CAIRO - The construction of a Muslim free school in the city of Derby in south Britain is dividing the sizable Muslim minority over fears of teaching children twisted Islamic teachings.
"It will teach a secularized form of Islam, stripped of all rules and values, and reduced to a crude universal ethos and a few meaningless rituals, opposition spokesman Kamran Raja told local newspaper This is Derbyshire.
Financed by the Department of Education, Al Madinah School is set to open in Derby in September.
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Opponents say the school adopts a secular ethos, gender mixing and having a non-Muslim head and staff.
They also say that most mosques in the city have distanced themselves from the school project.
"This is a way of bringing independent Islamic education of children in Muslim communities under state control, Raja said.
Opponents warn the school will produce a lost generation of Muslims, who do not know the basic teachings of Islam.
"The result will produce another lost generation who have little idea of their identity, lack basic values of halal or haram, discipline, respect or purpose, akin to the secular youths who participated in last summer's riots and fill single parents' estates across the country," Raja said.
Britain is home to a Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
There are around 140 Islamic schools in Britain, just 12 of them are state-funded.
But school officials deny the accusation, saying the school is being welcomed by most Muslim parents.
"We know some people are speaking out but we also know that many parents are supporting the creation of the school," Shazia Parveen, one of three trust board members behind the project, said.
She also defended the appointment of a non-Muslim, Andrew Cutts-McKay, as the school's head.
"He was the best person for the job, she said.
"Andrew stood out because he was confident and clearly cared about the school, as well as wanting to achieve what we want to achieve here."
Cutts-McKay says he aspires to promote the school and drive forward its ethos based on Islam.
"I have been getting on with trying to make this school the best there is and to drive forward its ethos, which is based on Islam, he said.
"It is an excellent moral code governed by respect, diversity and selflessness."
Initially, the school will admit 120 reception and year-one children, together with 180 pupils into years seven and eight.
Eventually, the all-age school will have up to 1,100 pupils.
"During the day, the timetable will be flexible with time for Islamic teaching but pupils will be able to opt out of this and there will be a chance to learn about other faiths, Cutts-McKay said.
"We will honor all faiths and envisage a school where 50% of pupils are Islamic and the other half aren't."We will have a high moral code and our educational standards will be the best," he said.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net