Sunday, February 05, 2017

Embraced by the woolly duffle-coat of Britishness

The Sunday Times reports:
Muslim pupils outnumber Christian children in more than 30 church schools, including one Church of England primary that has had a “100% Muslim population”. 
St Thomas in Werneth, Oldham, is reported by the local diocese to have no Christian pupils, while at Staincliffe C of E Junior School in Batley, West Yorkshire, 98% of pupils “come from a Muslim background”, according to its most recent religious inspection report in 2015. 
The Church of England estimated that about 20 of its schools had more Muslim pupils than Christians and 15 Roman Catholic schools had majority Muslim pupils, according to the Catholic Education Service.
At that point the paywall kicks in so I can't tell you any more, but I suspect we are meant to disapprove.

I think it is good news.

And to show you why, here is a passage from Timothy Garton Ash's 2004 book Free World. I liked it so much I put it on my long-neglected anthology blog Serendib:
The manner in which people of different nationalities and ethnicities coexist in London, and to a lesser degree in other British cities and regions, is unmatched in Europe. Here is a peculiarly British way of tolerance. It starts, perhaps, with the habits of privacy and mutual indifference (“live and let live”, “an Englishman’s home is his castle”). 
It continues with the baggy, undemanding nature of “Britishness”, a woolly duffle-coat of an identity that from the start had to embrace four national identities English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish. Only in pragmatic, illogical Britain could a rugby match between England and Scotland be called a “home international”. But as the world has come back to the post-imperial island, so the duffle-coat of Britishness has stretched to accommodate many other identities. 
In future censuses, we are told, we shall be able to categorise ourselves as “Afro-Caribbean English”, “Chinese Welsh”, or “Asian Scottish”. Gisela Stuart, herself a German-British MP, describes a neighbourhood in her Birmingham constituency that has a large Asian population. Since Asian parents want the best education for their children, and the best school in the neighbourhood is a convent school, they send their daughters there. Never mind the Catholicism; that can be expunged by Islamic instruction after school hours, at the local madrasah. 
So there they sit, row upon row of girls in their Islamic headscarves, being taught maths, British history and, incidentally, the story of baby Jesus, by nuns in their Christian headscarves. A complete muddle, of course, but Europe will need more such muddling through if it is to make its tens of millions of Muslims feel at home.

3 comments:

wolfi said...

Jonathan, I really hope that this tradition of tolerance continues after Brexit!

nigel hunter said...

It would be nice to say we are Welsh British, Scots British etc and in Schools get back to teaching ALL religions. and not be devided by them.

Anonymous said...

You find yourself being tolerant when prison or job loss is the alternative.
Still Britain of 1958 was nicer.