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Islam After Charlie Hebdo

by Michael Ford last modified 20 Jan, 2016 03:56 PM

Comment by Derek Holloway, RE Adviser for Dorset, 19 January 2015: with thanks to Dave Francis.

Islam After Charlie Hebdo

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Last week’s barbaric murders in France at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket produced shock across the world. The National Association of SACREs (NASACRE) has condemned the attacks in the strongest terms, but have been made aware that there are renewed efforts to get parents to withdraw their children from the teaching of Islam as part of RE. Islam is being characterised by some as a religion that promotes violence and intolerance and a religion that pupils should not have to learn about. Similarly, Muslims are being characterised as supporting terrorism and violence – either explicitly or implicitly.

While parents have a right to withdraw their child(ren) from RE as part of a school’s basic curriculum, or as part of the funding agreement with Academies and Free Schools, it is worth stressing that Religious Education in church schools in the Salisbury Diocese does not promote negative views of any religion, but rather, ‘provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human.’

As Islam is the second largest religious tradition in Great Britain, every Agreed Syllabus in England requires that pupils should learn about it, and pupils are encouraged ‘to reflect on, consider, analyse, interpret and evaluate issues of truth, belief, faith and ethics and to communicate their responses.’  The National Society’s statement of Entitlement for RE in Church schools requires that at least 1/3rd of the RE curriculum should focus on faiths other than Christianity and here in the Salisbury Diocese we would expect that that would include Islam. Furthermore the SIAMS inspection framework looks at ‘how well religious education contributes to learners understanding of and respect for diverse faiths and cultures’.

The NASACRE statement notes that ‘Schools must grant the request of withdrawal from RE by a parent, in whole or in part, but there is also an expectation that schools will work with parents to minimise withdrawal from RE. In discussion with parents it is important to stress that the vast majority of Muslims in this country, and across the world, deplore and denounce the type of events that we have seen in Paris and London in recent times. One of the policemen who lost his life in Paris protecting Charlie Hebdo’s offices was himself a Muslim, as was the person who sheltered and protected shoppers from the attack on the Jewish kosher supermarket. Therefore, to let terrorists define what a religion is, as opposed to the vast majority of its adherents, is to let terrorism itself win.’

NASACRE has also noted that the increased danger to which Muslim and Jewish teachers, pupils and their families themselves feel exposed. Schools have an absolute duty of care to their staff and pupils and they should be aware of the increased stress that pupils especially, may be experiencing. To imagine that these events would not affect them would be a mistake. Therefore senior leaders should be particularly sensitive at this time to the bullying and intimidation that pupils from Muslim, Jewish or other religious communities might experience.

We need to be particularly vigilant at this time.

Further responses that may be of use in RE can be found here, and teaching materials for secondary schools on violent extremism can be found here.


Derek Holloway was Salisbury Diocesan RE Adviser and SIAMS Manager, Associate RE Adviser to Dorset SACRE and a National Society Consultant.

Dave Francis is an education consultant with current contracts as Lead Consultant for RE:ONLINE and Adviser to North Somerset and Somerset SACREs. His email address is

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