UK schools claim the school policy had the same purpose as Islamic Law – “to safeguard the health and education of the child”
Several primary schools in London say they are forbidding students from fasting during the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, which begins next week, because of concerns for the children’s health.
The Barclay Primary School, which serves London’s Leyton area, told parents in a June 10 letter:
“We have sought guidance and are reliably informed that in Islamic Law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan,” adding that previously, children at the school had fallen ill, fainted, or been “unable to fully access the school curriculum in their attempts to fast.”
The school said it believed the health of children could suffer if they were deprived of sustenance and water.
The Muslim Association of Britain criticised the school for its decision, saying it was not the school’s place to interfere, and that the rules in place to protect those vulnerable from fasting were “sufficient”.
“We believe that there are sufficient and stringent rules within Islam which allow those who are unable to fast, to break fast,” a spokesman told Mail Online.
“These rules include those who are medically ill or compromised; or too young or too old to fast.
“However, we believe that this determination should be decided by parents with their children; who can together reach a collective decision whether or not the child can fast.
“MAB ascertains that the final choice of whether or not to fast should be the right of the parents, who should in turn encourage their children to fast without forcing them to do so.”
The Barclay School and three other Lion Academy Trust schools sent a June 10 letter home to parents (see below), saying Ramadan, which starts June 17, comes at the hottest time of the year and at a particularly busy time of the school year with added sporting and other events.
Ramadan is the ninth — and most sacred — month of the Islamic lunar calendar, a commemoration of what Muslim belief says was the first divine revelation of the Koran to Muhammad. Each day during Ramadan, Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking, say extra prayers and increase charity (among other practices) as part of the commemoration.
The school letter, signed by “Mr. Wright, Acting Head of School” and posted on the school and trust Web sites, says that school officials “sought guidance” and learned that Islamic law does not require children to fast. It says in part:
Since the school policy and Islamic law have the same purpose i.e. to safeguard the health and education of the child, the policy of all schools within the Lion Academy Trust does not allow any children attending the schools to fast. … However, if you are considering your child fasting during the school week, you will need to meet with your Head of School individually to discuss how we ensure the safety and well being of your child whilst still ensuring that they are part of the Ramadan celebration. No child will be considered to be able to fast in school unless you have met with the Head of School.”
However, in a statement published online, he said those parents who wanted their children to fast should contact the school and make specific arrangements.
“No child will be considered to be able to fast in school unless you have met with the Head of School,” he said.
“We have proudly worked and supported all of our communities across one of the most diverse and dynamic parts of London.
“The team and I appreciate how important this time is to all our Muslim families and we welcome working closely with you to get the best possible outcome for everyone – children, parents and the wider school community.”
Some in the British Muslim community, including the Muslim Association of Britain, criticized the decision and said that Islam itself has “sufficient and stringent rules” to protect children during Ramadan without help from the help, according to a Daily Express story.
On Friday, two days after the letter was sent home, a statement was posted on the Web site of the Lion Academy Trust, signed by its chief executive director, Justin James, saying in part:
On behalf of all the schools in the Lion Academy Trust, I write as the Chief Executive Officer to confirm the correspondence sent to all parents across the Trust about fasting during the holy period of Ramadan and how our schools will support this. We have written to all parents to outline how we are trying to balance both our obligations under child safety and protection and working closely with our communities who we serve. … The team and I appreciate how important this time is to all our Muslim families and we welcome working closely with you to get the best possible outcome for everyone – children, parents and the wider school community.
Here’s the June 10 letter: