The Roman Catholic Church is at the centre of a row after ordering its schools to teach Judaism alongside Christianity in O’ Level religious studies instead of Islam or other faiths.
The edict has been described as “very disappointing” by senior Muslim leaders. “The decision undermined Pope Francis’s message of greater tolerance between the faiths,” Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said, while urging Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols to think again.
According to the Daily Mail, the Church decided to introduce Judaism as the second religion to be taught after last year’s reforms to the GCSE exam. Under the new rules, schools are required to teach two religions rather than one.
The change was made to drive out extremism out of the classroom after the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, in which individuals were found to have been introducing fundamentalist Islamic teaching into Muslim schools in Birmingham.
“Teaching about the Jewish faith would ensure schools continued to comply with the stipulations of bishops that pupils are given a solid grounding in Christianity,” Paul Barber, the director at the Catholic Education Service said.
Further, he maintained that pupils would learn about other faiths during normal religious education lessons.
However, critics have said that many of the Catholic Church’s 2,150 primary and secondary schools have a significant number of pupils from an Islamic background, including the Rosary Catholic Primary in Birmingham, where more than 90 per cent of the children are Muslim.
“This is not a good decision. It does not reflect well on the messages that are coming out from the Church for greater tolerance of other faiths. This is a difficult time for religions and the last thing you would expect is a major faith making such a statement,” Sir Iqbal said.
Moreover, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire has also urged all religious authorities to allow individual heads the freedom to decide what is best for pupils.