- Roman Catholic Church ordered schools to teach Judaism with Christianity
- The move ruled out teaching Islam and other faiths in religious studies
- Edict has been described as 'very disappointing' by senior Muslim leaders
- GCSE reforms mean schools are required to teach two religions not one
The Roman Catholic Church is at the centre of a row after ordering its schools to teach Judaism alongside Christianity in GCSE religious studies – ruling out Islam or other faiths.
The edict was described as ‘very disappointing’ by senior Muslim leaders. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the decision undermined Pope Francis’s message of greater tolerance between the faiths, and urged Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols to think again.
The Church’s move follows last year’s reforms to the GCSE exam. Under the new rules, schools are required to teach two religions rather than one.
Former secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain Sir Iqbal Sacranie said the decision to ban Islam from religious studies undermined greater tolerance between the faiths
The change was designed to drive extremism out of the classroom following the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, in which individuals were found to have been introducing fundamentalist Islamic teaching into Muslim schools in Birmingham.
Paul Barber, the director at the Catholic Education Service, said teaching about the Jewish faith would ensure schools continued to comply with the stipulations of bishops that pupils are given a solid grounding in Christianity.
He said, however, that pupils would learn about other faiths during normal religious education lessons.
But critics said many of the Catholic Church’s 2,150 primary and secondary schools have a significant number of pupils from an Islamic background, including the Rosary Catholic Primary in Birmingham, where more than 90 per cent of the children are Muslim.
Sir Iqbal said: ‘This is not a good decision. It does not reflect well on the messages that are coming out from the Church for greater tolerance of other faiths.
‘This is a difficult time for religions and the last thing you would expect is a major faith making such a statement.
And Rabbi Jonathan Romain, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, said: ‘I urge all religious authorities to allow individual heads the freedom to decide what is best for pupils.