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Articles
Progress of Muslim Education in the United Kingdom during 2007

Dr. Mozammel Haque
Director-General for Islamic education, World Muslim Congress, Saudi Arabia


Lots of developments are taking place in the field of Muslim education in the West, particularly in the United Kingdom and Europe. These developments are taking place due to the efforts and initiatives, both at the private community level and the government level. During the first half of the year, 2007, three important conferences were held: one, on the government level, another on the community level and the third one was on the international level.  
On the government level, one day Conference on "Raising the Attainment of Muslim Pupils in London Schools" was organized by the Mayor of London at the City Hall on Saturday, 30 June 2007. There were three sessions besides the introductory and concluding session. The first session was chaired by Dr. Anil Khamis of the Institute of Education on the "Attainment of Muslim Pupils in London Schools"... – the evidence which was addressed by David Ewens, Senior Research and Statistical Analyst (education), Data Management and Analysis Group, Greater London Authority; Professor J. Mark Halstead, Head of the Department of Community and International Education, University of Huddersfield, and Rukhsana Yaqoob, Minority Ethnic Achievement Programme – Regional Advisor, National Primary and Secondary Strategies. 
On the Community level, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Umbrella organization of the British Muslim community, launched information and guidance document for schools entitled “Towards Greater Understanding: Meeting the Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools" at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Wednesday, 20th of February, 2007.  
And at the international level, Muslim world is also started thinking how to improve the educational conditions of the Muslim students living in the West. Two days Conference on "Towards a Unified Educational Vision by Islamic Educationalists in the West" organized by Rabat-based the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the ISESCO, and the London-based The Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), held at the Centre on 2-3 July, 2007. There were four sessions: The first session, in English, chaired by Dr. Abdul Karim Khaleel, three speakers: Dr. Akram Khan Cheema spoke on "The Challenge of Educating Muslims in the 21st Century; Ruqaiyyah Maqsood spoke on "Explaining the benefits of GCSE in Islamic Studies" and Dr. Abdul Bari also spoke on this occasion. The second session, in Arabic, chaired by Dr. Moustapha Zabakh, representative of the ISESCO, two speakers: Dr. Abdullah Al-Khiari spoke on "Islamic Educational Strategic Planning in the West;" and Dr. Ahmad Makhdoom spoke on "The Quality of School Textbooks Criteria".  
Education is most important and the education of the Muslim pupils is no less important. As a result, Muslim educational organizations have been pondering over the attainment and achievement of Muslim pupils at the State Schools and the prospects and future of the Muslim Faith Schools and the Supplementary Schools. Thus, besides those three important conferences at different levels, such as governmental, community and international level, two more conferences were organized and workshops held by educational organizations. NIDA Trust, London,  has organized its National Educational Conference, 2007 at the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), London, on Saturday, 7th of July, 2007 and the Quest Foundation, London, organized a One-day Conference on “Educating the Young Child” at the Kensington Town Hall, on Saturday, the 21st of April, 2007. 
In this connection, it is worth mentioning that the government under the Prime Minister Tony Blair started thinking about the teaching of Islam at the University level. The Minister of Higher Education commissioned to write a report on "what measures can be taken to improve the quality of information about Islam that is available to students and staff in universities in England." The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, mentioned about the report in his speech at the Two-day Conference on "Islam and Muslims in the World Today" at Lancaster House, in the first week of June, 2007. "We publish today the Siddiqui Report on the UK and what more we need to do to encourage the right intellectual and academic debate on these issues here in Britain," Tony Blair said and added, "We intend to follow-up on many of Dr. Siddiqui’s recommendations and will be providing significant funding to deliver on this commitment."   
But in this connection, I must mention another important educational conference held in London. It is about the Educational development in the Gulf countries. A one-day conference on Popular Culture and Political Identity in the Arab Gulf States, organized by the London Middle East Institute, SOAS, was held at the Brunei Gallery on Thursday, 8th of January 2007. The introductory session was addressed by Dr. Lubna Al-Kazi, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Kuwait University who spoke on "Gulf Societies: Co-existence of Tradition and Modernity." Dr. Al-Kazi highlights some of the economic, demographic and social changes that have occurred in the region. Free education up to university level has led not only to low illiteracy rates but has also encouraged female education.  
In some Gulf societies female literacy is higher than male literacy and female students outnumber men at universities. Free health services have led to a decline in mortality and a rise in life expectancy to above 65 years. In the economic sphere, Gulf women are now qualified as engineers, doctors and lawyers, working in fields which were previously considered male domains. Recently elections with women taking part have become commonplace in certain Gulf countries. Gulf societies have embraced tradition and modernity simultaneously; they have tried to retain their identity while entering the global arena, Dr. Al-Kazi said. 
CONFERENCES 
Government Initiative 
Raising the Attainment of Muslim
Pupils in London Schools 
One day Conference on "Raising the Attainment of Muslim Pupils in London Schools" was organized by the Mayor of London at the City Hall on Saturday, 30 June 2007. There were three sessions besides the introductory and concluding session. The first session was chaired by Dr. Anil Khamis of the Institute of Education on the "Attainment of Muslim Pupils in London Schools"... – the evidence which was addressed by David Ewens, Senior Research and Statistical Analyst (education), Data Management and Analysis Group, Greater London Authority; Professor J. Mark Halstead, Head of the Department of Community and International Education, University of Huddersfield, and Ruksana Yaqoob, Minority Ethnic Achievement Programme – Regional Advisor, National Primary and Secondary Strategies. 
