Hege Storhaug, HRS
Etter 9/11 ble britiske myndigheter mer opptatt av hva som foregår på de svært lukkede muslimske skolene der barn undervises i islam. The Mail on Sundays journalist Edna Fernandez, forfatter av bok om ekstremisme i India, klarte å komme seg på innsiden av en Darul Uloom (Kunnskapshus) etter modell fra deobandibevegelsen på Subkontinentet, bevegelsen Taliban har sitt opphav i. Målet med Darul Uloom er å gjenskape Muhammeds samfunn.
Now, for the first time, a Darul Uloom has opened its doors to a British newspaper and allowed The Mail on Sunday exclusive access. Most Britons may have never heard of such schools. But their significance in the Islamic world is paramount and it is shaping young Muslims in Britain today.
Islamic experts regard Darul Uloom as the second most important Islamic academic institution in the world after Cairo’s Al Azhar university. The schools aim to create new leaders of the Islamic world.
In terms of its significance, Darul Uloom is no less than the Eton of Islam. The first Darul Uloom or ‘House of Knowledge’ was set up in Deoband, northern India, in 1866.
Nine years after the Indian Mutiny, when Muslims and Hindus lost their first battle for independence against British rulers, a group of Islamic leaders retreated to the Indian village to build a school that would eventually become a global movement in the Muslim world.
A haven of Islamic purity where they could live unpolluted by other faiths. Today Darul Uloom is more than just a school. It is a global school of thought based on Deobandi Sunni Islam.
Its purpose is to see a return to the ways of the Prophet Mohammed, to when Islam was born in the 7th Century AD.
Darul Uloom’s brand of Islam has spread from India, across Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa and into Britain’s educational establishment. Its alumni are some of the most important and influential Muslim leaders in the world: imams and scholars who help shape Muslim opinion.
Yet some in this movement are anti-Western and against integration with other cultures, which they view as anti-Islamic. One such former student is Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who attended a Deobandi school on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, known as the ‘university of jihad’.
In April 2001, Mullah Omar addressed a conference in Pakistan and paid tribute to the founding madrassa in India. Faced with a backlash, Darul Uloom in India issued a fatwa condemning terrorism and violence. But by now, the pupil had outgrown the teacher.
Prisen for skolegangen er svært billig – akkurat som i et land som Pakistan der fattigfolk sender barna sine.
I had come to spend the day at the Eton of Islam. Why the comparison?
Because Darul Uloom is about creating an Islamic elite who will rule the Muslim world. It is about offering a classical education and its very name inspires awe among the Muslim community.
On entering the school, I was instructed to remove my shoes and cover my head with a scarf before being led to a bare room overlooking the playing fields.
The boys are allowed to play football and cricket in their spare time but such encouragement of sport is unusual – more hardline schools frown upon games.
The headmaster, Mufti Mustafa, is in his 60s, and has a grey beard and penetrating eyes. He greets me with hands joined together in a salaam.
It was Mufti Mustafa who first had the dream of setting up the school in London 20 years ago. He bought his first premises in Forest Gate, East London, in 1990 before moving to the current site in 1993.
His was the second Darul Uloom in Britain – the first was in Bury, Greater Manchester. The Chislehurst site used to be an Army barracks. When the MoD decided to sell, the Mufti struck a deal, buying the complex for £2.7 million.
‘As I wrote the cheque and counted off the zero, zero, zero, zero, my friend said to me “Where will the money come from to run our school?” I told him, “The money will come from Allah.” And so it has been.’
The Muslim community raised the money and today 155 boys board there, although there are plans to raise that number to 225. The school charges £2,400 a year, which covers tuition fees, books and meals.
It is extraordinarily good value when compared with Farringtons School, a mixed-sex independent boarding school nearby, where annual fees are £17,000. So where does the money come from, I ask.
‘Everywhere. Britain, overseas. We have donations from around the world, just as our students come from around the world – Britain, America, Pakistan, India, Africa, Saudi.’
Det undervises i islam første halvdel av dagen, og etter den britiske mønsterplanen neste halvdel. Målet er ikke å utdanne elevene til en jobb. Målet er livet etter døden.
Unlike other schools in Britain, Darul Uloom offers a classical Islamic education in the mornings and National Curriculum subjects in the afternoons.
The choice of curriculum subjects available is tailored to comply with sharia obligations. ‘Our aim to is educate our students in a sharia environment,’ said Mufti Mustafa.
‘We teach in the same way as the Deoband madrassa in India, except here we teach the children for GCSEs and A-Levels as well. The English education system doesn’t offer this combination.’
The aim of this private school, however, is not to groom students for British universities and then enter mainstream professions. It is for students to devote their lives to Islam by becoming scholars, imams and religious leaders.
