Faith-Schools and the Religious Other: The Case of Muslim Schools

  • Farid PanjwaniEmail author


Faith schools in England are associated with particular interpretive traditions within a religion. There are Catholic schools and Anglican Schools, for example. Similarly, what are called the Islamic schools are actually along the lines of madhabs or maslaks such as Deobandi, Barelvi, Ithna ashari Shia schools. Further, there are no inter-faith schools; no schools that are run by different faiths together. The above observations raise a question. How do faith schools teach about the religious other – both about other denominations within their own religious tradition and about the other religious traditions? The question was also raised in the context of a recent Ofsted report on independent faith schools which concluded that “although most schools taught a general understanding of other faiths…many of the schools visited were reluctant to teach about other faiths in great detail” (Ofsted 2009, Independent faith schools, p. 4). This chapter provides the results of exploratory research based on the above question with a focus on Muslim faith schools in England. The findings, based on the interviews of teachers, interfaith educators, classroom observations and the analysis of educational materials, are situated within the context of the wide range of attitudes towards religious diversity found in Muslim societies, past and present. Pedagogical and theological implications of teaching the religious other in faith schools are also examined. The findings show that at least some Muslim faith schools are giving serious attention to this area but their efforts are limited by certain factors such as lack of sound educational materials and limited engagement with philosophical and theological issues around the question of religious diversity.


Deoband Barelvi Ithna Ashari Shia Independent faith schools Islam Muslim faith schools Religious diversity Shi‘I Shi‘a Sunni Prophet Muhammad Crusades Intra-Islamic diversity Ummah Jews Christians Polytheists Exclusivist Inclusivist Pluralist Tahreef Dhimmi Ottoman millet system Oxford Muslim Pupils’ Empowerment Programme (OMPEP) Jihadi 


  1. Ameli, R. S., Azam, A., & Merali, A. (2005). Secular or Islamic? What schools do British Muslims want for their children? London: The Islamic Human Rights Commission.Google Scholar
  2. Amin, A., & Parkinson, M. (2002). Ethnicity and the multicultural city: Living with diversity. Environment and Planning, 34(6), 959–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aslan, A. (1998). Religious pluralism in Christian and Islamic philosophy : The thought of John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Richmond: Curzon.Google Scholar
  4. Atkins, P. (2001, March 1). The Church school – Good or evil: Against. The Independent, 7.Google Scholar
  5. Austin, R. J. T. (1980). Ibn Al Arabi: The bezels of wisdom. New York: Paulist Press.Google Scholar
  6. BHA. (2006). Faith (or Religious) schools – Why not? Retrieved November 22, 2007, from
  7. Breen, D. (2009). Religious diversity, inter-ethnic relations and the Catholic school: Introducing the < i > responsive</i > approach to single faith schooling. British Journal of Religious Education, 31(2), 103–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cush, D. (2003). Should the state fund schools with a religious character? Resource, 25(2), 10–15.Google Scholar
  9. Dahlén, A. (2007). Sirāt al-mustaqīm – One or many? Religious pluralism among Muslim intellectuals in Iran. In I. Abu-Rabi’ (Ed.), The Blackwell companion to contemporary Islamic thought (pp. 425–448). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davis, A. (2010). Defending religious pluralism for religious education. Ethics and Education, 5(3), 189–202. doi: 10.1080/17449642.2010.519138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dwyer, C., & Parutis, V. (2012). ‘Faith in the system?’ State-funded faith schools in England and the contested parameters of community cohesion. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 38(2), 267–284. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00518.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Esposito, J. (2003). Modernizing Islam and re-Islamization in global perspective. In J. Esposito & F. Burgat (Eds.), Modernizing Islam: Religion in the public sphere in Europe and the Middle East (pp. 1–13). London: Hurst & Company.Google Scholar
  13. Gutmann, A. (1996). Challenges of multiculturalism in democratic education. In R. K. Fullwider (Ed.), Public education in a multicultural society: Policy, theory, critique (pp. 156–179). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Halstead, J. M. (1995). Voluntary apartheid? Problems of education for religious and other minorities in democratic societies. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 29(2), 257–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heck, P. L. (2009). Common ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hemming, P. J. (2011). Meaningful encounters? Religion and social cohesion in the English primary school. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(1), 63–81. doi: 10.1080/14649360903514384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hewitt, I. (1996). The case for Muslim schools. In G. Sarwar (Ed.), Issues in Islamic education. London: The Muslim Educational Trust.Google Scholar
  18. Hick, J. (1985). Problems of religious pluralism. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. Hick, J. (1989). An interpretation of religion: Human responses to the transcendent. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hochschild, A. R. (1979). Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. American Journal of Sociology, 85(3), 551–575. doi: 10.2307/2778583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huxley, A. (1945). The perennial philosophy (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers.Google Scholar
  22. Ipgrave, J. (1999). Issues in the delivery of religious education to Muslim pupils: Perspectives from the classroom. British Journal of Religious Education, 21(3), 146–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson, R. (2004). Rethinking religious education and plurality: Issues in diversity and pedagogy. London/New York: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  24. Khalil, M. H. (2012). Islam and the fate of others: The salvation question. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Khan-Cheema, A. (1984). Islamic education and the maintained school system. Muslim Education Quarterly, 2(1), 5–15.Google Scholar
  26. Liederman, L. M. (2000). Pluralism in education: The display of Islamic affiliation in French and British schools. Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 11(1), 105–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mamdani, M. (2004). Good Muslim, bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the roots of terror (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  28. Marples, R. (2006). Against faith schools. In H. Johnson (Ed.), Reflection on faith schools. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Nelson, M. J. (2009). Dealing with difference: Religious education and the challenge of democracy in Pakistan’. Modern Asian Studies, 43(03), 591–618. doi: 10.1017/S0026749X07003423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Norton, A. (2013). On the Muslim question. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Ofsted. (2009). Independent faith schools. London: Ofsted.Google Scholar
  32. Panjwani, F. (2005). Agreed syllabus and un-agreed values: Religious education and missed opportunities for fostering social cohesion. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(3), 375–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Panjwani, F. (2012). Why did you not tell me about this? Religion as a challenge to faith schools. In H. Alexander & A. Agbaria (Eds.), Commitment, character, and citizenship: Religious education in liberal democracy. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Parker-Jenkins, M., Hartas, D., & Irving, B. (2005). In good faith: Schools, religion and public funding. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  35. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  36. Ramadan, T. (2010). The quest for meaning: Developing a philosophy of pluralism. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  37. Rossi, J. A. (2003). Teaching about international conflict and peacemaking at the grassroots level. The Social Studies, 94(4), 149–157. doi: 10.1080/00377990309600198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Runnymede, T. (2008). Right to divide? Faith schools and community cohesion. London: The Runnymede Trust.Google Scholar
  39. Sarwar, G. (1994). British Muslims and schools. London: The Muslim Education Trust.Google Scholar
  40. Waardenburg, J. (1999a). The Medieval period: 650–1500. In J. Waardenburg (Ed.), Muslim perceptions of other religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Waardenburg, J. (1999b). The early period. In J. Waardenburg (Ed.), Muslim perception of other religions: A historical survey (pp. 3–17). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Zine, J. (2007). Safe havens or religious ‘ghettos’? Narrartives of Islamic schooling in Canada. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 10(1), 71–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zine, J. (2008). Canadian Islamic schools: Unravelling the politics of faith, gender, knowledge, and identity. Toronto/London: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations