Friday, September 12, 2014

of schools, secularism, and Islam

After my letter in yesterday's Irish Times (which argues that the current 'storm in a tea-cup' about Irish schools being discriminating against Muslims has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with yet another attempt by secularists to drive religion from our schools*) I had a very nice phone-call from a teacher in a Muslim school in Ireland, praising my letter and agreeing with my sentiments. I also had an email from an Irish Imam who said:

Secularists are so intolerant that they do not miss any chance to unjustifiably attack religion. It is as if they are the only citizens or taxpayers. This behaviour is strange in a democratic society. 

It is very saddening to see people turning their back towards religion as if it has no role in society and then complaining about crime and loss of meaning and purpose of life that leads to despair. Most of the modern western values of justice, rule of law, appreciation of human soul are derived from its Christian heritage.  

So, we're all singing off the same hymn sheet on this issue. And what a very gracious acknowledgement from the Imam of how much the West owes to Christianity. As I began by saying, after all the negative things in the media lately about Islam, I thought it important to try and balance things out a little, even if it is only in this blog. 

*note: schools in the Republic of Ireland are state funded but not state founded. Most are denominational, run under the patronage of the local Roman Catholic bishop - say 90%. Another 5% perhaps would be under Church of Ireland (Anglican) patronage. The rest would under the patronage of various special interests groups (Irish language, secular/non-denominational, Muslim, etc). Each school is run by a volunteer local board of management, which effectively owns the property & is the legal employer of the teachers. The state pays the salary and covers most of the other costs by way of grants (including, often, grants to actually build the school, with the site being provided by the local community). A fair bit of fund-raising is done to meet the rest of the costs. This is all done under the provision of the Irish Constitution which recognises both the rights of a child to an education & the parent as the primary educator of the child  to have a school ethos which reflects their values and beliefs. Obviously this means that a child will, for logistical reasons, end up in a school that might not be in line with what their parents believe. Schools do their best to accommodate those whose home ethos differs from that of the school, while at the same time not compromising on the school ethos.

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