Britain moots Muslim panel to forge better communal relations


London : British citizenship values will soon be taught in the country’s Muslim schools while an independent Muslim panel will discuss concerns, including the veil, coming in the way of community relations between them and non-Muslim Britons.

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The government has commissioned the University of Cambridge to set up the panel, which will be an independent board of academic and theological experts.

Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, has announced the move as part of a package to crack down on extremism and radicalisation.

“It is not for the government to dictate on matters of faith or religious teaching. But Muslim communities themselves have told us that stronger leadership is needed on what are often controversial issues,” Blears said.

Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, an imam with the Muslim Council of Britain, said the creation of the group had been driven by Muslims rather than the government.

Mogra told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme: “We felt we needed something of this nature to help create a better structured approach to how we are educating our children. We feel our children need to be taught that they can be proud Muslims and proud young British people.”

The Guardian quoted Blears as saying that young Muslims will be taught citizenship in their religious schools in an attempt to prevent them being turned into extremists. Trials of the new lessons will begin in several cities at the start of the new term in September. The initiative is designed to show that there is no conflict between Islam and being British.

Officials said teachers at mosques in London, Leicester, Birmingham, Oldham, Rochdale and Bradford would be trained in using the new materials over the summer. They will be used alongside traditional lessons about the Quran.