In the Session on "A Community Perspective", Tahir Alam, Chair, Education Committee, Muslim Council of Britain,; Junaid Ahmed, Project Manager, ISAP, London Muslim Centre; Hamiyet Asan, EMA Consultant in the Learning Trust, Hackney and Abdi Hassan, Director, Ocean Somali Community Association. 
In the Third Session on "Raising achievement Levels of Muslim Pupils – strategies for Change", Professor David Gillborn, Institute of Education; Bushra Nasir, Head of Plashet Comprehensive School; Murad Qureshi, AM, London Assembly and Mizan Raja, Chair, Association of Muslim Governors spoke at the Conference. 
Farah Ikram
While addressing the conference on behalf of the Mayor of London, Farah Ikram, the senior Coordinator for Asian and Muslim Affairs at the GLA, explained the background and aims of the conference: Raising Attainment of Muslim Pupils in London Schools."  Ikram said, "London is one of the most culturally diverse cities of the world. This is the cornerstone of our economic success and cultural dynamism." 
She also mentioned, "By 2016, around 80% of the half a million job are expected to come to London will be in business and commercial sector. This job will require an educated skilled workforce. And it is vital for the London's economy and social well being for all London communities to have skill and access and opportunities will be on offer." 
Highlighting the enormous contribution made by Islam and Muslim to this great city, the report shows low level of Muslim educational attainment and unemployment comparative to other faith groups, said Ikram and added, "Because of lack of faith-based data that it makes more difficult to obtain macro-picture of the London Muslim people. This is national issue and we call upon the Dfes and the local educational authorities to draw a common framework to collect faith-based data and more information on our ethnic minority groups to include wider ethnic category."  
Ikram also mentioned, "It is vital to know that London's population is becoming more diverse. Almost 50% of the children in London schools are from minority ethnic community. In the next five years children from the minority ethnic communities will be majority in our schools. Therefore in order to provide genuine inclusive education it is imperative that faith and ethnic in school is improved." 
Ikram also maintained, "Mayor wants to ensure that people from all communities and particularly London Muslim community participate at all levels. Therefore, the Mayor committee is developing a strategic programme in which all communities can participate in its economy. A key element of this programme is to help tackle its underachievement in education and working partnership with the government, London development agencies and community organizations to help achieve this: raising attainment levels and provides an opportunity.  
Dr. Abdul Bari
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said, It’s a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual multi-cultural community. We, in 2001 Census, were 700,000 but probably it would be more than one million in London. There are many newer communities within Muslim world are now coming and settling in this great city of London. 
It is true that Farah has mentioned that Muslims in London, especially Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, have come a long way. I worked in Tower Hamlets as specialist teacher. I know in ten years time, it has doubled. It was 22-23% in 1996-97 and now it is more than 55 percent. And this is true, I know, in many other boroughs in London. So we are coming up, said Dr. Abdul Bari but added, “There is a glass-ceiling, there is discrimination and of course in the climate of Islamophobia, things have become difficult. You know, London is unique. Led by Ken Livingstone London has shown greater unity throughout all communities and we have seen this in last few years. We have seen that yesterday. We are together." 
Muslims are probably 1/10th of London population. London's future also depends on the success of these Muslim communities plus other communities. "For particular reasons, socially, economically and politically Muslim communities of various backgrounds are unfortunately below the average. 69-70% of Muslim households are below poverty level compared to 20% of the overall wider society. Only a couple of months ago, Joseph Roundtry Foundation came out all these figures. Muslim communities, unfortunately, come at the bottom of the least. As I mentioned and Farah has mentioned that we are coming back in education and once our communities are coming up in education there will be aspiration, ambition and hope and there will be social pressure to do better," said Dr. Abdul Bari. 
Dr. Abdul Bari expressed his hope saying, "We have been working together; our educational institution will be far better, hopefully, in five/ten years time. We will be able to contribute. Today's seminar is about all the academics and community leaders are coming together.  What we have achieved so far; what is lacking and we will be having our introspection and what we can achieve in five/ten years time to make this great city greater; to make this great country greater. This is our ambition." 
Professor Mark Halstead,
Professor Mark Halstead has been doing research on Muslim education for more than 20 years. He has been teaching for 35 years. He was delighted that this conference is taking place. He was delighted because this conference “recognizes Muslim issues and concerns; recognizes Muslims as minority group rather than forcing them or identifying them in so many ethnic terms. The conference is addressing the problems of Muslims I just identified. On personal level, failure to recognize and support the religious identity of Muslim children can have a number of unfortunate consequences for them: it may be Muslim children to have confused self-concept of distinctive identity of moral development may be ignored."  
Speaking about the Muslim parent's concerns, Professor Halstead said, "Muslim parents are concerned about improving the levels of academic attainment of their children.  But this is not the only thing that they are interested in. They are concerned with many aspects of preparing their children for life; including preparing that sense of identity, self-concept, their faith, their commitment, values their life experiences, their love of Allah. To fulfill this, several things need to be improved including eradication of institutional racism and the Islamophobic bullying, I mean the mentality which says be like us or I have the right to bully you. Muslim parents perceive inadequacy of spiritual and moral education provided by schools; lack of recognition of the children's faith identity; what we have seen now perhaps more emphasis on being British at the expense of being British Muslims. This lack of recognition of faith identity is one of the main problems of the way official educational statistics on attainment are sometimes gathered as far as Muslims are concerned."  
Speaking about something which is done in the school, Professor Halstead said, "Need for Muslim role models have not been taken seriously. Islamophobia may be ignored in schools. School curriculum may ignore Muslim contribution to knowledge. Teachers may fail to respond to Muslim beliefs and sensitivities to some of the curriculum. The whole situation may contribute to a sense of alienation which affects Muslim young men with the attainment level more generally. We should not shy away from hard facts like facts that Muslim young men are disproportionately present in English prisons at the present time." 
