Thursday, July 1, 2010

Muslim pupils taken out of music lessons 'because Islam forbids playing an instrument'

Muslim pupils are being withdrawn from music lessons because some families believe learning an instrument is anti-Islamic, it emerged today.

An investigation has discovered that Muslim pupils are being taken out of school music classes even though the subject is a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

While parents have legal rights to withdraw children from religious and sex education classes, no automatic right exists to pull them out of subjects such as music.

Pupils in a music class at a primary school: Some Muslim families have withdrawn children for religious reasons

One education expert said that up to half of Muslim pupils were withdrawn from music lessons during Ramadan.

And The Muslim Council of Britain said music lessons were likely to be unacceptable to around 10 per cent of the Muslim population in Britain.

However, in certain branches of Islam - such as Sufism, which is dominant in Pakistan and India - devotional music and singing is actually central to the religion.

A BBC investigation found that in one London primary school, 20 pupils were removed from rehearsals for a Christmas musical and one five-year-old girl remains permanently withdrawn from mainstream music classes.

Some Muslims believe that playing musical instruments and singing is forbidden according to Islam.

At Herbert Morrison Primary in Lambeth, 29 per cent of children come from mainly Somalian Muslim families.

Headmistress Eileen Ross said some parents 'don't want children to play musical instruments and they don't have music in their homes'.

One girl remains permanently withdrawn from the school's music curriculum, which consists of a government-backed project to learn instruments such as the violin or cello.

'There’s been about 18 or 22 children withdrawn from certain sessions, out of music class, but at the moment I just have one child who is withdrawn continually from the music curriculum,' Mrs Ross told the BBC.

'It’s not part of their belief, they feel it detracts from their faith.

'For goodwill I allow that parent to withdraw their child from all music but I am in fact denying the child the opportunity that the other children in the class have.'

Ofsted and education experts raised concerns over the findings.

The Open University's Dr Diana Harris, an expert on music education and Muslims, said she had visited schools where half of the pupils were withdrawn from music lessons during Ramadan, and she claimed Ofsted inspectors sometimes turned 'a blind eye' to the issue.

'Most of them really didn’t know why they were withdrawing their children,' she told the BBC.

'The majority of them were doing it because they had just learned that it wasn’t acceptable and one of the sources giving out that feeling was the Imams particularly Imams who had come over from Pakistan, didn’t really speak English and felt threatened.

'I think they were adhering to very strict lines about what was acceptable.

'At secondary level parents who really object to music will be withdrawing then and going to a Muslim school.

At primary schools in some areas one or two permanently withdrawn but at Ramadan I’ve been to schools were 50 per cent of the Muslim student population have been removed from music class for the month.'

She added: 'Although I wouldn't want anyone to do anything against their religion, I feel there's a lot in music which gives us great joy in life.'

The Muslim Council of Britain said music lessons were likely to be unacceptable to around 10 per cent of the Muslim population in Britain - suggesting thousands of youngsters are being withdrawn.

But a spokesman for Ofsted said: 'Music is an important part of any child or young person's education.

Any examples of pupils being treated unequally would be a matter of significant concern.'

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