CAIRO - Muslims in Staffordshire are optimistic about their application to build the first Islamic school in England's West Midlands region, a move seen as helping to break down religious barriers in the country.
I'm hopeful it will be successful, Asif Mehmood, chairman of the Iqra Welfare Trust, told The Sentinel newspaper."There has been overwhelming support from the community and from volunteers and local businesses.
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Muslims have submitted a request to the government this week to build an Islamic school, to be named Iqra Academy.
The news about the Muslim application has won support from residents seeking to enroll their children in a Muslim religious school.
Following the application, almost 500 people have responded to a questionnaire and parents from across the city have expressed an interest in sending their children there.
If approved, the Iqra Academy would open in September 2014 and would eventually cater for around 600 pupils, aged 11 to 16.
Leading the bid, the Iqra Welfare Trust hopes to take over the former Edensor Technology College site, in Longton, once it is vacated by The Discovery Academy.
The new school is expected to attract students from Muslim families in Normacot, Longton, Shelton and Tunstall.
Now community leaders behind the proposals will have to wait until March to find out if they have got through to the crucial next stage of the application process.
If the plans get through to the next stage, the team will be invited to an interview and could find out by the summer if they have won Government approval.
"Everybody has done a lot of hard work, Mehmood said.
We were working on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day to get the bid done in time for the deadline."
Opening their doors to students from all faiths, the Iqra Academy managers hope to break down religious barriers.
"I hope it will be an excellent example of breaking down barriers and will give people from other faiths a real picture of Islam," Mehmood said.
He reiterated that the Iqra Academy would teach the normal national curriculum.
"There has been some confusion about this and so I would like to make it clear it will be open to all faiths.
The new school came also as an answer to the needs of a growing Muslim population in Britain.
"I feel it's important for children to go to a school with a religious character, said Aftab Hussain, from Normacot, whose children are aged six, 11, 12 and 13.
It helps them to become better citizens.
The 2011 census found that the proportion of Muslims in Britain rose from 3.0 percent to 4.8 percent, becoming the fastest growing faith in the country.
British Muslims are estimated at 2.5 million.
There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
About 7,000 state schools in Britain are faith schools - roughly one in three of the total - educating 1.7 million pupils.
Of the 590 faith-based secondary schools five are Jewish, two Muslim and one Sikh - the rest are Church of England, Roman Catholic and other Christian faiths.
British teachers have long called for a ban on faith schools, arguing that such academies undermine social harmony and integration.But under the government's new education policy, independent faith schools will be able to apply to become state-funded free schools if they offer a quota of places to pupils of other religions first.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net