However, Saiyed Mahmood, an adviser to the school and a community liaison officer who showed me around the building, conceded that a number of pupils are drawn to jobs in IT or engineering.
‘More important than exams is the learning of the Koran, the Hadith [ways of the Prophet] and Islamic law,’ said Mufti Mustafa. ‘It is the obligation of every Muslim to live according to sharia.
As Muslims, we’re not interested in an education that is simply about getting a job. We’re not on Earth for this reason. We live on this Earth merely with a view to the next life.’
Preparing the boys for the afterlife means having a grueling timetable in this one. What struck me on entering the school was the discipline. The boys work long hours, abstain from trivial pleasures, they are polite and dedicated to their work.
The boys display monastic-like control. Hard work is a given. I met one young boy of about 13 who had already memorised the entire Koran. I saw another cleaning the library carpet during his break.
Fernandez får ikke innblikk i hvilken islam det undervises i, det vil si at hun ikke får innblikk i undervisningsmaterial. Musikk, drama, fremmedspråk (unntatt arabisk, selvfølgelig) er fordømt som uislamsk. Shakespeare likeså. IT og naturvitenskap er derimot mer enn gangbar mynt. Guttenes skoledag er beinhard og varer i 20 timer.
The day starts at 3.45am when students attend the first of five daily prayer sessions. They return to their dormitories at 4.30am and rest. Breakfast is served at 7.30am and lessons begin at 8am.
Throughout the morning, the boys learn how to read, write and speak Arabic. They also study Islamic jurisprudence or Fiqh, Tafseer (the translation of the Koran), Hadith and memorize the Koran.
Lunch at 12.30pm is taken in the assembly hall. Pupils sit cross-legged on the floor, with food served on a white cloth on the ground. I was not permitted to join the students for lunch because women are not allowed.
Instead, I was served lunch in a room alone, with the door closed. The head and his teachers ate separately in the next room. But lunch was very good: chicken curry, chickpea rice and chips – a rare example of Muslim and British fusion.
After prayers, lessons in National Curriculum subjects begin at 1.30pm until 4.30pm.
The subjects deemed acceptable include English, science, IT, history, geography and art. Exactly what periods of history they study are unclear and I was not permitted to ask for details.
Music, drama and modern foreign languages are banned and deemed un-Islamic. In some cases, Shakespeare is seen as a source of evil because his plays deal with issues such as love, revenge, adultery, murder and betrayal.
However, the school vigorously encourages IT skills and study of sciences, and it plans to raise millions to build a new science block in the future.
Recreation time lasts until 7pm but this is a group of boys for whom the iPod, Facebook, mobile phones and Harry Potter novels are banned, along with surfing internet sites other than those approved by imams.
Adviser Saiyed Mahmood explained: ‘Music is haram (forbidden) for the children. There are things in it that can cause children to go haywire. It is not permitted. As for Facebook, there one can find the good, the bad and the filthy. Our job is to teach the boys morality.’
After more prayers, students revise and do homework until 9pm when dinner is served. Final prayers are at 10.30pm and bedtime is 11pm. The boys’ day has lasted almost 20 hours. I was given a guided tour of the school.
Den britiske tenketanken Civitas utførte den første analysen av muslimske skoler i Storbritannia I 2009. Her kommer det frem at yngre muslimer er mer ”hardline” enn de eldre.
In 2009, think-tank Civitas conducted the first major analysis of Islamic schools in Britain. Report author Dr Denis MacEoin said that younger British Muslims were more hardline than their elders, partly because such schools encouraged a separatist mentality.
‘These schools are about producing more imams, more muftis. Their teaching is based on a 17th Century system. Very few secular subjects are taught and the aim is to prepare them not for life in the wider world, but to give them an existence inside the Muslim world.’
His research showed many of the Darul Uloom schools in Britain resisted cultural integration. Instead, sharia values on issues such as women’s rights, homosexuality, segregation of men and women, and capital punishment were being inculcated in children from a young age.
‘It means no child attending a Muslim school of this kind will ever visit a gallery, attend a concert of classical or non-classical music, pass an evening mesmerised by Romeo and Juliet performed by the National Ballet. No Muslim girl will become a ballerina,’ wrote Dr MacEoin.
I looked up a couple of the Darul Uloom alumni to see where they have ended up. One of Chislehurst’s finest scholars now runs a website called MuftiSays.com, which he describes as ‘one of the fruits of Darul Uloom’. Darul Uloom teachers are cited on the site for their support.
The advice given is far from the tolerant ethos espoused by Mufti Mustafa. One Muslim asked if it would be acceptable to attend a wedding in a church, synagogue or temple. ‘Such places are the gathering places of devils,’ was the answer.
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