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It’s Time to Respond to Statutory Relationships & Sex Education

As parents, we are continually undermined by societal forces that not only influence how we think and act, but also compel us to change the way we live our lives and raise our children. From the consumer culture that reminds us to buy material things we do not need, to popular culture that seeks to destroy ‘the values of old’ and usher in ‘new and improved’ values.

In responding to this changing landscape, we as parents have no easy solutions, and we should not pretend that there are any. Every day we fight to preserve the īmān of our children, and every day we beseech Allāh to help us raise upright and strong children who prioritise their relationship with Allāh when navigating the world around them. The struggle to reach the end result is more important than result in and of itself, for that is in the domain of Allāh, whilst the struggle involves the choices we make every day.

When we take responsibility for the media that our children consume, we are exercising our desire to fight for our children’s īmān. When we live the values we profess and instil these in our children, we are making the conscious decision to lead by example. This is by no means an individual pursuit; families don’t live in bubbles. The encroachment of outside forces into our homes cannot be understated, and they cannot go unchallenged.

When inappropriate content invades children’s programmes, we should complain to the regulator and discuss why this content is inappropriate with our children. We have to boycott products that seek to contradict our values. We have to show our children that in a disposable culture, values and principles are not disposable. And yes, this response has to be organised so that we are able to have a maximum impact.

Some will say, “What’s the point? They will not change.” When we accept the status quo around our families, we will ultimately normalise this situation in our lives and the lives of our children. Even if the action is symbolic, we are proclaiming that we have values worth protecting. If we stand for the values we hold dear, surely we should fight for those values. Otherwise, what message do we send to our children when we prioritise everything other than the values we claim to champion?

Defeatism and confidence start in the mind and shape our actions. If we believe that Allāh intends good for his servants, we would very easily pursue the avenues to every good. If we think the forces of society are too great for us to challenge in our families and in our communities, what does that say about our measure of Allāh’s power?

When the Relationships Education/Relationships and Sex Education (RE/RSE) regulations were being passed by Parliament last year, there was understandable concern from Muslim parents. Parents with children in primary schools were concerned that their right to withdraw from RSE would be severely restricted.

Your son Abdullah can be withdrawn from Sex Education classes, but not Relationships Education classes. What if the school decides to blur the lines between the two? What if the school held in contempt its legal duty to consult parents? What if the school saw ‘consultation’ as a tick-box exercise? You would have to fight to have your voice heard and your views respected. When your daughter Amina moves from Year 6 to Year 7, the secondary school will be teaching RSE. You would then have to make a request to withdraw Amina from Sex Education classes. This right would not be automatic as the final decision rests with the head teacher. Even if the head teacher approved your request, it would only be honoured until Amina turns 15, then she will be asked whether she wishes to remain withdrawn from the classes. Again, what prevents a school from blurring the lines between these two subjects? Both in primary and secondary school, there is no oversight over how schools choose to implement RE/RSE. Frankly, no one is interested if a school is teaching above and beyond what is required or whether ‘inappropriate’ resources are being used. In fact, there is no objective definition of ‘inappropriate’. A parent is beholden to the goodwill of headteachers to exercise sensitivity.

To place the onus on parents to ensure schools fulfil their legal responsibilities is unacceptable.

To promise a consultation process without defining it is to knowingly encourage schools to go through the motions.

To downgrade the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes is the removal of the final safeguard of parents who are dissatisfied with a school’s approach. It fundamentally shifts the responsibility for raising children away from parents to the state.

Parents across the country are fighting individual battles across the country, school by school. This is necessary and must continue, but we have to challenge the basis of this new arrangement.

A new multifaith coalition has been set up to do just that, and we are asking Muslims to support them.

What is LKBKC?

The Let Kids Be Kids Coalition (LKBKC) is the first multi-faith coalition of organisations and communities set up to challenge this new law. The coalition involves parents from different faith backgrounds, including Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim parents.

LKBKC has launched a judicial review to challenge the Government’s decision to remove and dilute the right to withdraw. The coalition is also arguing that the guidance is riddled with vagueness. Since the launch of the judicial review, the Government has been forced to make a number of clarifications which, though welcomed, do not go far enough in restoring parental rights.

What is the legal case trying to achieve?

The case is seeking, amongst other matters, to challenge:

– The removal of the parental right to withdraw so that it is fully reinstated

– The guidance, which opposes fundamental parental rights.

Why should Muslims join this fight?

We have a responsibility to stand up to protect the right to raise and nurture our children in line with our values. If we do not stand up to the intrusion of the Government in our lives, successive governments will continue to usurp our rights.

When statutory RE/RSE regulations sailed through Parliament in 2019, many parents rightly asked what more they could do to show their disapproval. Now that the opportunity to work with those that have taken on this brave fight has presented itself, we have a responsibility to stand by them.

What can you do?

A judicial review requires money. It may also be the case that the coalition will have to appeal to higher courts, which will cost more money. When we consider contributing to this fight, we have to remind ourselves that we are not fighting for nothing – we are fighting on behalf of our children, and indeed all children.

In our Islamic tradition, the support for this case is part of the greater act of enjoining the good (ma’rūf) and forbidding the wrong (munkar). It is a praiseworthy act, and the money utilised in this act will be rewarded by Allāh.

We ask that you contact your friends and family and implore them to also support this cause. Please give, whatever you can – but please give, whether this is through sending a WhatsApp message, posting on Facebook, or calling those who feel as strongly as you do about this issue.

As well as supporting this cause financially, we also implore you to make du’ā for the success of this case and that Allāh enables us to explore different ways to safeguard our values within our communities.

To contribute towards this legal fight, visit:

Let Kids Be Kids – #StopSexualisingOurKids!

SRE Judicial Review

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.

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About Yusuf Patel

Yusuf Patel is the founder of SREIslamic, which provides advice, support and training to parents concerned with how Sex and Relationship Education (SRE/RHE/RSHE) is taught in schools, particularly at the primary level. SREIslamic has conducted hundreds of seminars across the country since it was founded in 2008 in order to inform Muslim parents of their legal rights in the area of SRE (RHE/RSHE) as well as running workshops covering the responsibility of Muslim parents to impart age appropriate sex education in line with their values. Yusuf works for a mental health charity.

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