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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
War 'marginalises' Muslim pupils
Pupil wearing veil
Staff are worried about a growing divide between pupils
Head teachers have vowed to correct the "destabilising" effects of the Iraq war on the lives of Muslim pupils.

More than 20 attended a meeting organised by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL), after complaints of bullying and increasing racial and religious divisions.

Ibrahim Lawson, head of the Nottingham Islamia School, said: "Muslim children really have three identities: their British identity, their religious identity and an identity which stems from their ethnic roots.


"At times like this their religious identity comes to the fore and in some cases provides a peg on which to hang adolescent behaviour and to express individuality.

"Many Muslim pupils feel marginalised and alienated in British schools.

"They feel their non-Muslim peers don't understand their religious beliefs and they themselves find it very hard to understand how anyone can be anything other than Muslim.

"It is vital school leaders address these issues even if there is no overt evidence of bullying or racism."

The NCSL will produce some online guidance and advice for schools within the next few days.

It hopes eventually to produce long-term strategies to beat racism and religious bigotry.

NCSL chief executive Heather Du Quesnay said: "We want to find out if and how the war in Iraq is changing relationships - between pupils from different ethnic backgrounds, between different religious and racial groups, between pupils and teachers, and between the school and the community.

'Quite frightening'

"We want to know if schools do feel de-stabilised, if they are experiencing problems like bullying, and how they are dealing with these problems."

Last week, Kenny Frederick, head teacher of George Green's School in the Isle of Dogs, east London, said war was teaching pupils of different ethnic backgrounds to settle their differences through violence.

She declared military action in Iraq "illegal" and complained it had caused difficulties for the 40% of her pupils who were Muslims.

But Education Secretary Charles Clarke rejected her criticisms, saying the government was acting according to international law.

Michael Lewis, head of King Edward VII School, a multi-ethnic comprehensive in Sheffield, was at the meeting in Nottingham.

He said: "This situation is completely unprecedented and the potential in terms of what might happen is enormous and quite frightening.

"The consequences may not become apparent in a matter of days but in the coming weeks and months and schools need to think hard about how they will deal with this.

"They need to give clear messages about what they stand for."

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