UK: Schools Secretary refuses to ban smacking in Muslim schools
Schools Secretary Ed Balls has been accused of refusing to ban Islamic schools from smacking children for fear of upsetting Muslim 'sensitivities'.
Mr Balls was last week urged to close a legal loophole which gives teachers in Britain's estimated 1,600 schools associated with mosques the right to smack children - even though it is banned in other schools.
He refused, prompting claims that he is allowing an alleged 'culture of physical abuse' in some of the mosque schools - or madrasahs - go unchecked.
Smacking is banned in all State and private schools. However, it does not apply to madrasahs, where pupils usually study in the evenings or at weekends, because the ban exempts schools where children attend for less than 12.5 hours per week.
Lib Dem schools spokesman David Laws, who is spearheading the campaign to close the smacking loophole, said: 'The Government needs to legislate to protect children - not leave an opt-out simply because it fears some ethnic or religious backlash.'
In a separate report in 2006, leading British Muslim Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui raised fears that physical abuse in madrasahs was 'widespread'.
MPs have been told some of the alleged abuse of children in the Islamic schools may be the result of ignorance of laws on the treatment of children among Muslim parents and teachers.
Last night, Dr Siddiqui said the mistreatment of children was not restricted to Islamic schools and insisted that mosques had improved. Some had now introduced 'recognised child protection' policies, he said.
A spokesman for Mr Balls' department denied that his refusal to change the law was based on fears of upsetting Muslim opinion.
'We have no evidence the law is being abused or that children are being abused in these circumstances,' he said.
He also claimed that if the Government banned madrasahs and Sunday schools from smacking children, it would then have to ban grandparents and other relatives from doing the same.
Source: Daily Mail, h/t London Muslim