Why do Sikhs get confused for Muslims

Islamic education against Islamic fundamentalism

In the asphalt schoolyard in the heart of Brent, in north-west London, dozens of wonderful children: the boys wear dark blue trousers and white shirts, the older girls long beige skirts and embroidered white headscarves. They are students of the "Islamia Primary" - a state Muslim primary school. It is not the only one, but it was the first of its kind in Great Britain in the late 1990s.

Founder Cat Stevens

"The school started as a private project. It was founded by the singer Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens and a small group of British parents who converted to Islam, as well as Muslim immigrants who did not want to lose their own culture," says Abdullah Trevathan. He was the school's first teacher and is now the headmaster.

The American became a Muslim as early as the 1960s, in the hippie era. "That wasn't a particularly big jump," he says today. At that time, Islam did not have the negative image it has today in the West. And the Muslims themselves have not felt the cultural balancing act as much as they do today. "Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion among the Muslim community in the UK right now. The focus is on how rules from another age and culture fit into modern life in Britain and Europe."

Pioneering work

The school has an excellent academic reputation: 3,500 children are currently on the waiting list for 215 free places. The school is financed 90 percent by the state and 10 percent by the municipality. It is located in an area with a high Muslim population. The students' families come from 23 countries, including Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. The "Islamia Primary" wants to mediate between cultures. And that is reflected in the classroom. The school adheres to the state-prescribed curriculum, but there are Arabic and Koran studies as additional subjects. One wants to develop a British-Muslim culture, says the headmaster.

Not all teachers are Muslim. There are joint events with Sikhs, Jews and Christians. And it was not just since the recent terrorist attacks in London that the school management emphasized that teachers with an Islamic fundamentalist attitude were not hired in principle. When registering their children, parents must sign a detailed form in which the teaching principles and content are explained. Sex education and art lessons with pictures - the parents here have to accept that. Even if Orthodox Muslims refuse to do so.

Pizza, salad, ambitions

Common midday prayer in the mosque. "It is good if the children come to rest in between, then they can learn all the better afterwards," says Nabila. She is a math teacher and is originally from Syria. "The children have better manners than at many other state schools. We set high standards, we ask a lot, but we also give them a lot in return."

Lunch is typical English school fare: pizza, salad or spaghetti. The children surround the headmaster and do not want to let go of him. You have great ambitions. Preferred career aspirations: doctor, nurse, engineer, teacher. Such professions could help young Muslims find their place in British society. Knowledge is just as important as personal development.

"The cultural self-image at home and in school must match, then the children can develop a stable self-confidence," says school principal Trevathan. "If the gaps between the different cultures are too big, an identity crisis can arise. Then uprooted people grow up, especially as teenagers who are susceptible to fundamentalist thoughts."