United Kingdom: Avoid ‘harmful forms of music’ in state schools, says Muslim council

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United Kingdom:
Avoid ‘harmful forms of music’ in state schools, says Muslim council

Muslim Council of Britain has published recommendations on how music lessons should be taught to Muslims in state schools in the United Kingdom. The guidelines are criticised by two Muslim organisations

Should a Muslim pupil in a state school be allowed to opt out of all activities involving music? Must music teachers in the state schools in Britain take care to avoid music which potentially could be “harmful” to Muslims? According to the Muslim Council of Britain, the answer is “yes”.

In a new publication from the Muslim Council of Britain, entitled ‘Towards Greater Understanding – meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools, Information & Guidance for Schools’, the following are the recommendations on how music teachers of the public schools in the United Kingdom should tackle the issue of music prohibition in Islam:

    “All forms of music that may include the use of obscene and blasphemous language, encourage or promote immoral behaviour, arouse lustful feelings, encourage the consumption of intoxicants and drugs or contain unethical and un-Islamic lyrics would be considered objectionable. For this reason some Muslim parents may express concerns in the way music is taught in school and the extent to which their children may participate in it. Some Muslims may hold a very conservative attitude towards music and may seek to avoid it altogether, not wishing their children to participate in school music lessons. In such cases the school can show great understanding by providing alternative musical learning opportunities.”
    “In the national curriculum there is no parental right to withdraw from music. However, parents may ask to see the syllabus and schemes of work. If they have consequent moral or religious concerns these can be raised with the headteacher who may be able to resolve them. Failing this the matter can also be taken up with the governors, who must have in place a formal arrangement for dealing with complaints relating to the curriculum. Where there is goodwill and understanding on all sides such issues are almost always resolved,” sounds the advice from the Muslim Council of Britain.

Recognising the needs of Muslim children
The 72-page guidelines was published on 21 February 2007. It draws on existing educational practices and is aimed at ensuring Muslim pupils are ‘appropriately accommodated for’ so they become part of mainstream school life. According to the Muslim Council of Britain, there are more than 400,000 Muslim pupils in the UK, and 96 percent of these are in the state school system.

Tahir Alam, who wrote the report, explained to The Guardian: “It’s not about special or separate treatment. It’s about recognising the needs of Muslim children. We’re not asking every school to do that, just where there’s a Muslim majority.”

According to the guidelines, features of good practice are that the school avoids studying forms of music that may raise religious or moral concerns for Muslim pupils and parents. Particularly in schools with a large number of Muslim pupils, the music curriculum provides opportunities for cultural inclusion. For example, there are opportunities to explore or study the art of Qur’anic recitation and composing and singing of nasheeds.

    “Muslim pupils should not be expected to participate in (…) musical presentations associated with celebrating aspects of other religions, such as nativity plays or Diwali, as some of these are likely to involve playing roles which are considered to be inconsistent with Islamic beliefs and teachings.”

The report also touches on the on-going debate about music prohibition in Islam. It is stated:

    “There is a great diversity of opinion regarding music amongst Muslims. These are often influenced by local cultures and varying religious interpretations. Traditionally, music is limited to the human voice and non-tuneable percussion instruments such as drums. Within these constraints, Muslim artists have been very creative. Relying on the beauty and harmony of their voices, Muslims use music to remember God, nature, justice, morality and history.Traditionally these types of musical renderings are called ‘Nasheeds’ and Muslims have been singing these for centuries, especially during wedding celebrations and festivals. Nasheeds have been significantly developed by Muslim artists as an alternative to potentially harmful forms of music, and have since grown in popularity amongst Muslims living in Britain.”

Critique from Muslim groups
The Muslim Council of Britain claims to be the voice of Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims, and the organisation heavily courted by politicians, including Tony Blair, following the 9/11 attacks in New York. Its former secretary-general Iqbal Sacranie was awarded a knighthood in 2005.

But according to The Daily Express, other Muslim groups have criticised the report. For instance, Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain said: “There has been no discussion on these issues in the Muslim community.”
The Sufi Muslim Council – which claims to represent far more British Muslims than The Muslim Council of Britain – said: “This is not what Islam or Ramadan is about. Ramadan is about training yourself while carrying on with everyday life.”


Sources

MCB News – 12 February 2007:
‘Helpful and Useful Document’

The full report, published by The Muslim Council of Britain, in pdf:

‘Towards Greater Understanding – Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools – Information & Guidance for Schools’

Search Google News:

“Towards Greater Understanding” + “Muslim Council of Britain”

Danish Broadcasting Corporation, DR – 7 March 2007:

‘Muslimsk nej til vovet popmusik’ (‘Muslim no to daring music’) 

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