Teaching of Islam in UK universities is out-dated

The teaching of Islam in English universities is based on "out-of-date and irrelevant issues", a major report on the subject has concluded.

Academic Ataullah Siddiqui's review paints a picture of Islamic studies departments where the post-9/11 and 7 July world has largely passed them by.

It concludes that more emphasis should be placed on Islam in a modern context.

Ministers will now label Islamic studies a "strategic subject" because of its role "in preventing extremism".

'Major focus shift'
Prime minister Tony Blair is expected to announce a 1m cash injection later to plug gaps highlighted by Dr Siddiqui's report.

The cash will be used to fund the training of Muslim imams in UK.

Mr Blair will be meeting Muslim leaders from around the world at a major conference on Islam hosted by Cambridge University but held in London.

He will also be emphasise the major role played by Muslims in British society.

The investment, together with the new status of strategic subject, were in recognition of the contribution of Islamic studies "in improving community cohesion and its contribution to preventing extremism", a Department for Education and Skills (DfES) spokeswoman said.

The review was commissioned by the DfES to assess the way in which Islam is taught and to improve support and advice available to Muslim students.

'Complete ignorance'
In his report, Dr Siddiqui says discussion about the teaching of Islam in higher education has been conducted "in complete ignorance of the Muslim community and their patterns of belief and practice".

He also says that "a major shift of focus" from "an Arab and Middle Eastern perspective to that of a plural society in Britain is needed".

The report concludes that Islamic studies syllabuses should focus on aspects of Islam "relevant to contemporary practice of faith".

Students should be able to learn parts of the syllabus from Islamic scholars, it adds.

It also calls for more recognition of the importance of campus Islamic societies and more prayer facilities.

The publication of the report comes after a unanimous vote by the University and College Union last week urged lecturers not to meet government demands to inform on pupils suspected of extremism.

The government had asked lecturers to monitor the activity of Muslim students and to report any suspicious behaviour.

BBC Education News

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