January 18, 2005
A Muslim response to Mr Bell's speech

A predictable response to Mr Bell's speech yesterday (see immediately below):

THE HEAD of a Huddersfield Islamic school has called on England's chief education watchdog to resign after 'ignorant' comments about Muslim schools.

Samira Elturabi, head of Islamia Girls' High School on Thornton Lodge Road, said the comments of David Bell, the chief inspector of schools for Ofsted, were ignorant about the facts of Islam.

I don't think this is very clever. Indeed, I think that it illustrates some of the exact fears that Mr Bell was expressing. Calling on Mr Bell to resign, just because his grasp of the nuances of Islam is shaky is foolish. The way to respond to speeches like Mr Bell's is to realise that here is an opportunity both to put across some of the facts about Islam that are in the "better than you thought" category, and to demonstrate that Islamic leaders can handle criticism politely.

I would say that she gets, at best, no more than one out of two.

… Mrs Elturabi, who has been head at Islamia for three years, said Islamic education was full education.

She added: "We not only do Islamic studies such as Arabic and the Koran but we also do the full national curriculum programme.

"Schools in this country have a lot of behavioural problems, but in Islamic schools the students learn responsibility and to be caring.

"Mr Bell should resign. Before he gives a lecture like that he should understand Islam."

Mrs Eluturabi's school came joint third in the Kirklees education league tables published last week with 71% of students getting five 'good' GCSEs.

Assuming that this is an approximately accurate report of what Mrs Elutrabi said, then I think she has – shall we say? – struck a rather bad note. At best, she seems to have given the Huddersfield Weekly News the chance to make it sound like that.

I realise that Mrs Eluturabi may be a bit frightened. But I think she ought to show a greater understanding of how the world looks to the people she is – or ought to be – trying to influence and whose minds she is – ditto – trying to change. Telling Mr Bell that he should resign is likely to persuade Mr Bell, and many others, only that Mr Bell was right about the potential divisiveness of these schools, and of the people who run them.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:04 PM
Category: Islam