LONDON – Muslim groups in Britain have sharply criticized an atheist professor who attacked Muslim faith schools for teaching creationsim for their students.
"Faith schools are by and large established to enforce the religious teachings of our lives, and the theory of creation is one of the cornerstones of our faith,” Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, from the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC.
"To expect faith schools not to teach this kind of religious teaching is unreasonable, but I also think it is important for faith schools to teach science to children as well so they are aware of modern day findings and can use the information to ask further questions and strengthen their faith.
"I don't believe any religious teaching prevents people from being creative and independent in their thinking."
The uproar erupted after atheist professor Richard Dawkins attacked Muslim faith schools for filling children’s head with “alien rubbish” of creationism.
In the Times Educational Supplement (TES), the Oxford author said they had a "pernicious influence" that is “utterly deplorable" on the minds of young people.
"Occasionally, my colleagues lecturing in universities lament having undergraduate students walk out of their classes when they talk about evolution - this is almost entirely Muslims," Dawkins said.
"So I think there's a very, very pernicious influence that is lasting up to the university years. That must be coming from certain schools," the author of The God Delusion, emeritus fellow of New College and evolutionary biologist, added.
But Naomi Phillips, from the British Humanist Association, hit back at the atheist professor, saying that creationism is taught not only in Muslim but Christian schools too.
"There are a number of problems that go throughout faith schools but I wouldn't say it's just Muslim schools, it's also Christian schools too," Phillips said.
Over the past few years, the numbers of non-believers have been noticeably increasing in Europe and US.
A 2005 survey published in Encyclopedia Britannica put non-believers at about 11.9 percent of the world's population.
An official European Union survey recently said that 18 percent of the bloc's population do not believe in God.
The Washington Post reported in September that atheist movements were growing across Europe, lobbying hard for political clout and airtime.
Criticizing Dawkins’ theories about Muslim faith schools, British Muslims said those schools have managed to achieve impressive results in both math and science.
"The results of Muslim faith schools in England in maths and science show a strong compatibility between the Muslim faith and scientific learning," an MCB spokesman told the BBC.
The chairman of Muslims4UK, Inayat Bunglawala, said it was "important faith groups came to terms with evolution" and taught it in a fair manner.
"I don't think students growing up today are served well by being taught this way by religious leaders.
"It's symbolic and it makes no sense to take it so literally - it will only serve to undermine the faith of students when the two schools of thought could be understood side by side."
Britain has a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.0 million Muslims, mainly of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin.
About 7,000 state schools in the UK are faith schools – roughly one in three of the total – educating 1.7 million pupils.
Of the 590 faith-based secondary schools five are Jewish, two Muslim and one Sikh - the rest are Church of England, Roman Catholic and other Christian faiths.
Last April 2011, Darul Uloom Islamic College boys’ school drew praise for its excellence in combining religious and secular studies while helping develop its students' basic knowledge, skills and attitudes from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).
Earlier in November 2010, Tauheedul Islam Girls' School was ranked as “outstanding” by the Ofsted, which oversees state and independent schools and colleges.
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