, 2010 at 3:57 pm  

      For school visits to places of worship, there should be no requirement for anyone to cover or uncover. When they go in they can be told that anyone who wants to put on the hijab, or headcovering for boys in a gurdwara, or kipa, is welcome to do so - and that should be it. Anyone working in such a place of worship who feels that all school children from other faiths and none must be wearing the artire that his or her religion usually requires there, shouldn’t really be involved in such a visit.
      Same with being shown around. There should be no seperating of the sexes either, as children are being taken there for an educational visit, not a religious experience.
      Taking off shoes is fine though.

    63. Jai — on 6th July, 2010 at 5:04 pm  

      or headcovering for boys in a gurdwara, or kipa, is welcome to do so – and that should be it.

      …Taking off shoes is fine though.

      Covering one’s head inside a gurdwara (irrespective of one’s gender) goes hand-in-hand with taking off one’s shoes. Even the Queen did this when she visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar in the late 90s, as did the Mughal emperor Akbar when he first visited the Sikh Guru to whom he subsequently granted the land for the Golden Temple complex. As per the invitation to sit alongside other visiting members of the public and eat the free food offered (something Akbar also did, in his case involving actually sitting barefoot on the ground next to everyone else), the custom is a way of inculcating some humility on the part of the visitors along with symbolically demonstrating that absolutely everyone is inherently equal, regardless of whether you’re a monarch or part of the lowest stratum of society and irrespective of your own religious or “racial” background.

      If someone bizarrely has a problem with displaying this simple courtesy, despite the fact that gurdwaras have deliberately always been open to people from any religious background and none, and despite the fact that this basic matter of etiquette for visitors was established directly by the Sikh Gurus themselves and has worked perfectly well for the past 500 years, including in Sikhism’s multireligious & pluralistic country of origin, then the simple solution is that the arrogant parties involved should refrain from ever visiting gurdwaras and simultaneously withdraw their children from any school trips involved.

      The same applies to visits to the religious sites of any faith, irrespective of the faith concerned (Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, or anything else). If you have a problem with the required protocol, don’t go.

      Conversely, if you do decide to visit the site involved, then have enough basic human decency and respect for the hosts to adhere to the requirements during your short visit there, and encourage your children to do the same. It’s the civilised thing to do, as opposed to trying to demand that people from other religious backgrounds should let you disregard the required etiquette on the premises of their sacred sites if you go there.

    64. KB Player — on 6th July, 2010 at 10:18 pm  

      There have been and in fact still are Christian denominations that were very suspicious of secular music, theatre, reading novels, dancing and anything that smacked of frivolity. These pursuits were the devil’s instruments of distraction from the serious business of saving your soul. Quakers were notoriously puritanical, as were Presbyterians. As for these kids whose parents won’t let them learn music, I hope they all rebel and become the equivalent of punk rockers.

    65. douglas clark — on 6th July, 2010 at 10:28 pm  

      Jai @ 5.04 am,

      I could accept your arguement.

      I don’t go where I am not wanted…

      However.

      Is is counter intuitive to argue that kids that are required to go somewhere should accept those standards. You do see the difference, don’t you? Should they be obliged to conform?

      I don’t think so….

    66. douglas clark — on 6th July, 2010 at 10:40 pm  

      KB Player @ 10:18,

      You are quite correct. There are Christian nut jobs that fear for their very existence on the basis of contagion. Well, fuck them too…..

    67. douglas clark — on 6th July, 2010 at 11:02 pm  

      It seems to me that Jai is expecting respect from people, kids even, that don’t hand that out as easily as he says. It seems to me that if you invite kids into your home, then you have to compromise. They are, after all, kids.

      And adults have decided that they should be there. What is that all about?

      It is prescriptive that is what it is.

      Kids will make up their own minds, and adult interference, one way or the other, is unlikely to change that. It seems to me that both the insistent Education Authority and the Mosque don’t have a clue.

      Jai says:

      The same applies to visits to the religious sites of any faith, irrespective of the faith concerned (Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, or anything else). If you have a problem with the required protocol, don’t go.

      But that is not the case, is it?

      A school field trip isn’t exactly prescriptive, but it is sort of expected. Going on one shouldn’t lead to mutual embarrassment, should it?

      Nor should it lead to adults proscribing what kids think……

    68. persephone — on 6th July, 2010 at 11:46 pm  

      As to whether children not having to wear things that conform to anothers religious norms during a visit. That misses the point in that the aim of such visits is educational – and a part of that includes head coverings which shows them the difference to build understanding, make the ‘unfamiliar’ less so and that ultimately underneath we are all the same.

