Christian-Muslim interfaith relations are at breaking point in Birmingham as the Church of England refuses to support the Muslim community in its stand against the sexualisation of primary school children at the Parkfield Community School in Saltley, an inner-city area in the Diocese of Birmingham.
Mariam Ahmed, a mother-of-two leading the protests, had appealed directly to Rt Rev’d David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and Sarah Smith, Birmingham Diocesan Director of Education, asking for “support towards our campaign which has now been running since 7th January.”
In a detailed email, Mrs Ahmed explained that the parents were not homophobic or transphobic, they were not against anyone, they fully respected the Equality Act 2010 and they taught their children to respect everyone in the manner they would expect to be treated.
Stressing that the “main concern” of the Muslim parents was that the programme taught by the school was “not age appropriate” and psychologically “confusing young children’s minds as young as four years,” Ahmed said that “I and many other parents have had children coming home confused and with lots of questions as to what they are.”
This was not just a matter for Muslims, but for all faiths, she emphasised, as assistant headteacher Andrew Moffat was teaching a programme where only two of the protected characteristics named by the Equality Act 2010 predominated, i.e. gender reassignment and sexual orientation.
However, Bishop David Urquhart, responding through Kate Stowe his Chaplain, did not offer any support for the Muslim parents. Instead, the email stated that the diocese expected church schools “to address the requirements of the Equalities Act, recognising that it is a requirement of the law to prepare our children to live in modern day Britain.”
“That includes the right for people to choose their identity and who they wish to love. We believe it is for individual Governing Boards to decide on the resources that best suit them to deliver the Equalities Act,” the email stated.
Ahmed also spoke earlier to the Diocesan Director of Education Sarah Smith and received a similar response in a phone conversation.On previous occasions, the Diocese of Birmingham has supported Muslims to the point of upsetting secularists.
It’s not just the Anglicans:
None of the churches, including the local Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist or Free Church of England churches in the school’s catchment area have spoken out against the “No Outsiders” programme imposed by the school.
“The wheat and chaff will be separated.” Muslim academic Kate Godfrey-Faussett told Rebel Priest Media. “This is becoming more apparent when examining the reactions of people from all faith communities to the recent campaigns against No Outsiders and compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) that are undermining our human and parental rights to raise and educate our children inline with our religious beliefs.”
Dr Godfrey-Faussett, who is leading the national Stop RSE movement against the proposed legislation, added: “To declare ourselves as Muslims, Christians or Jews brings with it a duty to stand for what we believe in. We cannot simply turn a blind eye or discard politically incorrect beliefs to move with the times when the times are moving ever increasingly towards a godless immoral society.”
Who’s standing up for the innocence of children in UK schools? Not Christians. Muslims. Shame on us Christians.
I don’t know why the other Christian churches haven’t spoken out. If any of you readers have insight, or have seen examples of those churches’ leaders speaking out, please let me know. I am reminded of the 2016 fight in California over Cal grants, when the legislature considered taking away financial grants to state students who used them to study in colleges that discriminated in any way against full LGBT rights. Had the law passed, it would have meant that many conservative schools would have had to violate their corporate conscience, or close their doors. An Evangelical leader in the fight to save the schools (which was successful, but it was a close call) told me that it was difficult to get white Evangelical churches involved. They were terrified of being called bigots, which is to say that they were frightened that they would have their middle class respectability taken from them. They would rather have seen Evangelical colleges forced to close than to lose that.
Is this what’s happening in the UK? If so, then God bless those Muslim mums and dads who care more about their children than they do middle class respectability.
This is an example of why top Christian religious liberty leaders tell me that Christians in the US had better learn how to work with Muslim citizens on these issues. I’m eager to get started. Salafist jackasses and white supremacist jackasses will hate it, but the threat to traditional religious belief in practice from secularism, especially sexual progressivism, is far greater than any threat either Christians or Muslims face from each other in the United States (Europe is in a rather different situation).
Still, we’d better be careful about stereotypes. I get e-mails from time to time from Muslim parents saying they enjoyed The Benedict Option because they’re seeing their own children being drawn away from the faith and assimilated into US secular culture, and they want to know what to do to combat this. You may be surprised to discover that US Muslims are far more supportive of LGBT rights than you think (see page 91 in this Pew report). Because by far the biggest threat to religious liberty in this country is its clash with gay rights, Muslims who are orthodox on sexuality are, like their Christian counterparts, fighting both within their own religious communities, and with the secular world, over the issues related to it.
There are so few of us — same with Orthodox Jews — and we face such intense opposition. As a Christian, I am inspired by the courage of those Muslims in the UK who stood up to the progressive education bureaucracy, even though they are standing alone. You know what I would like to see? A conference gathering American Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, and Christian leaders to talk about religious liberty struggles we’re all now facing, and will face in the future, and to talk about how we can work together, despite our very real differences. Drop me a note at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com if you are interested in something like this. I’ll talk to some friends of mine, and we’ll see what we can put together.
Salafists — extreme Muslims — are the enemy of Christians and Jews (and also Muslims who don’t conform to their radical views). But the Salafists aren’t going to try to close down Christian and Orthodox Jewish schools, and compel faithful Christians and Jews to affirm (or lose their jobs and businesses) things they cannot in good faith affirm. White supremacists are the enemy of Muslims, Jews, non-white Christians, and white Christians who reject their racism — but they aren’t going to attempt to shut down our schools, businesses, and careers, or compel us to violate our consciences. Think hard about this.