|June 27 2008|
A new Muslim organisation yesterday said it was to launch a campaign for state funding to teach young people Islamic religion and law.
The Scottish Islamic Foundation has undertaken an initiative to improve the standards of such classes, or madrassahs, in Scotland, which are mostly held at mosques around the country.
At its launch yesterday, the organisation said that the madrassahs, also designed to boost wider education, are not properly resourced.
Osama Saeed, chief executive of SIF, said: “Research has shown Scottish Muslims are very comfortable with their identity, and this is an example our country can take to the rest of Europe. We don’t need to have the same debate about integration we see elsewhere, and it means we can talk about how Muslims can now further deepen their contribution to the country.
“Our five objectives are based on what modern scholars say are the very objectives of Islam – freedom, respect, education, families and social justice.
“When we were consulting about what SIF should be and do, the two things that kept coming up were that we need to sort out our youth and secondly fix the image of Islam in the public mind. This is exactly what we’re going to set about doing.”
He continued: “Half of the Muslim community is under 25, making them not just the future, but our here and now. Scotland is not getting the most of their potential. There are issues around education, employment and crime.
“Our leadership training programme aims to teach how to be good Muslims and good citizens, and indeed that the former demands the latter.
“When talking about youth, the topic of Islamic schools inevitably crops up. We believe that the establishment of a state funded school would be an excellent addition to our diverse education system.”
First Minister Alex Salmond was also at the launch, along with Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Tories, LibDem leader Nicol Stephen, Pauline McNeill, the Glasgow MSP and Labour’s justice spokesman, and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics.
Mr Salmond said: “Scotland’s Muslim community is woven into the very tartan of our society. I believe the foundation will strengthen Scotland’s Muslim community and Scotland’s reputation around the world as a role model of diversity and understanding between communities.”
Mr Stephen said he welcomed the foundation which would help tackle “Islamaphobia”, a “very real and present danger”, and Ms Goldie said the organisation would make an “important contribution” to a better understanding of issues affecting our society”.