      The end game of such visits is community cohesion - to build harmony and acceptance between people from different backgrounds which only happens by building respect for difference and a sense of mutual respect and trust.

      To, at the outset, state your disagreement with the difference ie head covering would then show unacceptance, lack of respect and sense of ‘this is not my way’ and a mindset that does not want education to broaden thinking. That to me is the worst kind of prescriptive behaviour.

    69. damon — on 7th July, 2010 at 12:10 am  

      I only said what I said because I thought it might be a way of getting around some awkward issues. Muslim boys being asked to don a kipa in a synagogue for example.
      It’s just as well that no faith requires females to uncover their head in church or temple, though telling a sikh that he should remove his turban in a church …… no, I’m sure that never happens. And just as well.
      Although I think there might be 15 year old girls who wouldn’t want to put on a hijab.

      Could there not be secular visits ever? When you feel that you didn’t have to ”submit”?
      Respect is one thing, but I wouldn’t want to wear a hijab if I was female.
      Although weraring one for half an hour wouldn’t hurt I suppose.

    70. Sarah AB — on 7th July, 2010 at 6:38 am  

      KB Player - very salutary reminder of how many Christians have been (and still are in some cases) incredibly culturally prescriptive and narrow. Douglas - I completely agree with your points.

      Persephone - I see what you mean, but I still think bullying girls into wearing a hijab - which I would certainly feel very uncomfortable doing - is counterproductive. I can’t imagine those of other faiths being terribly comfortable about say genuflecting to the altar or an image of Christ in a Catholic church - and I’m acquainted with a Jewish woman who felt very uncomfortable because there was a picture of Mary and Jesus in her child’s school. Enforcing the hijab, even for a short time, would make those who didn’t want to wear it think more about why they don’t want to wear it, and perhaps make them feel antagonistic towards Islam and end up with them maybe getting into an argument with Muslim classmates. Why not avoid the potential conflict completely? Women’s head coverings are a very charged issue at the moment and a kind of flashpoint between secularists and the religious. But there are aspects of Islam which are completely uncontroversial, very positive, and not widely know about. I think some kind of event - based, I should note, on a rather vague knowledge of Islam so apologies if I’ve got this wrong - around Ramadan food would be good - food brings cultures together (and the differences add interest rather than dividing people) and there could also be a focus on charity - which is I think associated with Ramadan food. I think cooking and eating a delicious meal and then seeing Muslims in the community working on behalf of the needy would be very cohesive.

    71. Ravi Naik — on 7th July, 2010 at 11:04 am  

      I feel that parents should have the last saying on what kids should experience outside the realm of the national curriculum, specially when it comes to learning about other faiths and cultural identities.

      I personally would have no problems if my daughter had to wear a hijab, or any other garment to enter a mosque and learn about Islam - I do not favour a sanitised liberal view of other cultures and faiths - at the very least, an objective view of other cultures allow us to better appreciate ours, and on the other hand, be less prejudiced about other people because we get to see a new side that we were not aware of, and find a lot of things that are indeed common.

      But that’s my opinion. I certainly think that parents who do not want their children to participate in religious festivities because they feel goes against their own faith or beliefs, national identity or principles of equality should have their concerns heard as well.

    72. Jai — on 7th July, 2010 at 11:53 am  

      I was going to respond to Douglas and Damon’s further comments, but I think Persephone has explained things superbly in her most recent post above. Very well said indeed.

      One of the benefits of experience is that some of us are speaking from the perspective of people whose ancestral roots are in a part of the world which has been extremely religiously diverse for thousands of years, and whose pluralism actually accelerated during the past millennium. There are consequently some basic lessons about civilised conduct in a diverse society which have been learned by most members of all the major faiths present in that region; it has nothing to do with “submitting” or “compromising”, and everything to do with basic mutual respect & courtesy and ensuring that everybody gets along without gratuitously creating unnecessary conflict.

    73. Jai — on 7th July, 2010 at 11:57 am  

      Sarah AB,

      Persephone – I see what you mean, but I still think bullying girls into wearing a hijab – which I would certainly feel very uncomfortable doing – is counterproductive. I can’t imagine those of other faiths being terribly comfortable about say genuflecting to the altar or an image of Christ in a Catholic church

      With all due respect, your analogy is inaccurate, as a more accurate comparison to the example you’ve given about “genuflecting” would be, for example, expecting non-Muslims to take part in the “namaaz” prayers alongside the Muslims in the mosque. There’s a considerable level of difference between expecting that visitors a) simply adhere to the basic etiquette of attire and polite conduct required whilst on the premises, and b) actually participate in the religious rituals being practiced by the members of the faith concerned.

