Thursday, May 13, 2010

Should school visits to religious buildings be compulsory?

A Catholic schoolgirl has been branded a truant for refusing to wear a headscarf and trousers to visit a mosque.

The way this story is presented seems unduly alarmist to me.

If I visited a Christian church that had certain modesty requirements (e.g. Orthodox churches in Greece), I would comply with them out of respect to that tradition, even though I am not a Christian. Surely Christians can pay the same courtesy to other religions, even if they don't agree with them.

When I have visited mosques, gurdwaras etc I have sometimes been asked to cover my head, sometimes not, but whilst I am not keen on doing so (for feminist reasons), I comply with the request out of courtesy.

The Catholic girl was not asked to take part in Muslim worship.

On the other hand, I suppose that whether or not you are prepared to visit the religious buildings of another faith is up to your own conscience. I would decline to visit a Wahhabist mosque, for instance; and I know some Pagans who won't go into Christian churches. So I would support the right of a member of any faith to choose not to visit the religious building of another faith, even if I disagreed with their reasons for declining to visit. The schoolgirl in this case could have learnt about Islam in another way. So I think the school has overreacted. Parents have to the right to withdraw their children from religious assemblies; surely this is the same sort of choice, and the pupil in question is entitled to make it?


Steve Hayes said...

I once accompanies a group of theological students from the local Orthodox seminary on a visit to the local jammi (mosque). We all took our shoes off and listened to the hoxha (imam) explain how he saw the differences between Islam and Christianity.

It is a part of the world where disrespect and violence are quite common. A few weeks later we visited the town of Voskopoje, where some of the ikons in churches that had escaped communist vandals had been defaced by those attending a Muslim youth camp, incidted by their Iranian teachers. The Albanian government, to its credit, deported the Iranians for encouraging people to destroy Albania's cultural heritage.

But it works both ways -- the seminarians were taught to show respect for the jammi, and thus could expect respect in return.

Makarios said...

Not to put too fine a point on it, I smell a rat. I shrewdly suspect that Dear Mum doesn't want her daughter exposed to any religion other than Christianity (preferably RC), and that the dress issue was the excuse rather than the reason.

I mean, come on! Wearing trousers is not "dressing like a Muslim," for Pete's sake. And, despite the photo in the article (captioned "for illustrative purposes only"), I doubt that the female students were expected to wear a niqab. They were expected to cover their heads. Now, I would not be at all surprised if Dear Mum wore a hat to church on Sunday. Aunt Agatha would no more have gone to Matins without a hat than she would have without shoes.

By-the-bye, according to its "About" page, "The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible." 'nuff said.