Prevent Watch

The Religious Studies Video Case

Sector: Education
Date: February 2016
Gender: Female
Location: South East

AB is 11 eleven years old and attends secondary school. During her religious studies class, the teacher introduced the topic of multiculturalism in society; in particular what has taken place in the schools locale. The children were shown a video but only watched about a minute and a half of the full 5 minutes of the video.

The clip introduced statistics on the number of residents in the locality and the percentage that was Muslim. The clip continued with a text, which states “following series of high profile cases related to Islamic extremism, [the] Council formulated a new strategy to tackle religious supremacism within their local Muslim community.” There were a series of mini clips highlighting the reason behind the new initiative. The clips were followed by this text “the idea was to show the rest of the country that if non-Muslims danced and sang and performed enough, the following passages would disappear from the holy Q’uran.”

The remainder of the part of the video provided ayah’s from the Q’uran. Some of these ayahs were misrepresented from the mainstream translations while others were taken out of context. AB and a number of her classmates objected to the representations, which the video made. When AB said, “Miss I think you have got it mixed up” the teacher replied, “No, this is true. You can check it in the Q’uran”.

AB was extremely offended by the video. She felt extremely distressed and upset as she felt Islam was being attacked. A number of the students approached their form tutor and informed her of the video which they said was offensive to Islam.

AB’s mother sent a letter of complaint to the school highlighting AB’s distress. She also wanted to know why this issue was not addressed with the parents and whether it had been necessary to show the video in the first place. While the school apologised for its oversight in the matter, AB’s mother felt that the response was half hearted as the school failed to answer a number of questions.

Prevent Watch identified a number of issues in this case. Firstly, the school failed to answer a number of questions. They failed to answer whether the school was teaching Islam through the prism of “extremism” and whether this was their attempt to adhere to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) guidelines. The SMSC guidelines seek to promote “fundamental British values” in accordance with PREVENT. It would appear that this is the case, as in other instances similar topics have been discussed and highlighted in religious studies classes.

Secondly, the school stated that it took all of the students concerns seriously. However, when AB complained this was not fully considered or investigated nor were her parents contacted.

Thirdly, while the school did apologise for the way it acted in this instance, the manner in which the questions were answered, or the lack thereof, displays the lack of cooperation and transparency on part of schools when it comes to issues concerning Prevent or anything within the ‘’extremism’’ matrix; the school evidently sought to conceal the issue.

This can be compared to the observation noted by AB’s mother. She described how the school acted in other situations where her daughter had concerns, citing an example of exam stress, which was explained to AB’s form tutor. This was readily discussed and highlighted with AB’s mother. It would appear that when it comes to issues of “extremism” or negativity surrounding Prevent, schools do not think such issues warrant a valid investigation or exploration of the relevant issues.

There were other students in the same situation as AB at the school but decided not to take the matter further. AB’s mother wanted to challenge the issues and Prevent Watch advised the family on the matter.

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