      But there are aspects of Islam which are completely uncontroversial, very positive, and not widely know about. I think some kind of event – based, I should note, on a rather vague knowledge of Islam so apologies if I’ve got this wrong – around Ramadan food would be good – food brings cultures together (and the differences add interest rather than dividing people)

      Agreed. Music is also one of the great unifying forces, as I’ve previously mentioned in some of my own PP articles. I also found myself in the interesting position of actually agreeing with Inayat Bunglawala (for once) when he made exactly the same point in his recent CiF article (and yes, the ‘JaiSingh’ on the subsequent comments thread is indeed me).

      Given its origins in the subcontinent’s Muslim culture, I was going to suggest that people should go to ‘ghazal’ concerts if possible; however, since that particular genre of music tends to have romantic connotations these days despite its historical spiritual origins, ‘qawwali’ concerts would be the best alternative since they’re more overtly religious in nature (if one is aiming to enlighten schoolchildren specifically about religious matters).

      Rahat Fateh Ali Khan would be a particularly good choice; he’s already performed two major UK concert tours at huge venues since last autumn, his family and their various historical Sufi role models represent the dominant version of Islam in the subcontinent, the concerts have an extremely warm and uplifting atmosphere with an explicitly pluralistic and liberal message and are open to people from any religious background, and there’s also no gender-segregation, “head-covering” or “veiling” required from the audience.

    74. persephone — on 7th July, 2010 at 11:46 pm  

      Sarah AB

      Its a piece of cloth that has been loaded with much vitriol to the extent is becomes loaded with a word such as bully. Unfortunately that vitriol has overtaken to the extent that a whole people are seen to bully when it is those who are religiously conservative who want to uphold traditions in a place of worship.

      Withholding your presence to a mosque because said people wish to uphold their tradition can also be seen as a form of (albeit passive aggressive) bullying. A form that forces a wedge and a divide that is hard to overcome and only leads to further entrenchment. I find it worrying that wearing a bit of cloth (temporarily) is what divides one human being from another. I disagree as it limits understanding and experience.

      And lets face it most 15 year old girls do not want to wear anything unless its from Topshop so equally it may be an experience for them to wear something that is not what their peers/clique say they have to wear (again another form of bullying). On the flip side, who knows, some might even like it or learn about other aspects of the tradition that they see as favourable or common to their own.

      I am no advocate of face coverings. But until I wear one I do think it limits my understanding, as does not wearing a sheitel or turban. As to the latter I see it as a point of difference that even I have with those raised in my own religion but we co-exist as long as we do not expect others to bend to fit our world view. And is that not the whole point of these visits? Whats getting lost here is that some think that by wearing the hijab on a visit it condones what is perceived as the mindset behind why some women may have to wear hijab.

    75. douglas clark — on 8th July, 2010 at 8:55 pm  

      Persephone and Jai,

      If you are a religious institution, and you want the general public, in this case kids, to appreciate the nuance of your beliefs, and indeed the commonality of all humanity, it seems a tad prescriptive to expect them to adopt your ideas about coverings or the lack of them.

      I am all in favour of outreach, really I am, but you expect to much.

      Does persephone think that, in order to understand Scots, we should wrap you in a kilt? Just so’s you know what it is like?

      Incidentally, the kilt was banned in Scotland for a while after the Jacobite Rebellion. So Scots know the downside of prescriptive clothing regulations!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dress_Act

    76. persephone — on 8th July, 2010 at 10:44 pm  

      Douglas

      Why does having to wear a piece of fabric temporarily mean you have adopted a whole ideology/idea? As I said above by not wearing you are remaining entrenched in your own ideas too.

      ” Does persephone think that, in order to understand Scots, we should wrap you in a kilt? Just so’s you know what it is like?”

      I have worn tartan skirts/kilts (with brogues when they become fashionable during intermittent seasons). I did not feel as if I was adopting Scottishness. I did still feel English but with more comfortable shoes.

      Has Douglas ever worn a turban? Or a dhoti?

    77. damon — on 8th July, 2010 at 11:14 pm  

      persephone

      Its a piece of cloth that has been loaded with much vitriol to the extent is becomes loaded with a word such as bully.

      Indeed. But if any of those 15 year old girls have been reading Yasmin Alibhai-Brown they might have ideas like this:

      I find the hijab and the jilbab (long cloak) problematic too because they again make women responsible for the sexual responses of men and they define femininity as a threat.

      And I’m wondering if some children who have a different religion feel awkward about putting on something like a hijab. I’m sure some hindu parents might not be keen on their daughters doing such a thing.

      But I’m certainly not as concerned about any of this as much as Douglas Clark is.

