rip Rik Mayall
There's a furore in the UK at the moment about British-ness and the 'Trojan Horse' of Islam destroying Britain through religious schools. Michael Gove came up with this idea of the 'Trojan Horse.'
To be perfectly honest, I am quite hostile to the idea of religious schools. By their nature, they are religious and so promote certain beliefs and values. I know because my daughter has been to a couple of religious schools. Not too religious, but it creeps in around the edges. I prefer secular education. Halloween should be Halloween, not Hallelujah-een ( I'm not kidding you). Keep Ned Flanders out of Britain.
Michael Gove (who is also a bit Ned Flanders) is hostile to the idea of religious education too, or at least Muslim education. That puzzles me. A few years back he was supporting them, saying how fantastic they are. What did he think would happen when people starting building Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or Christian schools? That they wouldn't be religious?
It's the same when the government in Britain says immigrants should 'integrate' and learn English. And then cut funding to the very places that do exactly that, removing the possibilities that so many people are trying to make happen.
It's quite something to see a classroom filled with Somali, Polish, Kurdish and Brazilian immigrants all getting on and sharing their lives, integrating and learning both a language and a whole host of different cultures. And to know that when they go home at night, they will be able to help their kids with their homework, they will be better able to navigate the school system, or the medical system, and get a job and get on and become good, honest hard-working members of society - you know the rhetoric.
And then to see the funding for those same programmes cut, to see the possibilities they provide ripped away from communities who need them most, who value them most, who do want to learn English and 'integrate'. That's heartbreaking.
Or to see smart 11-year-old kids who have just arrived in the country and never been to primary school, who are desperate to learn but don't even know how to hold a pair of scissors or write their name, struggle and flounder and sink because the schools don't have the funding or the skills to teach these kids. Instead they are slowly shuffled to the back of the class and put on a virtual scrapheap because that's what 'integration' means. It means ignoring the problem, pretending it doesn't exist, making it even worse. That's heartbreaking. I used to teach them when they were spat out at the other end. It was our job to turn them round in some way and we did that by addressing the problems and teaching towards it.
I don't think Michael Gove is remotely interested in any of that though. He is interested in the empty rhetoric of Britishness and integration and he is happy to sacrifice others for his ambition. And the idea of having so many more faith schools was still his idea in the first place. Here's an article where he praises faith schools from a few years back.
I originally had something else up here and it connected to the great Somali writer, Nuruddin Farah, but I was asked to take it down so I did.
But Nuruddin Farah is great so here's a link to what he wrote about the complexities of life (and Somalia is very complex) in this article
In a hotel beside a Norwegian fjord, encircled by snow-streaked mountains, the novelist and playwright Nuruddin Farah has his mind on warmer waters."Are they pirates?" he says of the Somalis who hold ships hostage off the Horn of Africa, where he was born. "What they do has the characteristics of piracy. But that wasn't how it started." He fixes his eye on the Arctic trawlers in the harbour. "The majority were fishermen who lost their livelihoods to Korean and Japanese and European fishing vessels, fishing illegally in Somali waters. I'm not condoning the things they're doing. But there are unanswered questions. Someone is not telling us the truth."
"Somalia is no longer what it was. It's past reconstruction. How can you reconstruct a country that's self-destructing continuously?"
He was once attacked online for insisting the "Afghan-type body tent is not culturally Somali. I said: 'My mother never wore a veil, nor my sisters.' They said my mother was not a Muslim." In the diaspora, he argues, "the majority could not articulate their Somali culture. The less you know about Islam, the more conservative people become."
In areas al-Shabaab controls, says Farah, they have "forbidden song and dance because they're closer to Wahhabism than most Somalis". Theatre that is verse-based, and sung to music, "challenges everything such groups represent. They say it's evil, Satan's work, and that a woman's place is not on the stage." Yet visiting Mogadishu in the spring, he found people "playing music and singing in tea houses and at parties. Women have created their own space."