Progressively Speaking: Should prejudiced parents be allowed to pull their kids out of lessons about Islam?

Progressively Speaking: Should prejudiced parents be allowed to pull their kids out of lessons about Islam?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a topical issue and applies a progressive response

 Unusually for a question answered by a rabbi, this one can be resolved in just one word – NO.

Like most, I was shocked to read reports – stemming from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ annual conference – that parents with prejudices, including Islamophobia, want to remove their children from certain lessons or visiting places of worship.

One such letter from a parent to the school was so full of racist language that authorities had to be informed.

This is clearly indefensible. These lessons are vital to preparing children to live in modern Britain alongside people of multiple faiths and none and the bigotry of their parents should not be able to prevent this.

However, there is debate as to whether parents should be able to pull their kids out of religious education lessons, because of their own deeply-held religious beliefs.

If you are devout, then surely putting belief in God up to academic scrutiny seems odd. If you believe your children are on the right path, should it be challenged?

Interestingly, this is a key part of Judaism. Since the beginning we have always questioned and wrestled with the ideas of God and belief.

This is why the Talmud always records the minority opinion. This is why Liberal Judaism was born 115 years ago and thrives today.

I had a Catholic grandmother, so learned about Christianity from her as a child.

Rather than making me question or leave my own Judaism, it actually gave me a fascination of faith and led me to study theology at university.

The only way we can expect people to be tolerant of our beliefs is through education, and so the same must be true the other way around.

If all we know about Islam is what we read in the press or see on social media then that gives us an entirely warped view.

Instead we should see the beauty in Islam, which in turn will help us build a more tolerant society.

By taking our children out of religious education classes with the worry they will somehow be radicalised by Islam, all we are achieving is radicalising them against Islam instead.

  • Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships
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