    78. douglas clark — on 8th July, 2010 at 11:17 pm  

      persephone @ 76,

      Why does having to wear a piece of fabric temporarily mean you have adopted a whole ideology/idea? As I said above by not wearing you are remaining entrenched in your own ideas too.

      No, not really.

      It is a question of whether, by accepting an invitation, one becomes beholden. And it is a bit more than that also. It is a question of whether a religion is willing to ‘open up’ to the general public or not. Requiring observance is going a bit too far, in my opinion.

      It is pretty obvious to me that kids won’t play your game. Which is one of imposition.

      You are the ones that invited them in, probably with the approval / agreement of the Educational Authority.

      That’s what you did. It is up to you guys to explain your religion, not attempt to impose it.

      And that goes for Muslims, Christians, Jews and the rest of you.

      If you can’t make a persuasive case without assuming a captive audience, then, you are being, well, silly.

      I think I wore a turban once. What the heck has that to do with it? Someone was taking the piss out of me, and it was all quite funny at the time…

      My point, which you chose to ignore, is that prescriptive dress codes leave me cold.

      And, no, I don’t like the idea of laws about clothes. Despite my genuine view that the niquab is usually an example of male domination. It is up to Muslims, especially female Muslims. to grow up and throw that sort of crazyness behind them.

      I’m not holding my breath.

      _____________________________

      Least, that’s what I think.

    79. douglas clark — on 8th July, 2010 at 11:35 pm  

      damon @ 77,

      Who says I care?

      I see this all as flim flam.

      It is a ridiculous attempt to impose religious standards on folk that couldn’t care less.

      That is all I am saying.

      It is the religious that have the problem, not me.

    80. douglas clark — on 8th July, 2010 at 11:46 pm  

      Damon,

      I recall being dragged along to a synagogue when I was young. The Rabbi told us what it was all about.

      He just, as the Educational Authority probably asked him to do, give us the facts. It was, basically, painless.

      I forget the details, but I have always quite liked Jewish people ever since.

      I do not remember that as a bad experience.

      It probably was imposed on us, but it wasn’t looked on as an opportunity to convert us. And before bananabrain jumps in, I know that Judaism is not a proselytising religion. I wish they were all like that.

    81. persephone — on 9th July, 2010 at 11:12 pm  

      Douglas “it wasn’t looked on as an opportunity to convert us”

      If that is one of the underlying concerns then I too would agree that it is being done for the wrong reasons.

      However, my point was one of acceptance and building understanding & respect. A step in breaking down (social) barriers and not about religious ideology or conversion. To not judge by a superficial covering but look deeper and see the common human being.

      Basically what I said at #68

    82. persephone — on 9th July, 2010 at 11:34 pm  

      Damon

      “if any of those 15 year old girls have been reading Yasmin Alibhai-Brown they might have ideas like this ”

      I feel that way about full hijab w/t ever knowing or reading YAB. But, maybe its just me, I have no issue with going where I disagree with something.

      At work, on Friday casual day one of my female colleagues (white) came in wearing an indian kameez because she likes the fabric & cut. There were no issues around it being from an ideology that believes it is more modest than other styles of ‘western’ dress (though it normally is) and the wearing of it is seen to be ‘compliant’. Thats the point I would like to get to. This easy acceptance.

    83. Jai — on 10th July, 2010 at 1:59 pm  

      it wasn’t looked on as an opportunity to convert us

      Covering one’s head inside a gurdwara doesn’t mean you’ve been “converted” to Sikhism or that someone is trying to do so. They’re not trying to surreptitiously “turn you into a Sikh”…..there are some simple reasons for the custom, as described in #63, along with the fact that it’s a gesture of recognition that you’re setting foot inside a sacred place — one that is sacred to other people there, if not necessarily to you personally, and a gesture which is therefore a courtesy towards them.

      Stubbornly ignoring the sentiments of the people affiliated with a particular religious place of worship in terms of your own conduct on the premises is a sign that you are imposing your own beliefs on them. It’s also incredibly arrogant and impolite. Just because someone invites you as a “guest to their house” (metaphorically), it doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to deliberately ignore whatever basic courtesies and polite conduct may be expected from you by the other party while you’re on their premises.

      In fact, to give another example, visitors to the Taj Mahal in India — all visitors and all tourists, not just Muslims — have to take their shoes off when setting foot on the main platform and especially when entering the main mausoleum. Going by the logic of a couple of commenters on this thread, presumably they would stubbornly refuse to do even that if they ever visited the Taj.

      As a final note, if the objections are actually about religion per se rather than any particular faith, then presumably such atheist or agnostic individuals would also completely refuse to take part in whatever customs are required (however minimal) during Christian events such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, especially in churches. However, if they would indeed politely “go through the motions” in such situations, perhaps some double-standards are being displayed.