Speaking about the factors that creates difficulty in pushing the attainment level high, Professor Halstead mentioned, "Social and family backgrounds of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi children and of other Muslim group as well. Coming from overcrowded homes, with high poverty levels, 54% of family on income support, high level of parental unemployment, many parents lacking formal educational qualification; high level of free school meal and targets of racism - lots of different factors interacting with each other and creating a difficult background for pushing attainment level up. To this family and social experiences make another factor more directly related to religion, I mean to be Muslim.  I have already mentioned some of them: lack of Muslim role models in schools with religious discrimination or prejudice or Islamophobia and lack of recognition of Muslim identity of students."  
Professor Halstead also mentioned some other factors such as colour blind approach; differences between religious values at home and secular values of the schools. He has also mentioned about the dominant type of cultural racism. He said, "There are four kinds of cultural racism. We must be aware of this if we are going to do about this." 
Then Professor Halstead enquired, "Let me very briefly ask: How Muslim friendly individual state schools are? Do they provide prayer facilities to Muslim students; do they provide halal meat for them; do they have a Muslim teacher or chaplain to cater for the need of Muslim students; does the school uniform respect some guidance of modesty and decency? Do they have single sex grouping in any subject? Do they respect Muslim festivals? Do they have policies against religious discrimination and harassment? Are they sensitive to Muslim beliefs and values in the selection of curriculum content – particularly in the areas like art, music, sex education, history literature and many other subjects? Are they sensitive to Islamic beliefs in assemblies and other school extra-curricular activities? Think for a moment about this. Two schools ever put children in a position where they are expected to act against core Islamic tradition and values.  
What do Muslim parents want? Professor Halstead said, parents want "School with Islamic ethos, single sex schooling; school which emphasizes moral and spiritual development, good examination results; traditional religious upbringing; a combination of cultural maintenance and preparation for British citizenship From my view, they want all of these things. The keynote is diversity. They want all these things. These questions do raise some deeper philosophical issues. These deeper questions – is it realistic for Muslim parents to seek cultural maintenance and greater integration in the broader society at the same time? Second key question, is it the role of school in British society to liberate children from the constraint of their particular culture and circumstances from the constraints of their home life; and the third question, what do you mean by multiculturalism; what degree of diversity does it license and how extensive of framework of shared values is needed to hold multicultural society together." 
Community Initiative
MCB Launches document for Schools
Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools 
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Umbrella organization of the British Muslim community, launched information and guidance document for schools entitled “Towards Greater Understanding: Meeting the Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools" at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Wednesday, 20th of February, 2007.  
"The purpose of this guide is to provide background information on relevant Islamic beliefs and practices and values and to deal with issues arising within schools that are important to and may be of concern to Muslim pupils and their parents. The information and guidance document is intended to be used, as a source of reference by schools when reviewing their policies and practices in relation to meeting the needs of their Muslim pupils," said the document t.  
Based on best practice, the document gives information and guidance on how schools can respond positively to some commonly raised issues concerning Muslim pupils including Halal food, dress, Ramadan, provision for prayers, collective worship etc. 
There are approximately 1.6 million Muslims in Britain. Islam and Muslims are part of the mosaic that comprises modern Britain, with half of the Muslim population being British born. There are over 400,000 Muslim pupils in school education, of which approximately 96% are in the maintained sector. The faith commitments of Muslim pupils and their families encompass all aspects of everyday life and conduct, including daily life in school. It is important, therefore, that educators and schools have good understanding of how they can respond positively to meeting the needs of Muslim pupils. 
The document said, "Unfortunately Muslim pupils are sometimes placed in situations where they feel pressurized into acting contrary to their beliefs and conscience and also experience Islamophobic sentiments and comments within schools. This can have a reciprocal effect on the child's considered opinion of the school, and indeed, education itself."  
“In the vast majority of primary schools, when changing for PE, both boys and girls have no choice but to change in mixed group environments,” the report said and added, "the form of naked communal showing, which involves profound indignity. The practice of allowing Muslim children to shower in bathing costumes or shorts does not solve the problem if other pupils are naked in the same communal shower area.”  
“Islam forbids nakedness in front of others or being among others who are naked. Muslim children should not be expected to participate in communal showering,” the document said.  
The 72-page document said that Muslim children have tried to resist taking part in such immodest exposure. “But are often pressurized to conform to institutional norms which do not take account of their own or their parents’ beliefs and values,” the document added. There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools.
The MCB Guidance document urged British schools to "allow their Muslim girls to adhere to the Islamic requirements for dress, for example full-length skirts; to allow boys and girls to wear tracksuits during physical education activities; to respect the decision of Muslim boys to grow a beard and to allow religious amulets to be worn discretely, for example Qur'anic verses in lockets worn around the neck."
So far as the Halal Food is concerned, the MCB also urged schools to provide halal meals and storing and preparing Halal food for Muslim pupils. “It is essential that positive account is taken of the faith dimension of Muslim pupils in education and schooling,” the report said. 
The MCB document also urged the school to build separate changing facilities for boys and girls with individual changing cubicles, particularly for older children. At secondary level, schools incorporate individual changing and showering cubicles. The needs of Muslim girls who choose to wear the head scarf are accommodated during PE lessons."
The MCB document also urged to "build prayer rooms for Muslim pupils who wish to perform daily prayers in school." 
