How should primary schools deal with children who fast?
Primary schools deciding to ban fasting for pupils could be taking things a little far. However, as Ajmal Masroor pointed out, it could and should have been handled in a more delicate manner. In fact Mr Masroor raises the question on his Facebook page by asking: Can schools dictate whatever our children observe their faith? He answers: “In Britain we have a very clear divide between the church and state and this structural secularity must be maintained to safeguard our plurality of faith and cultures that make Britain great. I am very proud of my country that it does not follow the footsteps of secular fundamentalism like France or rightwing fascism espoused by many rightwing political parties in Europe today. We have to do everything in our power to maintain the balance that has kept Britain so cohesive so far. “In a recent letter written by a school to its Muslim parents banning fasting for its primary school pupils this debate has been brought to sharp focus. The school felt the health and wellbeing of children were at risk through fasting and this cannot be allowed. In my humble view the intention of protecting the children should always be welcomed but the decree to ban should be categorically condemned. I believe schools have no right to ban a religious practice especially one that is essential part of the faith.” He says that according to Islam, adulthood begins at puberty which is dependent on the environment. He then cites the obvious that for the “vast majority of the children of primary school age don’t have to fast” before stating: “A school does not need to issue a decree about this sacred practice.” He says: “Muslim parents are not stupid and sending them with a banning decree makes a mockery of a long standing common sense approach that most parents naturally follow. It casts doubts on the intelligence of parents.” He further adds: “Fasting is for adults with good health but those who are not of good health observe the spirit of goodness and heightened spirituality in this month. Every Muslim becomes more devote in this blessed month and gives up on bad habits and worldly indulgences. The schools letter would make the children feel left out of this special month and this, in my view is not a smart thing to do to help the children make sense of their faith and practices.” He then concludes by reminding: “And to school teachers who are worried about the health and safety of their pupils my suggestion is support them smartly and don’t patronise them by sounding insensitive. Speak to the parents and create a relationship of mutuality and inclusion. Schools are a safe space for our children’s wholesome education and while our education philosophy currently seriously lacks spiritual content parents would supplement it with the sacred belief and practices that they hold dear to their heart. Welcome them! There are no winners in hostility and animosity but an atmosphere of despair and sense disempowerment would pervade. I would like our schools to become places of hopes and aspirations. Be the teacher who opens up the world for their pupils and you will find the parents with you. “In conclusion, fasting is a scared practice for Muslims and non-Muslims, let’s celebrate it! Try fasting you may like it!” Sounds about right.