      Apart from that, Persephone is continuing to make superb points as always.

    84. June — on 10th July, 2010 at 4:12 pm  

      However, my point was one of acceptance and building understanding & respect. A step in breaking down (social) barriers and not about religious ideology or conversion. To not judge by a superficial covering but look deeper and see the common human being.

      We’re talking about a belief system headquartered in a fascistic, religious-apartheid state, that bans and demonises the practice of all other belief systems save that of Islam.

      I just thought I’d tell you that, seeings you like to look ‘deeper’ and see the common human being.

      I’d also like to mention that all peoples, cultures and religions should be constrained to do likewise, even though that is presently not the case.

    85. persephone — on 11th July, 2010 at 12:32 am  

      ” We’re talking about a belief system headquartered in a fascistic, religious-apartheid state, that bans and demonises the practice of all other belief systems save that of Islam”

      I’ll repeat I’m not talking about the religion. I/m also not talking about extremists. I’m talking about getting to appreciate people as human beings on an individual level. Anything other than that is just baiting & demonising a whole group.

      ” I’d also like to mention that all peoples, cultures and religions should be constrained to do likewise, even though that is presently not the case.”

      Thats the point of such visits.

    86. Abdullah — on 11th July, 2010 at 3:08 am  

      @troifm

      “a huge body of research shows that children brought up in environments where there is constant exposure to varying sensory stimuli, are more intelligent, and for that matter, more interesting as people, than people brought up in an impoverished environment. An enriched environment in practice means one rich in cultural artefacts – primarily music, art, books”

      Confused - which research says that children that are not bought up in an environment that you say is espoused by research are inferior.

      “are more intelligent, and for that matter, more interesting as people, than people brought up in an impoverished environment.”

      I don’t understand your logic in trying to say this solely a Muslim issue, Is this based on your experience as a CPN or the research? The research you misquoted is related children from every colour and creed and religion. And you probably will find many other households that are not Muslim household where this situation exists.

    87. Jai — on 12th July, 2010 at 4:06 pm  

      Persephone,

      Thats the point of such visits.

      Exactly.

      As you and I are both aware, the principle of “seeing the common human being” has also been the dominant interpretation of Islam in the Indian subcontinent during the past thousand years, due to the prevailing Sufi influence in particular. There have obviously been a minority of notable historical exceptions, but the implication in some quarters (particularly from the far-Right, including on this thread) that the Wahhabi & Taliban versions of the faith are the default dominant interpretations of Islam everywhere and that this has always been the case is very far from reality, especially where India has been concerned.

      It’s the equivalent of someone who has never lived in a country with a sizeable number of Christians or has no cultural, ancestral and familial links to such a region claiming that the most historically ultraconservative, tyrannical and bigoted version of Catholicism is the default & dominant definition of Christianity per se, and extrapolating that to include Christianity (and Christians) everywhere else in the world, for all time. And then proceeding to attempt to “educate” people whose ancestral roots are in a part of the world which actually has more Christians than anywhere else.

    88. persephone — on 13th July, 2010 at 12:14 am  

      Jai @ 87

      You mean that all indigenous don’t believe in Odin then?

    89. Jai — on 13th July, 2010 at 12:15 pm  

      :)

    90. damon — on 13th July, 2010 at 5:18 pm  

      Should school kids be alowed to visit churches, temples, mosques and synagogues with a distracted ‘whatever’ attitude?

      I think they should.

    91. damon — on 13th July, 2010 at 5:23 pm  

      Should school kids be allowed to visit places of worship with a distracted ‘whatever’ attitude?

      I think they should.

    92. Jai — on 13th July, 2010 at 7:28 pm  

      Fortunately it’s not the 19th century anymore, although I see that the legacy of Victorian Evangelicalism is still ongoing in some quarters in terms of dismissive attitudes towards the sanctity of non-Christian places of worship. Of course, when it came to the religions and associated places of worship prevalent in India in particular, the average white British Christian person in the centuries up to the end of the 18th century had a far more enlightened & civilised stance than their Victorian successors, as numerous British colonial records from the period confirm.

      Also fortunately, neither does everyone in 2010 have the Taliban-style attitude of arrogantly disrespecting the holy sites of other religions and simultaneously deliberately insulting those who are more sincere visitors to the places of worship concerned.

    93. douglas clark — on 14th July, 2010 at 12:22 am  

      Jai @ 91,

      Sorry. The dismissive attitudes you perceive are directed at all places of worship, including Christian ones. Religious observance is a minority pastime these days….

      I do not care, much, about anyones religion.