"It is essential that positive account is taken of the faith dimension of Muslim pupils in education and schooling. The faith of Muslim pupils should be seen as an asset to addressing constructively many of the issues that young people face today, including educational failure, disaffection, drugs, crime and sexually-transmitted diseases.," said the Document said and added, "Recognition and inclusion of the faith identity and religious needs of Muslim pupils can contribute positively to their personal development and social life." 
According to the "Ethnicity and Education" Report in 2006 by the Department for Education and Skills, religion appears to be more important to young people from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and African communities than it is for white British or mixed heritage young people. Nearly all Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils said they were Muslim (99 per cent in each instance) and the vast majority (99 per cent) within these two groups said that religion was fairly or very important to them, compared to 34% pupils of white British background.  
Professor Tim Brighouse, Chief Advisor for London Schools and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, who was Chief Education Officer in Birmingham and renown nationally and internationally as one of the UK's leading educationalists, applauded the document in his speech as a chief guest, "I think it is hugely important day not merely for the Muslim community in this country but for our society as a whole that you have done this. I think it is a superb document, I thank you for it. I think, it is a splendid first draft and if you never got to a second draft it would still be a terrific document that we have. Every school in this country needs to have this and I appeal to the teachers' union in this country to give their full backing to this document; they would ensure that the teachers have a better opportunity of  unlocking  minds of everybody in this country if they take it seriously." 
Acknowledging that "faith is extraordinarily important in many people's life," Professor Brighouse said, "I could tell you 500 schools in Birmingham would welcome this document and that's in Birmingham alone. And I can tell you another 3,000 schools in London would welcome this document. I read it cover to cover. I think its fantastic document." 
Professor Brighouse termed this document as "a challenge to every other faith community. We need document such as this from all faith positions and I hope people from different faiths would read this document and make sure that the schooling system has references this point. i.e. that they can use in their schools."  
Professor Brighouse also mentioned about a Chartered London Teachers Conference next week where he is going to chair. Speaking about Chartered London Teachers, Professor Brighouse said, "It is something London challenge to introduce. It is based on the premise and assumption that to teach in an Urban area particularly London which has many faiths, many religions, many races, there is a requirement on all teachers to have greater knowledge, greater skill, greater expertise to do the basic job of a teacher which is to unlock the mind and open the heart of our children in our schooling."  
After informing the good news that about 60,000 teachers in London have signed up to be chartered London teachers, Professor Brighouse said, "Next week, I am going to throw this document to the attention of the conference and I am going to ask them to campaign with me to make sure that the document like this prepared from different religious point of view. So they have a best chance of unlocking for all our future citizens."  
Speaking about the choice and determination of this society and this country, Professor Brighouse said, "The choices are:  Are we really determined: we are going to a party which is proud to be a society where people with many different faiths, coming from many different races, have many different languages live in harmony and peace and respect for each other together."  
"I think it is a contribution precisely to that determination for future," Professor Brighouse said and added, "I would ask anybody to read this document and say which is the bit of this document you don't agree with. I started by saying that I am not a person of faith, religious faith. I have read that document and there is nothing in it to which I would not assent. It is something, I think, all educated people take seriously." 
Earlier, thanking and remembering all those who established schools, wrote books and designed curricula etc., Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London,  said, "Whenever we talk about education, we remember, of course, lots of needs and issues connected together under this umbrella issue, the issue of curriculum, schooling, languages, the local languages, Arabic language as a language of the Qur'an, the question of teaching faith relations, the inter-faith in the curriculum – all these things are very important." 
Speaking about the document, Dr. al-Dubayan said, "It is really a one brick in the long, or say, a tall building to establish Islamic studies or Islamic education either in the State schools or in the Muslim schools."  
Earlier, Dr. Abdul Bari emphasized on the community partnership: When a community is involved in children education, its community leaders, mosques, religious places children feel part of the whole education system and the community feels part of the whole education system. They have the ownership in it. They put their energy in achieving more pupils. At the end of the day it is partnership between the schools, community and faith organizations or who don't have faith. 
It is not a demand list from the Muslim community. This is about good practices which are, in fact, practiced in many of the ILEA's and many of the schools I know personally. If those could be practised in certain ILEA's and certain schools then this could be shared with other ILEA's and schools across the country, Dr. Abdul Bari maintained. 
Dr. Abdul Bari said, 2.7% is the population of Muslim in this country. I know that the student population would be around 4-5%. In Tower Hamlets Muslim population is 36 per cent but the school population is nearly 60 per cent. So we have a very youthful population. And this youthful population is our future not only for the Muslim community but for the whole of the British society; they can make or break of future Britain and they need to have this ownership in everything.  
Dr. Abdul Bari also said this is not a prescriptive document; this is for our understanding of cultures. 
International Initiative 
Towards a Unified Educational Vision by
Islamic Educationalists in the West 
"There is no doubt that developing a solid, modern and effective base for the education system is an urgent priority. We need a system that teaches our children and our coming generations a true understanding of Islam and its principles. They need to learn how to challenge misunderstandings and misconceptions about their faith and, as a result, have a greater opportunity of living a peaceful and harmonious life. Needless to say: the young ones of today are the leaders of tomorrow." Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al-Saud, the Saudi Arabia's Ambassador of the UK and Ireland, said in his message to the Two days Conference on "Towards a Unified Educational Vision by Islamic Educationalists in the West" organized by Rabat-based the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the ISESCO, and the London-based The Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), held at the Library Hall of the Centre on 2-3 July, 2007.  
