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Head of British Muslim faith schools calls for teaching of Judaism

Move follows UK chief rabbi’s urging of Islam education, and a new requirement that schools teach a second religion

Ashfaque Chowdhury, head of the UK Association of Muslim Schools, at an AMS conference in 2012. (YouTube screenshot)
Ashfaque Chowdhury, head of the UK Association of Muslim Schools, at an AMS conference in 2012. (YouTube screenshot)

The head of Muslim faith schools in Britain has called for the teaching of Judaism in the schools, echoing a call by Britain’s chief rabbi to teach Islam in Jewish schools.

Ashfaque Chowdhury, the chairman of Britain’s Association of Muslim Schools, said he will encourage member schools to teach their students about Judaism, the JewishNews.co.uk website reported last week.

“We were hoping to recommend Catholicism and Judaism as we can complement the teaching by visits to each other’s schools and joint activities between students,” Chowdhury told the Jewish News. “We feel it will contribute to community cohesion, British values and interfaith relations. I also feel that amongst Abrahamic religions, Islam and Judaism are most similar.”

Days earlier, the spokesman for British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in an interview with the London Jewish Chronicle, said it “is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims. As such, the chief rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed but often poorly understood in public discourse.”

Jewish Labour Party MP Luciana Berger (left), British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Sheikh Ibraham Mogra (right) participate in the UK's annual Mitzvah Day on November 22, 2015. (Yakir Zur)
Jewish Labour Party MP Luciana Berger (left), British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Sheikh Ibraham Mogra (right) participate in the UK’s annual Mitzvah Day on November 22, 2015. (Yakir Zur)

The office of the chief rabbi told the Jewish News that Chowdhury’s recommendation is “extremely significant.”

“We often talk about tolerance and understanding between communities as an ideal, but education is the vehicle that will get us there,” the statement from the office said. “It is so important that every child learns from a young age that all people are created in the image of God, no matter what their faith or ethnicity, and it is my hope that other Muslim schools will follow their lead.”

Beginning in September, British schools will be required to teach two faiths as part of their curriculum in order to receive secondary education certification in religious studies. Religious groups had lobbied against the new requirement.

The British government is requiring the teaching of two religions in its effort to counter religious extremism and promote tolerance.

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