      It is completely ridiculous for you to say:

      Also fortunately, neither does everyone in 2010 have the Taliban-style attitude of arrogantly disrespecting the holy sites of other religions and simultaneously deliberately insulting those who are more sincere visitors to the places of worship concerned.

      You what?

      Because people are not who you say they are.

      They just really don’t get that worked up about it, but generally subscribe to charities that preserve the physical heritage.

      Not the mental one.

      That is one difference between us - and I include you with us - and the bloody aweful Taliban. In principle and in practice the blowing up of the statues was a civilisational disgrace. Not a religious affront, an affront to our joint history. These are folk that want to wipe out the past for the simple reason they can’t handle it.

      It is as bad as burning books.

      Anyway, civilisations rise and fall. You will have read Ozymandias, I take it? What religion did he impose, and where is it now? Who worships Egyptian Gods anymore, and who cares about them?

      Anyway:

      I met a traveller from an antique land
      Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
      Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
      Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
      And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
      The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
      And on the pedestal these words appear:
      “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
      Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
      Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
      Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
      The lone and level sands stretch far away.

    94. douglas clark — on 14th July, 2010 at 1:10 am  

      My point being merely that you should perhaps respect, but not necessarily agree, with the last of the Aztecs. Neither should you expect kids, nor adults come to that, to bend a knee to their beliefs.

      It is our right to be us. Whatever that is. And that includes the right to disresect every religion under the Sun.

      I find the whole idea of railroading kids into any sort of belief in the supernatural to be beneath contempt. Especially when it is wrapped into the label of ‘cultural diversity’.

      ‘Cultural Diversity Training’ is argueably about maintaining the ‘status quo ante’ and not meeting a bright new dawn with an open mind.

      It suits and fits the various versions of the godly, because they can divide up and share a cake of many colours and pretend that their cake is the whole cake, when it clearly is not. They might argue over crumbs, but really, they protect their share of the cake with an unwarranted superiority over the rest of us.

      Of course, we let them away with it, for they always have and they always will. For their Gods will evolve, much as their conciousness evolves, and which is chicken, which is egg?

      But now, no-one much, listens to old Gods and current Gods - and their holy books - will fade away and be replaced by newer, ones more adaptive to current human understanding.

      It is interesting that, given an intelligent choice beween the old Testament - and it’s rather mud and blood ideas about religion - that people got a bit pissed off with it and adopted Christianity, which is somewhat more lovey - dovey.

      It seems to me that no religious person, of whatever persuasion, feels comfortable with the notion that religions evolve and change over time.

      It seems to me that humans define the things they wish to believe in, not Gods. Gods are the servants of humanity, not it’s masters.

      Well, there you go…..

    95. douglas clark — on 14th July, 2010 at 1:38 am  

      It would be quite amusing if, in amongst all the stuff about ‘understanding other cultures’, my LEA introduced kids to someone that didn’t believe the bullshit.

      ‘Make up your own minds, kids’.

      Or some such.

      __________________________________

      It makes me very weary to make obvious points like this, over and over, again.

      __________________________________

      If you are not open to the idea that all religion is suspect, pehaps you could all be open to the idea that you should let you children decide whether you are right or not?

      Just saying…

    96. Sarah AB — on 14th July, 2010 at 7:07 am  

      There was a story a while back about how Sikhs who wanted to wear turbans could, after all, be accommodated by airport security. I thought that was good - because I think such choices should be respected where possible. If Sikh and Jewish men and Muslim women should be allowed to carry, as it were, a bubble of religion around with them in all contexts, why shouldn’t secular atheists be allowed the same leeway? Please note I’m not saying mosques shouldn’t be allowed to enforce a dress code - only (going back to that particular incident) that girls shouldn’t be forced to go to a mosque, forced to wear a headscarf, or else be deemed to have truanted. I can think of no circumstances in which I would want to make a Muslim remove her headscarf (except just conceivably something to do with security) so why can’t secular girls be allowed the same freedom? As the headscarf/veil is such a well known and somewhat controversial symbol of Islam, why not, as I suggested earlier, choose some opportunity for social cohesion which bypasses the need for non Muslims to wear it?

      Jai - I think it’s ridiculous to compare such a stance with the Taliban. I think you are demonstrating intolerance yourself. I don’t want to flout dress codes - I wouldn’t go to a chuch in something skimpy, although I never pray or kneel if I have to attend a service. If I chose to visit a mosque - I never have - then I’d wear a scarf rather than cause offence, of course. I just think that if not wearing a scarf is a really big deal for someone then they should have the choice not to - simply the choice not to enter a mosque, not the choice to enter but not wear one even - just as I think if wearing a scarf is a big deal for someone they shouldn’t be forced to take it off.

