Exeposé News online (5 May 2015)
“Safety concerns” have prompted parents in Cornwall to ban their children from visiting Exeter Mosque next week – with the Muslim Council of Britain voicing hopes that such attitudes are “not reflective of a growing sentiment against Muslims in this country.”
91 children at Lostwithiel School in Cornwall were due to visit Exeter Cathedral and Mosque next Thursday as part of the school’s religious education programme.
The trip was designed to offer pupils a chance to learn about different faiths. However, after raising “concerns about safety due to the activities of terrorist groups such as Isis,” some parents decided to withdraw their children from the trip.
“This decision is not one based on ignorance or racial or religious beliefs, but one based purely on safety concerns,” one parent told the Plymouth Herald. They added their concerns at the “horrific events that occur every day.”
However, the decision has sparked criticism from many, with Exeter’s Lord Mayor stressing that claims the mosque is unsafe are “about as far from the truth as you can get.”
Lord Mayor Cllr Percy Prowse said that parents are denying their children a “golden opportunity” by banning the visit.
“It is a wonderful place,” he added. “It is full of children and toddlers playing, education classes and people going in to pray as they would in any church.”
Mohammed Abrar, imam at Exeter Mosque, told the Guardian he had to respect the parents’ decisions. However, he continued: “if someone does something [elsewhere in the world], you can’t blame everybody here for it.” He invited any concerned parents to visit the mosque.
The school organised a meeting earlier this week to help parents understand the aims of the trip – which head teacher Carolyn Huxley said would be a chance to “show the children that the views of extremists are not a true reflection of the Islam religion.”
“This is the first time pupils from the school have visited a mosque,” said chair of governors Kat Smith. She added that “a full risk assessment has been conducted” and that there was “no more risk attached to this trip than any other school trip.”
The school and Cornwall council have warned that parents trying to prevent their children learning about Islam – or any one specific religion – are in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Parents have also been warned that any children withdrawn from the trip without a legitimate reason will be considered truants.
A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said they were “disappointed” with the parents’ decision, adding: “we would have thought a well-rounded education involves learning about those of a different faith.”