There were four sessions: The first session, in English, chaired by Dr. Abdul Karim Khalel, three speakers: Dr. Akram Khan Cheema spoke on "The Challenge of Educating Muslims in the 21st Century; Ruqaiyyah Maqsood spoke on "Explaining the benefits of GCSE in Islamic Studies" and Dr. Abdul Bari also spoke on this occasion. The second session, in Arabic, chaired by Dr. Moustapha Zabakh, representative of the ISESCO, two speakers: Dr. Abdullah Al-Khiari spoke on "Islamic Educational Strategic Planning in the West;" and Dr. Ahmad Makhdoom spoke on "The Quality of School Textbooks Criteria".  
On the second day, Tuesday, the 3rd of July, 2007, the third session, in Arabic, chaired by Sh. M. Fathalla, two speakers: Mr. Ahmed Gaaloul spoke on "The Modern Educational Islamic Discourse" and Dr. Rushdi Tuaima spoke on "Teaching Arabic to the Muslim Minorities in the West." The fourth session, chaired by Dr. Khalid Al-Zahri, two speakers: Dr. Bassam Al-Saai spoke on "Teaching Arabic and Qur'an: Is it time for some change?" in Arabic and Sulaiman Charles Neave spoke on "A Reflection on good teaching practice" in English. 
Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan
While opening the two-day conference, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, Director-General of the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), London, emphasized the importance of education by saying, "Education may be the most important issue for the Muslim minorities in the world. Education is the future."  
Speaking about the problems, Dr. al-Dubayan said, "We have a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstanding about Islam itself; not only from the non-Muslims but also from the Muslim themselves. The educationalists and the experts must sit together and talk about what they want and what they need for the education." 
"One of the problems we are facing nowadays is the textbooks. The Muslim school books have always been criticized in many places, in UK and other places also and are described sometimes in the media as books which encouraged violence, hatred and do not really encourage Muslims to be integrated and to be having good relations with others. Is that true? This is one of the main important questions I believe the educationalists must talk about." 
Speaking about the purpose of the conference, Dr. al-Dubayan said, "I think, this conference is going to talk about problems more than solving the problems; talk about the challenges more than giving solutions for everything. This is one of the purposes." 
Dr. Moustapha Zabakh
Dr. Moustapha Zabakh, representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Morocco, gave, in Arabic, an interesting picture of the activities of the ISESCO. The Institute carried out some works in the field of developing educational strategy in the Muslim world as well as in the Western world. 
Dr. Zabakh spoke about an educational strategy that must adopt and develop with the changing times, ideologies and societies. "The educational strategy must answer the fundamental questions such as where are we; what are we and what our role is and what our objectives are," Dr. Zabakh said and noted, "These strategies have been prepared by ISESCO to answer those questions raised earlier and to identify what our common goals are and what operational means we need to adopt in order to achieve them." 
"These papers and publications have been presented in the UK and have been received very well from the educationalists across Europe and other countries," Dr. Zabakh said.   
Specifying the aim of these works, Dr. Zabakh said, "Our aim is to develop an Islamic personality and an Islamic identity in the West. Our aim is also to develop a strategy that is tolerant; that does not teach bigotry. A strategy that teaches us tolerance and how to deal with people of other cultures and other religious backgrounds."
 
Lord Ahmed
Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, the first Muslim Peer of the House of Lords, said, "Education is important to all of us and we know as Muslims when the first word of the Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) "Read"." 
Lord Ahmed noted, "We have 135 Islamic schools.  We have educationalists like Akram Khan Cheema, who is Her Majesty's Inspector, and others also who are making contribution within the education system in the United Kingdom. They need to be engaged, they need to tell you and you need to talk to them on what is required for Britain and for the British communities as well as for the British government too. It is also important that we reach out to local authorities, the schools and the school governors because they are the one who actually implement this religious educational programme." 
Speaking on the project of publishing books on Islam, Lord Ahmed said, "It’s a huge project just in Britain alone. We have at least 40,000 schools. If you want to send one book on Islam you need to print 40,000 books. I know that there is a responsibility on us that we have to reach out to the rest of Europe but it is important that here now we have the biggest problems within the United Kingdom, in terms of radicalization and misunderstanding." 
Lord Ahmed also said, "I think the work of one vision one strategy and having one policy in terms of education is very important." 
Lord Ahmed hoped, "This conference goes out to regions and also works with government departments and other educational institutions too."  
Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al-Saud
On behalf of Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al-Saud, the Saudi Arabia's Ambassador of the UK and Ireland, the Saudi deputy Ambassador, Abdullah al-Shaghrood, read out the message to the gathering of eminent scholars and educators. Prince Mohammed in his message said, "As Muslim, no one can overemphasize to us the importance of education and knowledge in our life. Almighty Allah started His revelation of the Holy Message of Islam to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, with a clear direction to "Read". 
The Prince also said, "The number of times Almighty Allah and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, highlighted the importance of knowledge, in our lives, is beyond counting. This reflects a very clear and divine message that emphasizes the role of education in our day-to-day life as well as in building our future and that of our children." 
Noting that our future generations will face challenges and difficulties in the path of achieving the desired goals, the Saudi Ambassador said, "I am hopeful that your vision, and the vision of similar great minds will act as a light that will guide all of us in confronting many problems in this important aspect of our life." 
The Saudi Ambassador also said, "We count on you and other caring educationalists to guide our coming generations and help them present Islam: to show its humane teachings; to show Islam as a religion of forgiveness and tolerance. We have to teach our children to accept criticism and turn it into challenges that help them be better citizens. It was one of our great forefathers who once said "May Allah have mercy on him who presents my shortcomings to me as a gift."" 