    97. Jai — on 14th July, 2010 at 11:05 am  

      I think it’s ridiculous to compare such a stance with the Taliban.

      That is one difference between us – and I include you with us – and the bloody aweful Taliban. In principle and in practice the blowing up of the statues was a civilisational disgrace.

      When people are arguing for the right to flout the basic “codes of polite conduct” required on the premises of any particular religion’s place of worship, and that the people associated with these sites should “grin and bear it”, it is the first step in a chain of events which eventually leads to exactly the kind of intolerance, arrogance and bigotry of the Taliban. There are already enough historical precedents for this sort of thing both in the Indian subcontinent and around numerous other parts of the world during the past thousand years.

      In fact, there are relatively more recent examples directly connected to Britain and India. The increasingly casual disregard demonstrated by the Victorians for the sanctity of places of worship affiliated with different religions, and the sentiments of people associated with those places of worship, caused them to systematically demolish a considerable number of mosques and Hindu temples in Delhi alone because these sites were deemed to be obstructing their plans for the city, and they did this without even bothering to ask the opinion or permission of the Muslims or Hindus concerned. In fact, they didn’t even care. Not only did this cause even further damage to the escalating deterioration of British & Indian relations, but eventually it was another major factor triggering the carnage of 1857.

      The irony, as I mentioned in #92, is that for hundreds of years previously, British people had a far more respectful and flexible attitude towards mosques, temples etc, and that what happened later was a direct consequence of the rise of Evangelical Christian fundamentalism and the simultaneous corrosive effect of colonialism. Even though the reasons for some modern-day white British people objecting to the notion of even temporarily demonstrating flexibility in terms of requirements within non-Christian places of worship may not necessarily be specifically because of their own religious beliefs (they may well be atheists or agnostic), the attitude of “why should I change my behaviour on their premises to suit them, they should accommodate me whether they like it or not” is a direct cultural legacy of that era. Particularly when it comes to attitudes towards Islam and Muslims, incidentally.

      I think you are demonstrating intolerance yourself.

      I have absolutely no problem with being intolerant towards those who are so arrogant, uncivilised and intolerant themselves that they seek to stubbornly impose their own behaviour on the premises of the places of worship of religions different to their own background, and who wish to effectively bully into submission people associated with the latter.

      If people associated with the places of worship of other religions voluntarily and proactively “bend the rules” for visitors from other faiths, then that’s fine (for example, the reason that the free food offered in gurdwaras is vegetarian, despite the fact that Sikhism doesn’t necessarily advocate vegetarianism and despite the fact that a high number of Sikhs themselves eat meat, is specifically a legacy of the Sikh Gurus proactively accommodating the varying dietary requirements of people from different faiths when it comes to attitudes to meat).

      However, nobody else has the right to actually demand this of them. And consequently, as I said earlier, if a person disagrees with the customs required on the premises, then the simple solution is that they should refuse to visit these places and simultaneously withdraw their children from school visits to such locations. The latter is of course not necessarily the right approach in terms of facilitating greater mutual understanding, pluralism and tolerance, as Persephone has already eloquently explained on this thread and, ironically, as the vast majority of British people living in India for hundreds of years right up to the end of the 18th century would themselves have argued.

    98. Jai — on 14th July, 2010 at 11:41 am  

      One further comment:

      Sorry. The dismissive attitudes you perceive are directed at all places of worship, including Christian ones. Religious observance is a minority pastime these days….

      I do not care, much, about anyones religion.

      If Sikh and Jewish men and Muslim women should be allowed to carry, as it were, a bubble of religion around with them in all contexts, why shouldn’t secular atheists be allowed the same leeway?

      Presumably that includes ostentatiously refusing to “bend the knee” to the usual requirements expected of guests during Church weddings, baptisms and funerals — including standing up during prayers or hymns, let alone participating in them. Or, indeed, refusing to attend such functions at all.

      If not, then as I said earlier, it appears that some double-standards may be in place in terms of attitudes towards Christian and non-Christian places of worship respectively on the part of “secular atheists” who may originally be from a Christian background themselves, however nominal that particular affiliation may be.

    99. Ravi Naik — on 14th July, 2010 at 12:49 pm  

      Presumably that includes ostentatiously refusing to “bend the knee” to the usual requirements expected of guests during Church weddings, baptisms and funerals — including standing up during prayers or hymns, let alone participating in them. Or, indeed, refusing to attend such functions at all.

