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Schools are symbol of separate culture

August 25th, 1989

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 25th August 1989.

Salman Rushdie and various police forces will give a wry laught when they read Mr Gerald Smith’s extraordinary remark in his Personal View (Aug. 21st) that “ethnic communities . . . value free speech . . . which is why they come [here] in the first place”.

In arguing the case that the British taxpayer should pay for Moslem schools, Gerald Smith makes an entirely false, but often heard, equivalence with the maintained Church of England and Roman Catholic schools.

Fundamentally, these schools exist because Britain in a country grounded in the Western, Christian, tradition and they are symbols of that fact.

My guess is that the vast majority of Englishmen and women, whether or not they go to church, are content with this arrangement.

But as usual in articles such as Mr Smith’s, the wishes of his fellow countrymen are not even considered.

The correct equivalence for Moslems in this country to make is with the position of Christians and their schools in countries like Pakistan which are grounded in the Moslem tradition.

When they immigrated to this country in large numbers in the teeth of opposition from the ordinary British person, Moslems were perfectly well aware that this was a country with a state education system deriving ultimately from Western, Christian values, some of which are in complete opposition to the practices of Islam.

If, as I suspect, many Moslems (though not of course all) find their religious practices incompatible with the society they have come to, then they should move to a country more in keeping with their beliefs as, for instance, English Puritans did 370 years ago.

It would be a betrayal of our country and people for the governing establishment to give in, once again, to claims for special treatment by what has become an increasingly strident minority.