Appreciating and thanking the educationalists who attended this important conference for their contribution to the education of our future generation, trained and qualified "so that they may become a highly appreciated part of the society they live in, while preserving their valuable Islamic identity." 
Concluding his message to the conference, the Prince Mohammed expressed his hope "that the proceedings of this conference will be made available for all of those who seek development of the Islamic educational system, for a better and a more peaceful future."  
Organisational Initiatives
As mentioned earlier, two conferences were organized by the Muslim organizations interested in education for the Muslim children; one of them was the National Education Conference 2007 by the NIDA Trust and another one-day conference was organized by the Quest Foundation for Learning. 
National Educational Conference 2007 
National Education Conference 2007 on the subject of “Raising the Achievement of Muslim Pupils,” organized by NIDA Trust, was held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Saturday, 7th of July, 2007. There was two sessions, papers were presented in the first session and workshops on different issues were held at the second sessions.  
In the first session, Muhammed Akram Khan Cheema, OBE, spoke on “The Visionfor Muslims in Education”; Dr. Mohamed Mukadam of the Association of Muslim Schools, UK, spoke on “The Role of Faith in Raising Standards in Education”; Dr. Jacek Brant of the Institute of Education, University of London, soke on “Effective Teaching: Catering for Diversity in the Classroom;” Dr. Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, spoke on “Encouraging Parental Participation in Raising Pupils’ Attaiment;” Rukhsana Yaqoob of the DFES, spoke on “Challenges faced by Muslim Pupils in State Schools;” and Michele Messaoudi, School Inspector, spoke on “Combating Social Exclusion in Education.” 
In the second session on workshop, Tahir Alam, Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Education Committee, conducted workshop on “Meeting the Needs of Muslim Pupils in State Schools;” Foezul Ali of NIDA Trust, conducted workshop on “Successful Models for Supplementary Schools;” Mizan Raja of the Association of Muslim Governors conducted Workshop on “Impact of School Governors in Raising Attainment of Muslim Pupils;” Michele Messaoudi, School Inspector, spoke on “Parental Rights, Responsibilities and Participation in Schools;” Attaullah Parkar of the Association of Muslim Schools UK conducted workshop on “Muslim Faith Schools: Raising Achievement of Muslim Pupils;” and Fatima D’Oyen, Quest Foundation for Learning spoke on “Developing an integrated Curriculum.”   
There are nearly 500,000 Muslim pupils in school education, of whom approximately 95% are in the maintained sector. Nationally, pupils of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Somali and Turkish heritage under perform when compared to other groups. The gap in attainment widens from primary through to secondary. As a result, nearly a third of young British Muslims leave school with no qualifications.  
Although there have been recent government attempts to address this issue, through the publication of guidance documents and the launch of initiatives, the impact has been limited, often only focusing on the provision within state maintained schools.  
The Muslim community has found itself unable to effectively engage with local authorities and schools on this issue. Parents have often felt disconnected with schools, feeling under represented and misunderstood. It is clear that it will take much more than teachers to turn around the tide of underachievement amongst Muslim pupils.  Parent, school governors, state schools, Muslim faith schools, supplementary schools, and curriculum developers must all play a role in promoting inclusion and tackling under performance.  
The National Education Conference 2007 was a unique opportunity for all the major stakeholders to meet and discuss the underachievement of Muslim pupils in the UK, from which this research report was produced.  
This report is the outcome of the National Education Conference 2007 held on 7th July 2007 in London titled Raising the Achievement of Muslim Pupils. 
The conference was successful in gathering major stakeholders namely: Parents, Governors, Curriculum Developers, State Schools, Supplementary Schools and Muslim Faith Schools, in order to collate their views with the aim of gaining meaningful information to be utilized as input in to the strategies needed for raising achievement of Muslim pupils in the year ahead.  
The report has been simplified into brief bullet points to allow the reader top access the main points raised. The report is by no means an exhaustive list, with only the main points included. The most popular points appear at the top of the lists.  
The points raised in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of NIDA Trust, our partners or sponsors.  
This report is aimed at providing useful information for agencies interested in raising the achievement of Muslim pupils. The information will be helpful in providing a focus for strategic planning and may serve as a basis for working groups within local authorities, schools, governing bodies, and community groups. 
Supplementary groups.
The challenges and priorities are: lack of qualified teachers and quality teacher training. Inadequate resources and insufficient funding; limited partnership with mainstream schools; weak leadership and management; lack of awareness and recognition of supplementary schools in the community; lack of coherent Islamic and Arabic curriculum; Time constraints in running schools & poor time management. Absence of clear policies, institutional and academic monitoring systems; ineffective teacher-pupil relationship and teacher/pupil ratio; Ethos does not relate to local society. 
The targets and strategies are: A comprehensive recruitment structure and programme of teacher training. Create partnership and network with mainstream schools, businesses, institutions and other recognized bodies. Develop strategies for fundraising. Create awareness of supplementary schools and celebrate pupils’ achievement. Create local and national advisory bodies for supplementary Schools. Engage with parents and community to promote supplementary schools. Establish a clear vision, policies and monitoring procedures. Establish supplementary schools in mainstream schools. Islamic studies and Arabic language must be taught with meaning and practical application. Improve pupils’ social, personal, and spiritual development. 
State Schools
Challenges and Priorities are: Few opportunities for parental support and participation. Irrelevant and non-inclusive curriculum; absence of role models, senior Muslim teachers and mentors; lack of identity, self-esteem, and feeling of alienation; Islamophobia and ignorance about the needs of Muslim pupils; lack of facilities for Muslim pupils, e.g. Halal food, washing and prayer arrangements; peer pressure; language and cultural barriers; low pupil motivation and expectations and poor behaviour and attendance. 
