I was gobsmacked to read a letter sent by a headteacher to the parents of children at her primary school. I understand that parents were subsequently notified that they should consider the letter retracted, almost certainly following local authority intervention and in the face of the backlash, but clearly one or more parents were outraged enough to go to the press and the damage was already done.
The news item is now available on the BBC news site.
The letter, dated 20/11/2013, read as follows:
As part of the National Religious Education Curriculum together with the multicultural community in which we live, it is a statutory requirement for Primary School aged children to experience and learn about different cultures.
The workshop is at Staffordshire University and will give your child the opportunity to explore other religions. Children will be looking at religious artefacts similar to those that would be on display in a museum. They will not be partaking in any religious practices.
Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.
As such our expectations are that all children in years 4 and 6 attend school on Wednesday 27th November to take part in this trip.
All absences on this day will be investigated for their credibility and will only be sanctioned with a GP sick note.
If you would like to discuss this further please contact our RE Coordinator, Mrs Edmonds.
At first glance, I thought it fake, but it isn’t. It’s unbelievably bigoted, politicised, and small-minded. I almost wish my kids were at this school, because I’d actually relish the fight with the cretin responsible for this kind of political threat and they certainly would have been withdrawn from R.E. lessons with immediate effect.
Somehow, I managed to learn about other peoples’ religions as a child by mixing with them socially. I didn’t need to go into the details of how often and in which direction they genuflected, when they fasted, or what particular types of superstition their particular brand of religion promoted.
I certainly didn’t need to go on cultural awareness courses when I was at school in Keighley! I knew kids of various cultures/faiths in my social circles and we got along pretty well in our comprehensive, mixed school. Indeed, my first best friend was a Jehova’s Witness, and without the benefit of ‘cultural awareness’ lessons, I somehow managed to figure out by myself that his family didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas like we did, or that he didn’t sit in our school assemblies. I didn’t need to go on a special course to discover that and, rather unsurprisingly it didn’t affect my life at all.
Until the Salman Rushdie affair, things rattled along fairly easily. It was when I saw members the Muslim community make blatant death threats towards a man for what he had written that I realised something was wrong and that not all faith groups were the same.
We have since discovered in reputable opinion polls that a sizeable chunk of the Muslim community support stances which are blatantly counter to western values of freedom of speech. Please check that link – you may be surprised/horrified.
On that basis alone, and the fact that we are bombarded daily with at least one item of negative item of news connected with this community, be it alleged offence in the face of free speech, sexism, homophobia, veiling of women and children, honour killings, terrorism, demonstrations, anti-western propaganda, misogyny, imposition of Halal foodstuffs and slaughter practices, child grooming rings, etc., means we are all only too culturally aware of Islam. And as much as people may protest about the way such news is reported, try as they might, they can’t dispute that the events happened or to which faith the protagonists happened to subscribe.
If we must be subjected to ‘cultural awareness’, I’d rather like to see some more emphasis on Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, and other faiths for a change: faiths which seem to fit perfectly comfortably into our society, because they accept our societal norms and don’t operate on the basis of trying to alter our societal norms to comply to their particular dogmas. But before we go there even, how about some cultural awareness lessons about our culture for everyone? As much as it’s been blatantly ignored and downtrodden, we have our own traditions, music, and other arts within England. I say England, because our friends in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are perfectly happy and at ease with celebrating their cultures. I know of people my age who have heard English folk music and mistaken it for Irish folk music, which is very revealing.
I am happy to tolerate anyone’s beliefs/cultural practices up to the point where they attempt to restrict other people’s freedoms, claim special treatment at everyone else’s inconvenience or at the cost of tax payers, or preach apartheid or hatred rather than integration. It’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, there remains a sizeable minority which is the problem, and this problem is exacerbated by idiots like this teacher attempting to force people to respect a religion which needs to do a little more respecting of its host culture first.
When we have a week or even a day pass without news about events triggered by the naive belief that it is fine to just import incompatible or counter-Enlightenment cultural practices into this country without any attempt to integrate these people, I’ll be a little more predisposed to engage with this community.
I am all too aware of Islam and what its effects are in practice. I know that there are plenty of good Muslims too, because they are often in agreement with me and I with them over these kinds of issues and in these kind of discussions. There are indeed plenty of Muslims who are embarrassed and angry with parts of their own community and its indigenous apologists. The irony here is that many Muslims will not appreciate the efforts of this woman to force her political agenda on others with threats. Many Muslims are at pains to explain that they don’t need special treatment, that they don’t need Halal everything, that they don’t need protection of the ‘veil’, that they support free speech, that they are just fine with Christmas being called Christmas, and that, even if they are against it, that they understand western military action in Muslim countries is NOT a crusade against Islam (they remember our role defending Bosnian Muslims against Serbian Christians for a start) – although according to the polls linked to above, a large minority don’t think like that.
I don’t consider moderate Muslims to be the enemy. I don’t even consider the hard-line Islamists an immediate threat per se, and at least they have the clarity of thought and honesty to openly state their intentions to destroy democracy and supplant it with theocracy, as per their interpretation of the Quran.
It is often stated that not all Muslims are extremists. Well of course they aren’t, but you would be deliberately self-delusional to fail to spot the common factor in terrorism in the last decade. It is not Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, or Hindus which make the headlines every day.
No, I reserve true contempt for the multi-culti, ignorant, yoghurt-weaving apologist cretins like the woman responsible for this threatening letter, and those who can’t distinguish between criticism/dislike of something and hatred – who carelessly toss out the slur ‘racist’ (thereby Orwellianly devaluing its true meaning) and, adopting an angry, shouty, self-satisfied, smug stance, labelling anyone to the right of Marx a fascist.
They are the ones who cause resentment, misunderstandings, and who drive more impressionable people into the arms of the extreme right. They also, more cynically, achieve their objective by attempting to supplant ordinary decent people’s capacity for rational thought with received, politically correct opinion. Even a party like UKIP, whilst politically on the right, is actually really sincerely considered by otherwise intelligent people as racist! The fact that it has a membership, supporters, and even high level people of various ethnicities seems to put paid to any such claims, and its clear lack of any policies based around race, but apparently not, if received opinion is anything to go by. You can disagree with their politics, of course, but accusations of racism are false and frankly, pathetic. Of course, it serves the other parties to attempt to shame any UKIP supporters by branding them as such.
Anyway, what am I proposing here? That we should be dismissive of other cultures and traditions? No. Merely that we stop supporting the wrong people in the communities. Muslims are not demanding Halal food, cancellation of Christmas, or that the veil be worn at all times and in all places. If the PC likes of this headmistress made the effort to talk to the moderate Muslims, she would know this.
Children don’t need to attend cultural awareness courses. If we allow them to integrate, they get to know about each others cultures/belief systems quite naturally. Encouraging people not to integrate causes ghettoisation of communities and leads to tensions. So, to save people all the heartache and effort of organising special cultural awareness courses, I’ve written my own.
It’s OK to call out behaviour in other cultures you wouldn’t tolerate in your own. Use your brain. If something doesn’t seem right judged by modern western values, there’s a good chance that it isn’t right.
And branding children as racist for failing to endorse your own particular brand of cultural Marxism where the children aren’t even the decision-makers is right up there with things that aren’t right.