Muslim anger over council school snub
SCOTLAND'S biggest council believes that a state-funded Islamic faith school would lead to the "social isolation" of young Scottish Muslims, a secret document has revealed.
Despite publicly saying it would consider a school if community leaders could prove the demand, a memo obtained by Scotland on Sunday shows that Glasgow's education chiefs have voiced "serious concerns" about any such plans.
They also worry that it would replicate the problems suffered by an Islamic school which was shut down.
However, the authority has been criticised by Islamic groups for failing to be up front about its concerns.
A group of Muslim parents have been lobbying for a state-funded Islamic school in Glasgow, similar in principle to Roman Catholic and Jewish schools.
But in a document obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, senior officials at Glasgow City Council have told the head of the authority's education committee, Margaret McCafferty, that they have serious reservations about the plans.
In the briefing note, which carries the initials of Ronnie O'Connor, Glasgow's director of education - and which is dated December 15 of last year - two major worries are listed.
It refers to: "Serious concerns about an inclusive education for Muslims in the city beyond faith and the social isolation of Muslim children within the city."
It added: "Why would we assume that a state-funded Muslim school would not see the same problems that the privately funded Iqra Academy in Glasgow experienced and was subsequently closed by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education?"
The Iqra Academy was closed down in 2003 after a series of damning reports by inspectors. They said the school gave the pupils no opportunity to mix with the surrounding community and criticised the treatment of the girls at the school.
Inspectors also said too much time was devoted to Islamic studies.
A source close to the council said the authority's internal position had not changed since the memo was written last December.
Meanwhile, the authority's public stance has been one of saying it is open to the suggestion of a Muslim school.
Its deputy education convener, Gordon Matheson, has said on the subject: "Our education services will consult on the general principal of creating a Muslim school if a well developed proposal and widespread community support comes forward."
Muslim leaders have reacted with concern to the memo. Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said: "It's disappointing that they haven't raised these concerns with us up to now, the issue has always been one of proving the demand, which we are confident we can do.
"The concerns are completely misplaced, studies of pupils from Islamic schools in England have shown that they are more tolerant and open than those not in Islamic schools."
Opposition councillors have criticised the memo and the fact it was kept secret within the authority.
John Mason, leader of the SNP group, said: "It is wrong to keep these concerns hidden. They should be aired. I'm also uncomfortable with the idea of telling the Muslim community that it is up to them to come up with a plan."
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