Targets and strategies are: develop strategies for increasing parental involvement, e.g. workshops for Muslim parents, and engage with local community and organizations; all teachers should be trained on the needs of Muslim pupils; development of diverse and inclusive curriculum; senior management should work with Muslim teachers to create positive role models; provide facilities for Muslim pupils; launch campaign to encourage more Muslims into the teaching profession; schools should have clear action plan to raise attainment of Muslim pupils; utilize Citizenship lessons to define what it means to be British and Muslim; conduct research and perform data analysis about Muslim pupils to inform strategies; and increase moral, social and spiritual development of pupils.  
Muslim Faith Schools
Challenges and priorities are: lack of clear vision, ineffective leadership and weak organizational infrastructure; inadequate curriculum resources and provision for effective teaching and learning; insufficient provision of social education and personal development of pupils; low expectations of parents and limited parental engagement; curriculum lacks Islamic focus and no standard definition of Islamisation, and unclear measures for determining achievement. 
Targets and strategies are: set up working groups to promote collaboration between faith schools and mainstream state schools; embed teaching and learning within an Islamic ethos and broader curriculum; devise clear policies and guidelines for the recruitment of qualified teachers; set up systems and training to build leadership and management capacity; improve the community and parents in raising awareness of pupil achievement; develop accredited and standardized Islamic and Arabic curriculum; and establish partnership with initial teacher training providers and institutions.  
Curriculum Developers
Challenges and Priorities: lack of Islamised and culturally sensitive curriculum and resources to meet the needs of Muslim pupils and national curriculum requirements; inadequate levels of core learning skills; poor provision for social/moral/ spiritual development of pupils; u understanding of the definition and nature of integrated curriculum; no emphasis on independent learning and absence of cross curricular links between Islamic studies and other subjects. 
Targets and Strategies: set up working groups to determine the scope of Islamisation and present a standard definition with working guidelines; develop an integrated curriculum that allows pupils to explore, reflect and generate new ideas; develop partnerships and share good practice between the schools; develop a collective bank of integrated themes and schemes of work for each subject and develop appropriate assessment for learning (AFL) strategies to map Islamic studies attainment levels within other subjects. 
School Governors
Challenges and Priorities: low number of representative governors; poor understanding of roles/responsibilities (application procedure) and insufficient role models; lack of adequate skills and training; language/communication barrier; and limited access to mosques to promote the role of governors. 
Targets and Strategies: create greater awareness and publicity regarding roles/responsibilities; more proportionate governor levels; increase mosque involvement; more training provision; schools to encourage more parental and community involvement; and utilize existing governors as role models to lead recruitment. 
Parents
Challenges and Priorities: insufficient parental encouragement/support/communication with children; lack of role models for children; inadequate knowledge of legal parental rights and responsibilities within the education system; children with confused identity; poor school attendance; no contribution towards the curriculum; language barrier; limited participation in school activities; lack f time to get involved in child’s welfare and development; mismanagement of finance; and not realizing benefits of education. 
Targets and Strategies: training and skills workshops: family learning; greater involvement in schools and parent associations; collaboration with existing parent organizations; greater mosque involvement; monitor/support child development and school attendance; create education awareness projects and overcome language barrier. 
Educating the Young Child 
Another one-day Conference  on “Educating the Young Child” organized by The Quest Foundation for Learning, London, a Muslim educational organization, held at the Kensington Town Hall, London, on  April, 2007. The conference has two sections: one on the speech and another on workshop. Both were running simultaneously. Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad of Cambridge University spoke on TBA; Guest speaker Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, spoke on “Toxic Childhood,” Batool Al-Toma from New Muslims Project, The Islamic Foundation, Leicester, UK, spoke on “Brown Owl: Brownies and Girl Guides;” Shaykh Hamza Yusuf of Zaytuna Institute, spoke on “Raising Muslim Boys” through special video message; Dr. Ann El-Moslimany of the Islamic School of Seattle, spoke on “Bilingual Islamic Montessori: the ISS Experience” and the concluding speech on “The Role of the Muslim Father” was delivered by Imam Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna  Institute. 
In the Workshop section, there were 13 workshops such as “Starting a Small School,” “Getting Started in Home Education (IHSAN),” “Role of Muslim Teachers in the State Secular System,” “Steiner and Islamic Perspectives on Parenting in Early Childhood, “Realistic Mathematics Education, A Proven Dutch Method of Developing Early Numeracy,” “Using the Montessori Method at Home,” “Assessing the Pupil’s Developing Islamic Personality,” “Islamic School? State School? Private School? Home School? Making the Right Educational Choices for Your Child,” “The Classical Curriculum: Developing a well-Trained Mind,” “Education and the Importance of Play,” “Successful Models for Weekend Supplementary Schools” and “Promoting Children’s Spirituality at Home and School.” 
The Quest Foundation for Learning is a very young organization. It has organized this conference at the beginning with the early years, and also with a general overview of education and upbringing. “Before delving into the particular virtues of any given curriculum or other specific aspect of education, we would like to stimulate a new educational discourse in our communities, away from the standard discussion of League tables, testing and government initiatives, to the questions that lie at the heart of education. What is education’s aims and purpose? What is the nature of childhood, and when and how do children learn best? What kind of adults do we hope our children will become? And what do they need from home and school in order to achieve these(and their own) goals?” said Fatima M. D’Oyen of The Quest Foundation for Learning.  
