Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has recommended Jewish schools in the UK teach Islam as part of a new government-mandated religious studies curriculum which requires religious schools to teach a second religious faith to students much in the way schools in some countries are required to teach students one foreign language.
Jewish Schools Should Study Islam, Chief Rabbi Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has recommended Jewish schools in the UK teach Islam as part of a new government-mandated religious studies curriculum which requires religious schools to teach a second religious faith to students much in the way schools in some countries are required to teach students one foreign language, The JC reported today.
Mirvis at first reportedly tried to block the second faith requirement as did various Orthodox Jewish groups. When that effort failed, Mirvis said he decided Jewish schools should teach Islam because it would give Jewish children the chance to learn about a “poorly understood” religion.
Under the new government rules, at least 25% of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) course must be dedicated to the study of another religion.
“It is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims. As such, the Chief Rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed but often poorly understood in public discourse,” a spokesman for Mirvis told the paper, adding that Mirvis’ initial resistance to the new rule was based on his reluctance to take away 25% of the time spent on Jewish studies. But the government-mandated change gives us “a valuable opportunity” we should take advantage of, the spokesman said, noting that even though this is true, Mirvis had not sent a formal instruction to Jewish schools about the issue and believes each should make its own decision locally.
The government-ordered change is meant to counter religious extremism and promote tolerance.
Although not reported by The JC, a major reason why Mirvis chose Islam over other religions, including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, is that those other faiths are considered by most centrist Orthodox and haredi halakhic (Jewish law) authorities to forms of idol worship for Jews who practice them, and normative halakha (Orthodox Jewish law) forbids their study. Islam, however, is not viewed as idolatrous and, while its study may be prohibited in many cases, an exception could be made due to the duress of the government's new mandate.