I saw something eerie this week. It wasn't an apparition exactly, but rather a head-spinning blur of headlines about global jihad that, rather incredibly, began to take on the unmistakable shape of a British old school tie.
How? Maybe I should start by explaining it was the old school tie that came to mind first in the form of a new publication on British education: Namely, a 72-page manifesto (sorry, "guidance") from the Muslim Council of Britain on how British state schools might better accommodate children from the Muslim community, which, according to the 2001 census, makes up 2.7 percent of the British population.
Did I say "better" accommodate their Muslim pupils? I mean accommodate them much, much better. In fact, if the British were to adopt half of the MCB's recommendations for making British schooling Muslim-friendly, they might as well re-issue the 19th-century boys' school classic as Abdullah Brown's School Days. At the crux of the MCB document is a call for special treatment for Britain's Muslim students that is so special as to reorient the entire British system according to Islamic law.
The report kicks off with a British poll finding that religion "appears to be more important" to young Muslims than to young people of "white British or mixed heritage." It seems to follow, then, at least according to MCB logic, that Muslim religious requirements should also supersede those of "white British or mixed heritage young people," not to mention those of the Church of England. And, so, in this report, they effectively do.
Muslim girls should be allowed to wear the hijab instead of regulation uniforms -- of course, "schools may wish to specify the colour." (Thanks awfully.) Muslim boys should be allowed to grow beards "following the example of the Prophet Muhammad," not school grooming guidelines. Muslim children should receive "halal meals," a suggestion which entails a slew of other "suggestions" for staff training and food preparation and storage, and Muslim children should be allotted prayer rooms, perhaps segregated by sex.
That's not all. "Muslim pupils who wish to pray will need access to washing facilities to perform Wudu, which includes the washing of the hands, mouth, arms to the elbow and feet." Washing facilities?
Then comes Ramadan. Rather than simply informing schools how to accommodate pupils' private fasting, the MCB also explains how schools might participate in the holiday. Urging them to schedule tests, meetings, swimming ("the potential for swallowing water is very high") and sex education -- even reproductive science lessons -- some other time, the report also urges schools "to build on" the Ramadan spirit and participate in nightly fast-breaking meals.
Muslim students should be allowed to take Arabic as a foreign language, and perhaps study "the art of Qur'anic recitation" instead of music. And on and on. The MCB isn't asking the British taxpayer to create the perfect sharia state exactly, but rather the perfect sharia state school system.
And what does all of this have to do with that blur of jihad stories mentioned at the top of the column?
First, consider the headlines. In Pakistan, a liberal-minded minister (and wife and mother of two) was assassinated for not wearing a veil. (The shooter reportedly said, "I have no regrets. I just obeyed Allah's commandment.") Also in Pakistan, barbers received threatening letters warning them against continuing their "anti-sharia work"-- cutting customers' beards. (One barber told the Associated Press that two dozen barbers have responded by asking customers not to request shaves.) In London, a Muslim father killed his wife and four daughters (ages 16, 13, 10 and 3) because, according to the Telegraph, "he could not bear them adopting a more westernised lifestyle."
What is quite eerie about these horrific crimes is the striking fact that the perpetrators, who acted to avenge various infractions of Islamic law, would likely feel right at home in a British state school that had adopted the MCB's recommendations. In other words, the outlaws and the advocacy group are working in their different ways to enact Islamic law. Which should teach us all a lesson -- if we bothered to learn it.