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UK: ‘In defence of equality in Birmingham schools’

Friday 14 June 2019, by siawi3

Source: Southall Black Sisters 13.06.19

Joint Statement by Southall Black Sisters and Feminist Dissent

‘In defence of equality in Birmingham schools’

As a group of individuals and organisations, we express our solidarity with the head teachers, staff and parents of children at Parkfield and Anderton primary schools in Birmingham and those elsewhere that are struggling against the onslaught of religious fundamentalist forces. In the face of a fierce and well - orchestrated campaign mounted by Islamists (and supported by other fundamentalist and right wing forces), we defend their courageous struggle to deliver an inclusive education curriculum based on the principles of acceptance, equality and humanity.

The protestors claim that aspects of the schools’ curriculums are incompatible with their religious beliefs. They have used misinformation, intimidation, harassment and abuse to generate fear and to impose their bigoted and homophobic world views on others. We reject their tactics and we reject their claim to speak on behalf of minorities or represent ‘community values’. Many parents from minority communities do not subscribe to their fundamentalist vision, they struggle on a daily basis to give their children - boys and girls - educational opportunities that they never had. They struggle to protect their children from a range of inequalities – racism, sexism, and homophobia - and they believe, as do we that equality and freedom depend on access to education and knowledge.

‘Parent power’ has become a key tool used by conservative and fundamentalist forces to curtail what is taught within schools and to withdraw children from those aspects of the curriculum that do not align with their views. Rather than challenge their anti- equality agenda and fight for children and young people’s right to a full and comprehensive education, some local councillors and MPs are ready to extinguish their rights in order to bolster and appease their own vote banks. The leaders of all the main political parties have also been completely silent. But silence is impunity.

We will not allow fundamentalists of any hue to hijack the education system. This is not about liberal values versus religious values but about those who support equality for all and those who do not. This is not about religious freedom but about the politics of hatred, division and violence. This is not about minority rights but about fundamentalist bids for power and control over people and resources.

We urge all those who care about education to speak up and defend the teaching of equality in schools everywhere. We call upon the government to defend without reservation the right of schools to teach an inclusive school curriculum; to promote equality and age appropriate sex and relationships education for all children and young people; and to properly fund and support state schools to deliver a secular, egalitarian and accessible education for all.

Supported by:

Khakan Qureshi, Founder, Finding A Voice
Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Feminist Dissent Editorial Collective
Dr Stephen Cowden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Coventry University
Pragna Patel, Director Southall Black Sisters
Aisha K Gill, Professor of Criminology, University of Roehampton
Brenna Bhandar, SOAS, University of London
Sundari Anitha, Reader, University of Lincoln
Yasmin Gunaratnam, Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths, London
Raggi Kotak, Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers
Charlie Peat, Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers
Yasmin Rehman, Human Rights Activist
Georgie Wemyss, Feminist Dissent Editorial Collective
Angela Saini, Author and Journalist
Angelina Nicolaou, Barrister, 1 Pump Court
Julie Begum, Swadhinata Trust
Gurpreet Bhatti, Writer and Playwright
Karen Ingala Smith, CEO The Nia Project
Beatrix Campbell, Writer and Activist
Halaleh Taheri, Executive Director of Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation-MEWSo
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Fariborz Pooya, Producer of Bread and Roses TV
Alejandro Colas
Mary Adossides, Chair, Brent Trades Council
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
Prof Alison Assiter, Philosophy, UWE, Bristol
Prof. Em. Nira Yuval-Davis, Centre for research on Migratiin, Refugees and Belonging, the University of East London
Stephen Evans, CEO, National Secular Society
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Jimmy Bangash, CEMB spokesperson
Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-Presidents, Freedom From Religion Foundation, U.S.A
Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, M.A.L.I. – Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties, Morocco
Sandhya Sharma, Safety4Sisters
Rebecca Durand, Feminist Dissent Editorial Collective
Nahla Mahmoud, Sudanese Human Rights Campaigner
Jocelyn Watson, Writer
Mili Acharya, Southall Black Sisters
Samia Allalou, Algerian Feminist
Yasmine Mohammed, Free Hearts Free Minds
Marieme Hélie Lucas, Algerian Feminist, Sociologist, Founder and former International Coordinator of WLUML and Founder and Coordinator of SIAWI,
Fatou Sow: Academic, Senegal, Director Wluml
Ahlam Akram, Basira
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens
Shakila Taranum Maan, Film Maker, Artist, Writer
Jayne Egerton
Liz Kelly, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit
Manjeet Singh, Digital Marketing Consultant
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director, Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre (Pakistan)
Sultana Kamal, Founder President, Foundation for Human Rights Culture, Bangladesh
Lalia Ducos, Algerian feminist, President WICUR ( Women’s Initiative for Universal Rights)
Sayeed Ahmad, HRD, Bangladesh
Rahila Gupta, Writer and member of Southall Black Sisters
Halaleh Taheri
Jean Pooley
Samia Malik
Professor Lynn Freedman, Columbia University, USA
Florence Binard, Université de Paris
Anjum Mouj, Imaan Muslim LGBTQI
Chitra Nagarajan
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation
Meena Patel, Southall Black Sisters
Murad Banaji
Somak Biswas, Convener, Queer History Reading Group, University of Warwick
Hannah Ayres, Convener, Queer History Reading group, University of Warwick
Wendy Haslam
Eva Turner
Leena Kumarappan
Francesca Favia, Southall Black Sisters
Joanna Foster, Fabtic
Sadia Hameed, Council of Ex Muslims of Britain
Rav Chohan
Paul Brading
Karamat Ali, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Karachi, Pakistan
Madiha Latif, Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre
Javed Anand, National convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD)
Sara Bonfanti, University of Trento
Louise Evan-Wong
Rebecca Habberley,Children’s services
Dr. Rosemary Snelgar
Sue O’Sullivan
Claire Birkenshaw, Leeds Beckett University
Angela Demetriou
Jude Watson, London Older Lesbian Cohousing
Alison Brown, Gleadless Valley Branch Labour Party
Cathie Sutton
Clara Connolly
Professor Virinder Kalra, Sociology, University of Warwick