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?
The guidelines continue. "This state of purification becomes nullified when one goes to the toilet or breaks wind." Heavens. Such, er, nullification calls for more washing -- "private parts," this time. "Hence pupils will need to use water cans or bottles that are easily accessible from a storage area in or near the washing area."