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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Manchester

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Our “Loose Lawyers” panel: OFSTED is defending the rights of schoolchildren

1 November 2018

Virtually every week there is another news report of a Jewish or Muslim faith school being downgraded by OFSTED. The usual cause is failure to prepare children for life in modern Britain by not teaching them about issues such as sexual preferences or gender change.

That made the topic a natural choice for our annual “Loose Lawyers” panel event on Thursday 1 November 2018.

This long-running event is always one of the most popular events of our year. The format is a panel of two Jewish and two Muslim lawyers. They make brief prepared remarks on the set topic and then take questions from the audience.

This year’s panel comprised:

  1. David Berkley QC - Barrister
  2. Ahmed Nadim - Barrister
  3. Joanne Feldman - Solicitor
  4. Yasmin Aslam - Solicitor

The panel chair was the Forum’s Jewish Co-Chair Cllr Heather Fletcher who is also a Solicitor.

The question set for the panel was: “Is OFSTED trampling on faith? The rights of religious parents versus preparing children for life in modern Britain.

The event was hosted by Khizra Mosque on Cheetham Hill Road in Manchester.  About 50 people attended, primarily Muslims and Jews, but with Christians, atheists and Humanists also attending since the Forum’s events are open to all.

In their prepared remarks, all of the panel members shared details of their own schooling and the school choices that they made for their children before going on to discuss the set topic.

The question and answer session was wide-ranging. One audience member spoke movingly about their own experience of attending a very restrictive ultra-Orthodox Jewish school and how this had the effect of alienating the person from the religious tradition they grew up in.

Overall, the panel stressed the importance of schools preparing all children, regardless of their faith background, for life in a country which contains people of many faiths and which respects people of all sexual orientation and gender. Schools can do this without compromising on religious beliefs, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or other faith.

In response to a question about Darwinism, the lawyer responding emphasised that the teaching of creationism belongs in Religious Education and not in the Science curriculum where evolution must be taught. On the occasions when young people leave their religion, they do so for many different reasons but the science teaching they received in school is not one of them.

Audience member Gill Komoly said “I found the event very interesting. It is always good to hear a range of views from people who are able to think on their feet and to respond to questions. This was a worthwhile event and very informative.

First-time audience member Iqra Waheed who is a relatively young teacher said “I found the talk very illuminating and really enjoyed the topics that were discussed. Much of the subject matter was new to me so I learned a great deal.

In the photograph below from left to right are the panel:

  1. Joanne Feldman
  2. Ahmed Nadim
  3. Heather Fletcher
  4. Yasmin Aslam
  5. David Berkley

Photograph of Loose Lawyer's panel




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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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