You might be a fundamentalist, but at least you’re not brown

Every time I publish a an article in a major outlet, there’s always a comment near the top that says the same thing: “Why are you picking on the Christians? You’re just doing it because there [sic] a soft target. No one ever criticises the Muslims.”

Now the estimable Hannah Ettinger has published an exposé on her Quiverfull upbringing at Cracked, and the same thing is happening. User LockednLoaded, at 04-28-2014, 2:11pm, writes “Fundy Muslims do far worse but criticize them and liberals lose their s**t and go all hissy fit.”

f.korambayil, 04-28-2014, 10:18 am, says:

Your muslim counterpart would be writing about actual terrors – female genitalia mutilation, forced marriages at 8 years old, not being able to go to school on account of being female, being raped and then being hung because of being an indecent female for having extramarital sex, forced to strap on suicide vests and wage jihad, etc. etc. Quit your bellyaching lemonhead.

These comments are two among dozens in the same vein. “You all — *every one of you* — know damned well why Cracked, along with almost everyone else, is too *chicken* to make fun of Islam.” 

When someone suggests these complaints might be racially motivated, the person immediately points out that Islam is not a race. Which is true. Here are some other things that aren’t races: hip-hop, Rastafarianism, immigrants. Discussion on these subjects is often racist too. The subtext for at least some of these comments is “Muslims do bad stuff too AND THEY’RE BROWN!!!!!1111″

Anyway, the idea that Muslims are given an easy ride in the press is poppycock (and I don’t see anyone deleting these people’s anti-Islam comments). In 2007, research commissioned by the London mayor’s office found that 91% of reports on Muslims were negative, portraying them as a threat to the West. When the Telegraph reported on nursery voucher funding for religious schools last month, it mentioned Islam in the headline, the subtitle, and the first sentence. It then went for a full 13 paragraphs before mentioning that there were some Christian groups getting funded too, and managed all of one sentence about Accelerated Christian Education. And, ridiculously, all it could offer was speculation about the Islamic schools, while we know exactly what ACE teaches.

Iain Duncan Smith

Britain’s most senior ACE fan

And now we hear that ministers have “launched inquiries into extremist schools“. Does this mean Accelerated Christian Education users can expect visits from the inspectors? Of course it doesn’t. This is a Muslims-only investigation. And, as it turns out, senior Conservatives have expressed support for fundamentalist Christian schools. Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith is the patron of one.

Yup,  IDS is patron of the Tabernacle School in Kensington, which taught the ACE curriculum from 1998 until 2007. In 2005, Mr Dunkin’ Donut said of the Tabernacle School:

I strongly believe that the solutions to educational failure lie within the communities blighted by it. If every black child could attend a school as good as Tabernacle, black educational underachievement would be reversed very quickly.

Not to be outdone, his Conservative colleague David Willetts joined the fray:

Interviewed on the Today programme David Willetts, the [then] Shadow Education Secretary, said that he was still a believer in parental choice as one of the best ways of driving up standards in schools …

He praised the Tabernacle School of North Kensington which, run by an evangelical church, provides a high quality education to children outside of the state system and for lower income parents.  Tories still wanted to encourage that kind of diversity, he insisted. [h/t Barth’s Notes]

This was in 2006, when Tabernacle was still teaching ACE. David Willetts is now the Minister for Universities and Science in the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, which gives UK NARIC its government contract. In 2008 and again in 2012, UK NARIC declared that the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE — an otherwise unrecognised qualification given to students who complete the ACE curriculum) is comparable to Cambridge International A-level standard. I wrote to David Willetts to complain about this, and he was obstinate in his refusal to deal with it. Now I know why.

Meanwhile, 16 Muslim schools in Birmingham have been accused of a “Trojan horse plot” to teach Islamic extremism. But as Andrew Copson has observed, the charges of political extremism are probably overhyped, and there is a risk that more immediate concerns like gender segregation and religious indoctrination will be overlooked (Andrew is Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, though here he is speaking on his personal blog). On this score, conservative evangelical schools can be at least as rigid as Islamists, but they won’t be criticised because there is an overriding stereotype that Christianity is generally good, while Islam is foreign and scary. Plus, the ACE schools are private, and this government really, really likes private schools. Parental choice is always good.

In fact, when it comes to gender discrimination and religious tolerance, ACE can give any Islamist group a run for its money. Still, with Muslims getting hate mail for running schools while Cameron declares Britian “a Christian country”, now isn’t a great time to be a British Muslim.

I’ll tell you why I don’t talk about Muslim schools here: because I don’t know anything about them. If anyone has been to a madrasa and wants to write a guest post, I’d welcome it. I don’t think Muslim schools are wonderful, but I do think some of the claims about them are exaggerated by fear and ignorance. Meanwhile, Christianity to most people in Britain and America is familiar and safe, so people underestimate the harm caused by Christianity’s unfriendly wing. I also think that increasing awareness of Christian fundamentalist schools should open our eyes to the possibility that there are other kinds of awful schools in existence, including Islamic and other faith schools. If teaching ACE can get you a decent inspection report in the UK, it seems you can get away with almost anything.

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on April 28, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Education, Faith Schools and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. It is quite common for religious apologists to respond to claims of harm and criticisms about their own group by pointing the finger at other groups they consider more harmful. For example, a very common reaction to the global clergy child abuse crisis by many in the Catholic hierarchy was to complain that child abuse was as bad or worse in other churches or secular institutions such as schools. There are links to several news articles in my archive where Catholic priests, bishops and archbishops have complained like that, pointing at other criminals to try and take the heat off themselves.

    I was taught that when you point your finger at someone, there are three others pointing back at you. My news archive also contains many reports of horrific abuses by Christian fundamentalists, including rape, extreme physical and psychological abuse amounting to torture, murder and many other crimes that rival those of Muslim fundamentalists.

    Christians who complain about criticisms directed at Christianity by pointing their finger at other religions really ought to read and follow their bible better:

    Matthew 7:3-5 King James Version (KJV)

    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

  2. Attacking ACE is not attacking Christianity. At the most, it’s attacking one sect of Christianity–the fundamentalists. When people attack Islam, they usually aren’t attacking one sect like Wahabists; they attack the religion as a whole. (Please note I said “usually”.)

    It’s not the religion but how it is applied. ACE is not bad because it’s Christian–it’s bad because it does a rather shoddy job of educating children in what they need to know to succeed in life. If it were Buddhist, it would still be crap.

    Lastly, I’ve often read complaints by the far right saying us liberals go crazy when someone condemns Islam. Yet I’ve never seen nor heard that. We condemn racism towards Arabs and other Muslims, but I’ve heard many liberals complain how some Muslim countries treat women and people of other faiths.

  3. Stone aged religion in the modern world is real idiocy, be it Islam, the moon god, or Christianity, the sun god, we are on the verge of a Theory of Everything that belief will negate because it doesn’t fit in with the lies they believe real. I see this as the continuing damage from politically motivated Imperially invented religion. 2,000 years is enough, deprogram and snap out of it. God is Consciousness within us. (I was not the least bit fearful of my own Islam post, I know it to be true and was not against people (racist) but against religion and beliefs. Beliefs are just as dangerous and self destructive as fundamentalism. Belief = Ignorance.

  4. If pointing out that government funding will go to Islamic schools is what it takes for people to realize that government funding of religious schools is a bad idea, then I won’t object. Fundamentalist never seem to make the logical connection that if the government sponsors their religion it has to sponsor all religions.

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