      You are not obliged to bend the knee, to stand up or sing during hymns if you wish not to do it. Obviously, it is rude to talk during the ceremony or dress inappropriately. And I think that everyone agrees that if you choose to go a sacred place of worship, you must follow the rules in place.

      the simple solution is that they should refuse to visit these places and simultaneously withdraw their children from school visits to such locations. The latter is of course not necessarily the right approach in terms of facilitating greater mutual understanding

      In my view, we do not facilitate greater understanding by forcing people to go to places or wear things against their will. It is far better for students to opt out of this sort of visit.

    100. douglas clark — on 15th July, 2010 at 3:13 am  

      Jai @ 98.

      Sorry if this has fallen off the page, but you say:

      Presumably that includes ostentatiously refusing to “bend the knee” to the usual requirements expected of guests during Church weddings, baptisms and funerals — including standing up during prayers or hymns, let alone participating in them. Or, indeed, refusing to attend such functions at all.

      If not, then as I said earlier, it appears that some double-standards may be in place in terms of attitudes towards Christian and non-Christian places of worship respectively on the part of “secular atheists” who may originally be from a Christian background themselves, however nominal that particular affiliation may be.

      Really?

      I am unaware of the distinction - between Christian and non-Christian places of worship - that exercises you so much.

      What would your attitude be to attending a Christian marriage ceremony? Would you sing the psalms? Would you, err, integrate? Or would you, like me, just play along for a quite life?

      How hard is that for an adult? How ridiculous is it to impose it on a child?

      Your call mate.

    101. Jai — on 15th July, 2010 at 12:16 pm  

      Douglas,

      What would your attitude be to attending a Christian marriage ceremony? Would you sing the psalms? Would you, err, integrate?

      I’ve been to numerous Christian functions and, while I personally don’t sing the psalms, I go along with pretty much everything else, including speaking the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not just the polite thing to do, not least as a courtesy to the people who invited you, but bear in mind that I’m affiliated with a religion whose teachings do not differentiate between “our” God and “their” God, regardless of whom “they” may be. Sikhism teaches that there is only one God, and it’s the same deity who hears everyone’s prayers, regardless of what name they may call their particular deity by. Incidentally, this basic concept, and the notion of displaying the relevant courtesies when attending places of worship associated with religions other than our own, isn’t necessarily something exclusive to Sikhs either where Indians in general are concerned. As I said earlier, India has been a very religiously diverse & pluralistic region for thousands of years, and there are basic concepts of civilised behaviour which the majority of Indians have learned when it comes to these issues, especially during the past millennium.

      In fact, regarding Sikhism specifically, two major historical examples I can offer to demonstrate the above is Guru Nanak attending Islamic prayers and participating in them alongside the Muslims, and Guru Gobind Singh explicitly stating that ultimately it’s the presence of the same God everywhere irrespective of whether it involves mosques or Hindu temples (or the place of worship of any other religion) in response to the escalating religious bigotry of the Mughal administration of the time.

      How ridiculous is it to impose it on a child?

      It is ridiculous to impose it on child, but it is very much the civilised and humane thing to do to encourage a basic level of human respect and pluralism in terms of their attitudes towards other religions and their conduct whilst on the premises of holy sites associated with those religions.

    102. Kismet Hardy — on 15th July, 2010 at 1:19 pm  

      Random, but possibly relevant.

      You know how ‘Muslims’ say music and art are bad?

      Well, other than the beautifully melodic azaans that sound out from megaphones all over the holiest places as a cry for people to come together, right now, over He, I was flicking through some of my old Islamic art books this morning, filled with beautiful writing fashioned into shapes that include a lot animals, in particular peacocks

      And have you seen some of the awe-inspiring frescos on byzantine mosques?

      Breathtaking shit

    103. Kismet Hardy — on 15th July, 2010 at 1:20 pm  

      *sorry not frescos. Mosaics.

    104. bananabrain — on 15th July, 2010 at 1:35 pm  

      Religious observance is a minority pastime these days…

      perhaps in western europe. everywhere else, the reverse is true.

      i don’t really understand why, douglas, you think that children’s rights to dress how they like should trump the dress code of a place of worship. are you also opposed to school uniforms, incidentally? look, if some kid comes round to my house, he takes his shoes off - because it’s my house and my rules. that’s about respect for others. i presume you would be as opposed as myself to residents of wholly jewish roads in golders green barring access to vehicles on the sabbath? that’s the other side of the coin that jai is trying to get over here; a place of worship is not a public space, it is a private one - in the UK at any rate. if people can’t cope with difference - from etiher direction - how are we ever supposed to build a better society?

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    105. persephone — on 15th July, 2010 at 11:00 pm  

      “if people can’t cope with difference – from etiher direction – how are we ever supposed to build a better society?”

      wholeheartedly agree

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