Community Cohesion in London

The news that London has its first Muslim Mayor is met with pride by some and fear by others.

The Guardian reports how British Muslims feel about Sadiq Khan becoming the city’s first Muslim Mayor.

Meanwhile the Daily Mail talks about how the Britain First leader turned his back on Sadiq Khan when he gave his victory speech.

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What British Muslims really think

A TV programme on Wednesday evening on Channel 4 might be worthwhile watching for our GCSE RS students. Channel 4 commissioned face-to-face, at-home interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 Muslims across the UK between 25 April and 31 May 2015 so they would be able to report on what British Muslims really think. Obviously a thousand is no where near the actual number of Muslims living in Britain (2, 706, 066), but as  a survey it is found to be enough to be representative. The Guardian has reported in quite some depth about the TV programme’s findings but I still think watching it would be worthwhile.

A few interesting facts were unearthed by the survey:

  • The research suggests that 86% of British Muslims feel a strong sense of belonging in Britain, which is higher than the national average of 83%.
  • A large majority (91%) of the British Muslims who took part in the survey said they felt a strong sense of belonging in their local area, which is higher than the national average of 76%.
  • However, when asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed that homosexuality should be legal in Britain, 18% said they agreed and 52% said they disagreed, compared with 5% among the public at large who disagreed.
  • 39% of the Muslims surveyed agreed that “wives should always obey their husbands”, compared with 5% of the country as a whole.

Difficulties of an Interfaith Marriage

When learning about Community Cohesion and how people in society can be pulled together with racial harmony and no fear of sexism, racism and homophobia, students consider the benefits and pitfalls of interfaith marriage. It is when people of different faiths get married, such as a Christian and non-Christian or a Hindu and Muslim.

Students consider the difficulties of choosing an appropriate marriage ceremony for both people; which faith their children will be brought up with; how there may be conflicting food rules; the difficulty of attending a place of worship on different days and not as a family; and how the extended family and local faith communities might respond. It can be tricky.

Well the Daily Mail reports a story today of how a divorced couple are arguing over the religious upbringing of their child as the mother, a Muslim, does not want her ex-husband to take the son to a Christian Church as it will confuse him. Derby County Court agreed with her and he risks visiting and custodial rights to his nine year old son if he takes him to a Christian Church. The father who cannot be named for legal reasons says:

‘My son is being indoctrinated and the only way I can show him other things is to take him to other places. If I don’t show him other types of life he will become just like a dumb sheep. I want him to see and learn about different cultures.’

The boy lives with his mother but sees his dad at weekends. The court case specifies that the father must not take the boy to any religious event. It decrees he must provide only Halal food and reassure the child he is ‘an ordinary Muslim boy following Muslim rules’. There has been uproar from the Christian community who’ve said that if it was the other way round, there’d be a bigger public backlash and cries of Islamophobia.

It’s an interesting debate. How much should parents decide the religious upbringing of their children and until what age? What should happen if the two parents are of differing faiths: should one dominate? The New York Times had a well written article in 2013 where they said Interfaith unions were really a mixed blessing. The political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell reported a significant positive of Interfaith Marriages: that the more Americans got to know people of another faith, the more they liked them. The New York Times journalist’s research showed that marrying someone of another faith tended to improve one’s view of that faith.

Let’s understand the Christian viewpoint!

Looking at the Christian teachings on Interfaith Marriage St Paul advised the Christians at Corinth to avoid entering significant relationships, such as marriage, with unbelievers. There you have it: Don’t marry an unbeliever—that is, someone who doesn’t share the basics of Christian doctrine and practice. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 in the King James Version of the Bible it says: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

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To explain that a little a yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them. Instead of working together, they are at odds with one another.

 

 

“Miss we’re not allowed to say hot cross buns anymore!”

Today at school a student claimed we weren’t allowed to say ‘hot cross buns’ anymore as it would offend Muslims. I questioned where he’d got such a story from and then demonstrated that we were allowed to say both hot cross buns and Easter eggs without offending anyone.

So where had he got this story from? I’ve tried to find the story online but failed. What I did find was a newspaper article in the Express from 2007 which explained how a hospital banned hot cross buns to not offend ethnic minorities. This didn’t go down well with religious leaders saying how ludicrous it was and Muslims saying how they’re not offended by hot cross buns and often eat them themselves.

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Meanwhile in 2003 the Telegraph reported how lots of local councils were banning their schools from putting hot cross buns on the menu to avoid offending non-Christians. Again this move met with lots of criticism: The Muslim Council of Britain called the decision “very, very bizarre”. A spokesman said: “This is absolutely amazing. At the moment, British Muslims are very concerned about the upcoming war with Iraq and are hardly going to be taken aback by a hot cross bun.

“Unfortunately actions like this can only create a backlash and it is not very thoughtful. I wish they would leave us alone. We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us. British Muslims have been quite happily eating and digesting hot cross buns for many years and I don’t think they are suddenly going to be offended.”

Making the whole furore more ridiculous is the fact hot cross buns were probably around first as a pagan snack before being adopted by the Christians in England. It wasn’t until Queen Elizabeth I that hot cross buns were pushed to only be eaten around Good Friday. You can find out more hot cross buns and Simnel Cake from a website about England’s history.

In the staffroom today we all enjoyed a hot cross bun: teachers and TA’s of all faiths and none. Nobody broke out into song though! Off school on Wednesday when my son was ill we went to rhyme time at Woking library and sang along…

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Music and poetry linked to community cohesion

In class today we learnt about community cohesion and how things like the London Riots of 2011 might wreck our idea of what a strong, united community looks like.

Plan B’s Ill Manors is a great song showing how poor investment in community initiatives like community centres pushes young people to do things they shouldn’t, like rioting. Listen carefully to the lyrics.

Then there’s a song by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip called Great Britain which again if listened to carefully explains how knife crime and gang crime can ruin communities.

Moving on to poetry now, Benjamin Zephaniah’s famous poem The British is read by young people as part of the BBC Poetry Season. You can read the poem on Zephaniah’s website too.

Finally here’s a debate show arguing about whether we should promote a united British identity. Some might prefer us celebrating everyone’s differences whereas others think we should all blend together into some British identity.

Sam Smith tweets shock at racism in London

In equal measure the singer Sam Smith has been praised and criticised for tweeting his outrage at witnessing a friend being racially abused in London. Critics say it just shows the white middle class ignorance at the level of racism that is constantly existing in the UK  – as in if you don’t see it then it isn’t happening. Whereas others have praised him, including the Show Racism the Red Card organisation for putting the spotlight on racism and expressing how disgusting it is.

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Sam’s tweets are reported on the BBC  and the backlash he’s received. All we know from the tweets is that he saw his friend being racially abused and was in complete shock that this sort of thing actually exists, and that the police seemed to be no help at all.

Sam Smith has an amazing 2015 with the Red Nose Day song Lay Me Down with John Legend and the first ever number one Bond song Writing’s On The Wall.