Sister Fatima also said, “From Classical education to Steiner, Montessori to unschooling; and whether the place of instruction is at home or mosque; state school, Islamic or supplementary; Britain or elsewhere; there is something new for each of us to learn from and take back home to share. We ask that you approach new ideas with an open mind, take what is best and respectfully leave the rest. What seems right to one will not be right for all.”
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RESEARCH REPORT 
Islam at the Universities in England:
Meeting the Needs and Investing in the Future 
Thus far it is about raising the attainment of Muslim pupils in schools. But it needs to do more to make them good Muslim. It needs to teach them about their religion. Fortunately, both the Government and the British Muslim community realized this. The Minister of Higher Education, Bill Rammell, MP, invited Dr. Ataullah Siddiqui, Director of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education, Leicester, to write a report on "what measures can be taken to improve the quality of information about Islam that is available to students and staff in universities in England." Dr. Siddiqui submitted the Report "Islam at Universities in England: Meeting the Needs and investing in the Future" on 10th of April, 2007 to the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education. The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, mentioned about the report in his speech at the Two-day Conference on "Islam and Muslims in the World Today" at Lancaster House, in the first week of June, 2007. "We publish today the Siddiqui Report on the UK and what more we need to do to encourage the right intellectual and academic debate on these issues here in Britain," Tony Blair said and added, "We intend to follow-up on many of Dr. Siddiqui’s recommendations and will be providing significant funding to deliver on this commitment."   
The former Prime Minister unveiled a one million package to support the recommendations to reform Islamic Studies and for the training of Muslim religious leaders in the UK. The report recommended that universities should recruit traditionally trained scholars, consider the appointment of Muslim chaplains or advisers, change syllabuses to focus on aspects of Islam relevant to the contemporary practice of the faith and provide "add-on" elements to help give students an edge in the jobs market. 
The report criticizes University courses for concentrating too narrowly on the Middle East and failed to reflect on the modern realities of Muslim life in multicultural Britain. "The study of Islam and its civilization remains anchored in the colonial legacy and mainly serves the diplomatic and foreign services. Teaching and research programmes need to be reorientated," the Report recommends.
World-wide Educational Awareness 
Popular Culture and Political Identity
in the Gulf States Conference in London  
A one-day conference on Popular Culture and Political Identity in the Arab Gulf States, organized by the London Middle East Institute, SOAS, was held at the Brunei Gallery on Thursday, 8th of January 2007. The introductory session was addressed by Dr. Lubna Al-Kazi, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Kuwait University who spoke on "Gulf Societies: Co-existence of Tradition and Modernity." Dr. Al-Kazi highlights some of the economic, demographic and social changes that have occurred in the region. Free education up to university level has led not only to low illiteracy rates but has also encouraged female education.  
In some Gulf societies female literacy is higher than male literacy and female students outnumber men at universities. Free health services have led to a decline in mortality and a rise in life expectancy to above 65 years. In the economic sphere, Gulf women are now qualified as engineers, doctors and lawyers, working in fields which were previously considered male domains. Recently elections with women taking part have become commonplace in certain Gulf countries. Gulf societies have embraced tradition and modernity simultaneously; they have tried to retain their identity while entering the global arena, Dr. Al-Kazi said. 
The second session was on "Means of expression in Gulf societies." Khaled Al-Maeena, Editor-in Chief, Arab News Daily, spoke on "Communication Flows: Print and Electronic Media." He observed, "Media in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia has reached the stage of maturity, not less than around the globe. There are certain subjects we never spoken about because there are social taboos." He also said that technology has changed. Speaking about leaders, al-Maeena said, "There are now new leaders. Most of the Gulf States have new leaders. These people have been recognized as agent of change. They like to see that our country are not just like bystanders when other progress but also passengers on the road of life." "The opposition of the freedom of expression in the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia not comes from the Government; it comes from a section of the people who do not want subjects to be discussed.  This is a very strange phenomenon. It is really mind-boggling."  
When people asked al-Maeena whether there is problem in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, he said, "Yes, we have problems. You have to be critical of the society. We need to upgrade our education, our youth who looks up for mentors or role models. Newspapers have to focus on the role models. The boom that came across the Gulf took people away from their family and values; our newspapers have been focusing on these issues, they are focusing things ranging from petty crime to terrorism. I am personally very optimistic about the whole scenario provided we have the great journalists half of them are women."  
The third session was on "Looking Ahead – Adapting to Change." Dr. Amr Hamzawy, senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and taught at the Cairo University and Free University of Berlin, said, "Throughout the last few years, the GCC countries have experienced significant openings in their public spaces: politics, religion, culture and society have all been debated in an unprecedented pluralist manner."  
Speaking on "Rendering unto Caesar: Media and Social Learning in the United Arab Emirates," Dr. Nada Moutada-Sabbah, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies and Chair of the Department of International Studies, American University of Sharjah, said, "During the past three decades, the United Arab Emirates have witnessed vast economic and social change. Originally an assortment of seven desert emirates, the country has grown into a regional economic powerhouse. In its market economy, sophisticated modern media bombard citizens with messages of consumer (and rather secular) behaviour. For some time though, Emirati society has been moving away from the mythic Bedouin-inspired lifestyle recorded in Arabian Sands to that of an increasingly sedentary, highly urbanized society. This new society is faster paced, and possibly more secular, than ever before." 
Dr. Moutada-Sabbah observed, "Today's transitional generation of young, well-educated Emiratis faces the conundrum of adapting the best that a knowledge-based economy can offer while retaining the best of traditional society. Whether Emiratis will be able to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto society what is society's is difficult to predict. The pathway they take will affect the nation's long-term future and determine what the impact of media upon social learning will ultimately be," Dr. Moutada-Sabbah observed.