Who's to say what's right and wrong?: John Patten wants morality back in the school curriculum, but is this practical in an age of diverse values? - Too cold an approach to religion

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The Independent Online
Ibrahim Hewitt, assistant director of the Muslim Educational Trust

THINGS have been going downhill since the so-called swinging Sixties; more and more liberalism and secularism coming in, and collective responsibilities are being overlooked in the name of individual freedom. This is something that is not in Islam. In Islam, everybody is free, but if the individual's freedom impinges on the security, safety and well-being of society, then the individual's freedom must be curbed.

The basic core of the teaching of Islam - and it's something that has to be got across to children - is what we call Taqwa. It's really God-consciousness: the awareness that you can do something you think is in private, but God, Allah, sees you and you will be held accountable. This is a moral brake on your actions and should always make you think twice about what you do.

We are not told just that you must not do bad things, but also that you have to do good things, and you tell a child that this will make Allah happy and make your family happy and make your friends happy.

So it works both ways: although we're told all about hell and damnation, we're told that if you do good, everyone will be pleased with you, so children are encouraged to do good.

And there are various sayings of the Prophet (peace be on him) in the Koran: you have respect for your parents, your neighbours, your elders, your teachers and people generally. You know: 'Why are you doing that to somebody? Would you like someone to do that to you?' You try to get that across in as gentle but positive a way as possible, so that children are made aware of it.

I think that this is missing in schools, even where religious education is treated seriously, because it's treated more and more as an academic subject where belief is not necessary, and it can be a bit cold in some instances.

How are people going to learn moral standards and follow codes of behaviour if they're not given a sense of them during their primary and secondary education? We feel it's essential. And, of course, Mr Patten, as a Catholic, has the choice of being able to send his children to Catholic schools - which we don't have.