Muslim pupils taken out of music lessons

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Muslim pupils are being withdrawn from music lessons because some Islamic families believe their religion forbids them from learning an instrument.

State schools are thought to have allowed hundreds of pupils to stop having classes, despite music being part of the compulsory National Curriculum, at the request of Muslim parents.

In one London primary, 20 pupils were withdrawn from the Christmas musical while the family of one five-year-old girl banned her from music classes.

The situation at Lambeth's Herbert Morrison Primary, where 29 per cent of pupils come from mainly Somalian Muslim families, emerged as part of a BBC investigation.

Headteacher Eileen Ross said some parents 'don't want children to play musical instruments and they don't have music in their homes'.

'For goodwill I allow that parent to withdraw their child from all music but I am in fact denying the child the opportunity that the other children in the class have,' she told BBC London News.

Some Muslims believe that playing musical instruments is forbidden in the same way that alcohol is banned.

Parents have no automatic right to withdraw their children from subjects such as music, although legal exemptions exist for religious and sex education.

Dr Diana Harris, a lecturer at the Open University, said she had visited schools where half of pupils were withdrawn from music during Ramadan, and has also claimed that Ofsted inspectors sometimes turned “a blind eye” to the issue.

She told the BBC: "Most parents really didn’t know why they were withdrawing their children.

“The majority of them were doing it because they had just learned that it wasn’t acceptable and one of the sources giving out that feeling was the Imams particularly Imams who had come over from Pakistan, didn’t really speak English and felt threatened.

“I think they were adhering to very strict lines about what was acceptable.

“At secondary level parents who really object to music will be withdrawing then and going to a Muslim school. At primary schools in some areas one or two permanently withdrawn, but at Ramadan I’ve been to schools were 50 per cent of the Muslim student population have been removed from music class for the month.

"Although I wouldn't want anyone to do anything against their religion, I feel there's a lot in music which gives us great joy in life," she said.

The Muslim Council of Britain said music lessons were likely to be unacceptable to about 10 per cent of the Muslim population, which meant hundreds of children were being withdrawn from classes.