The well-regarded Muslim organisation, British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD), has announced that it is joining the Accord Coalition, which brings together religious and non-religious groups to promote community schooling and reform the way faith schools currently operate.
BMSD's director, Tehmina Kazi explained: “Our goals in this area coincide, as BMSD wishes to see more faith schools embrace a broad and objective curriculum that teaches pupils about a variety of religious and non-religious beliefs.”
Kazi continued: “It is vital that we embed a culture of respect for these different beliefs, and we are confident that this will equip future generations to succeed in our pluralist and multicultural society. We are delighted to be part of this campaign as it works for more inclusive education.”
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, the chair of Accord (http://www.accordcoalition.org.uk/), welcomed the BMSD move : “Their involvement not only broadens the wide range of members, but also strengthens the campaign at a crucial time. There are increasing public worries about how some faith schools discriminate in terms of admissions or employment and how some can deny their pupils a rounded education about those outside their own faith”.
He added: “With the Equality Bill - which affects faith schools - currently going through Parliament, it is vital that all those who care about education ensure that faith schools are not left as a last bastion of institutional discrimination”.
The Accord Coalition was launched in early September 2008 to campaign for an end to religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions. The coalition also works for a fair and balanced RE curriculum and the removal of the requirement for compulsory collective worship but does not take a position for or against faith schools in principle.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association and the Christian think-tank Ekklesia are founder members of the Accord Coalition.
British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) is made up of a group of Muslim democrats of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, who support a clear separation between religion and the State.
Its mission statement commits it to “promote civic engagement, social inclusion, responsible citizenship and good governance, particularly within constituent Muslim communities of Britain; in order to build an understanding of the shared values between all citizens to enable them to live in an inclusive, pluralist, secular and confident Britain.”
BMSD’s founders explain that they wish to create a platform for alternative, diverse Muslim views, essential for a progressive, multi-layered, democratic identity that is not in conflict with itself or fellow citizens.
Also on Ekklesia: Equality and employment in faith schools: An Accord Equality Bill Briefing for the House of Lords Committee Stage, January 2010 - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/10976