Monday, August 01, 2005

Muslim Schools In Australia Teach
That Jews Poison Bananas and
How to Stab Pictures of Jesus

From the Australian paper The Age, via LGF:

The teacher could not believe what he overheard. The "visiting" imam was launching into a tirade against the Jews and Americans that bordered on the ludicrous.

But then came the clincher, he recalled. "The imam told the students that the Jews were putting poison in the bananas and they should not eat them."

The imam was told to ease up on the inflammatory language after staff objected.

Werribee College is from all accounts an Islamic school with a difference. According to former staff it was a longstanding practice of the school principal, Omar Hallak, to have Muslim staff sleep on the premises after big international terror attacks such as those in Bali and the London tube bombings to prevent retributive attacks.

The Sunday Age has been told that Werribee College appears intent on exporting its particular brand of Islam to Indonesia, an achievement made possible by generous commonwealth and state grants — estimated to be in excess of $3 million a year.

Last week, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils warned that young Muslims were prey to visiting imams and religious scholars. Council president Ameer Ali said Muslim extremists were posing a problem for "vulnerable and impressionable youth". Visiting imams were being brought to Australia by new and emerging groups unknown to the community, he said. His words were endorsed by outspoken Sydney cleric Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, who said the Muslim community had not done enough to confront extremists.

The treatment of female staff and students has become an issue over recent years, with attempts to pay female teachers less, prevent them from sharing offices with male teachers and the imposition of strict dress codes.

While such practices have alarmed education professionals, teacher unions and the broader Muslim community, there is a reluctance to deal with them and regulatory hurdles that make this difficult. Cultural and religious sensitivities make investigations tricky unless there has been an official complaint. "Without somebody making a sworn statement, it is hard to act without being accused of racial or cultural bias," said a prominent education professional who declined to be identified.

... Muslim schools are free to shape and direct students in a religious environment of their choosing. And there is nothing illegal about teaching students about the Taliban, Osama bin Laden or extreme interpretations of Islam.

Keysar Trad, the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, says the proliferation of Islamic schools is causing concern in the Muslim community. "This proliferation means that small groups can go and set up schools and run them in the name if Islam. They are accountable to nobody but themselves."

Prejudice in a class of its own

The teacher was alarmed by what she discovered in the school library. An image of Christ in a book on comparative religion had been defaced.

When she asked students to explain, they told her that another teacher, a devout Muslim, had asked them to demonstrate that Islam was the one true faith by striking the picture with sharpened pencils.

"They told me they had been made to line up and one by one stab the picture," the teacher told The Sunday Age. "As far as I know, the book is still in the library."

It was not the first incident or the last that would disturb this teacher — and several others — during her two years at one of Melbourne's lesser-known Islamic schools.

At the same school, the teacher said, complaints by the science co-ordinator about an incompetent year 12 physics teacher were dismissed by the principal on the grounds that the teacher "was hired to teach about Islam, which he was very good at". At other Muslim schools, The Sunday Age has been told, administrators banned all overt signs of other faiths.

In one case a non-Muslim member of staff was told to remove a crucifix from the dashboard of a car parked in view of the students and a female Hindu teacher was ordered to remove marriage jewellery.

The teacher, who was dismissed from the school because she was "over qualified", is now employed at a Christian faith-based school.

She says she has no regrets about leaving. "The atmosphere at the school was unhealthy," she said. "When you asked children to write about their favourite hero, they nearly always wrote about Osama bin Laden."

The one silver lining in this very, very dark cloud is that it was mostly Muslim Australians who were reporting these ideological atrocities.