Monday 24 September 2007

Religion and education: Part 3

I may have got a little hot under the collar here and here about religion in British schools, but at least we can console ourselves that things are much worse in Russia. According to a report in the New York Times:

One of the most discordant debates in Russian society is playing out in public schools like those in this city not far from Moscow, where the other day a teacher named Irina Donshina set aside her textbooks, strode before her second graders and, as if speaking from a pulpit, posed a simple question:

“Whom should we learn to do good from?”

“From God!” the children said.

“Right!” Ms. Donshina said. “Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not! He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.”

Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return of religion to public life, localities in Russia are increasingly decreeing that to receive a proper public school education, children should be steeped in the ways of the Russian Orthodox Church, including its traditions, liturgy and historic figures.

Even this pales into insignificance beside the Saudi government's policy of inculcating wahhabist Islam - with its demonisation of Christians, Jews and 'unbelievers' - via that country's school system, as revealed here.

Mind you, there's no room for complacency here at home, as the Saudis have been known to export their model of religious education to Islamic schools in Britain. And as Nick Cohen reported in the Observer on Sunday, their influence extends to British mosques, as part of what Cohen describes as 'the Saudi attempt to convert Europe's Muslims to wahhabhism and its sister creeds'. According to Cohen, both mosque-goers and government officials are too intimidated to speak out:

One prominent figure, who is occasionally allowed on to the airwaves to balance the Muslim Council of Britain, told me he never used the words 'Saudi Arabia' or 'Wahhabism'.
When he wanted to discuss either, he referred fuzzily to 'foreign funding for extremist doctrines'. He knows that if he speaks out, he will be banned from Saudi Arabia. Blacklisting is a formidable sanction for him and others as he has a religious duty to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

He is also frightened of being sued - as is everyone else. Britain's repressive libel laws are becoming a threat to security and racial harmony. 'Saudi money is now a major source of income for London libel firms,' one lawyer told me. 'School fees and second homes depend on it.'

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