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Meeting with a Muslim Faith School to create better understanding

Meeting with a Muslim Faith School to create better understanding

Students from Hazrat Khadijatul Kubra, a Muslim faith school in Small Heath, Birmingham, have met with students from Grace Academy Solihull in Chelmsley Wood, in an initiative to encourage greater understanding between young people of different geographical and faith backgrounds.

The project forms part of The Faith and Belief Forum linking programme that brings students together from different cultural or faith backgrounds for three link days each Academic year.  Students are able to discuss their differences and similarities in a non-threatening way, make new friends and break down stereotypes.

Religious studies teacher, Bushra Ali, from all girls’ Muslim school, Hazrat Khadijatul Kubra, said:

“The Year 8 girls were apprehensive at first but soon opened up and now they can’t stop talking to each other. It’s really opened the eyes of our girls in getting to know girls from a different background.  I think it has changed their perspective and showed them how they can work with different people from any community and be open-minded.

“Being outside in the workplace, they will meet loads of different people and it’s really built their confidence in talking to others.  We want this to continue and for the students to remain friends.  Some people say that people from Birmingham and Solihull don’t mix, but this has been a real building of relationships between the two areas.

“I thought people might be apprehensive about the way we look, but Grace Academy girls have been very open-minded about the Hijab and we had the opportunity to explain that it’s a symbol of our faith and reminds us of our values.

“It’s a great way of breaking down barriers, getting students to come out of their comfort zones, especially for schools of just one ethnic group, and I think the initiative should be rolled out across Birmingham.”

Muslim student Khadija Bibi from Hazrat Khadijatul Kubra, said:

“Our school is a ‘one religion’ school so it’s a great experience to see how other people are different.  It’s been fun because the other students are funny and make me laugh.  I know we are from very different backgrounds, but we accept each other; we all like food, have our own squads, like similar colours and watching YouTube.  We started off very nervous, but as soon as we met the other students and found out our similarities, we looked forward to meeting them again.”

The linking programme helps schools to fulfil their spiritual, moral, social and cultural, as well as British Values, provision, and Laura Wadley, Youth and Community Coordinator, Grace Academy Solihull, said:

“It is really important for young people to build meaningful relationships with other young people from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures.  The linking programme has given the students confidence to interact with people they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

“The students have learned how to discuss their differences and similarities without feeling threatened, or being, threatening, and have had the opportunity to learn about each other and make some genuine long-term friendships.  It’s good to break down barriers and stereotypes, and this is especially important from a young age.

“We hope this group of students will continue to meet each other and develop their relationships further. They have overcome barriers of fear of the unknown, a lack of confidence in interacting with people they don’t normally meet, and some pre-conceived ideas and judgments.

“When we visited Hazrat Khadijatul Kubra school the students and their families made us so welcome and they each made us traditional Indian dishes to try and share at lunchtime.  One student baked a cake that was designed with the two school logos on.

“I’ve learned a lot myself during the process about how to ask questions that are inquisitive but also respectful, and myself and the other lead teacher have built a strong friendship.”

Darren Gelder, Principal from Grace Academy Solihull added:

“Part of what we are trying to do is to open the eyes of students to a diverse world, so they can appreciate people from different faiths and geographical backgrounds, improve understanding, and prepare our students to be global citizens.”

Rich Pringle, Programmes Coordinator West Midlands, for The Faith and Belief Forum, commented:

 “The UK is brilliantly diverse, and the linking programme has provided an ideal platform for students to celebrate this. It has given them the opportunity and confidence to explore and celebrate their own identities and the identities of their peers in different schools across the city.

“The programme has also given students the opportunities to break down barriers and misconceptions through the model of sustained encounters and engaging in opportunities for dialogue. I have been incredibly encouraged by the passion and commitment of teachers and Senior Leadership Teams in the schools that we are working with to help us in our vision to build good relations between people of all faiths and beliefs, and to create a society where difference is celebrated.”