The first state-funded Hindu faith school in the UK — the “Krishna-Avanti primary school” — is set to open this September in Edgware, north-west London. The sponsor is none other than the International Society for Krishna Consciousness — aka the Hare Krishna movement.
In 2000 the organisation was forced to pay out £5 million to more than 400 people who claimed to have been abused at 12 Hare Krishna schools in the US during the 70s and 80s. While they seem to have cleared up their act since, the Hare Krishna is still widely considered to be a cult.
A spokesperson for ISKON disagrees, describing it as a “young and exciting” movement comparable to the Christian Alpha course. Well that’s a comfort! The school is already over-subscribed and there are plans to open a second Hindu 4-19 year old faith school in Barnet — again under New Labour’s city academy programme.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the emergence of these schools is the vocal and opportunistic political support being given to ISKON by other Hindu organisations in the area which are no doubt willing to support their more happy-clappy competitor in paving the way for their own groups to run schools in the future — notably the HSS, the British front-organisation for the Hindu-Fascist RSS, the militia wing of the Hindu-nationalist BJP in India.
The HSS is long established in NW London and has been given political cover by local Labour Party figures over the years. The RSS is responsible for the genocidal massacres of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and the HSS is accused of raising money in the UK for the RSS using disaster relief charities. Cadres were evicted from my own former school in Kingsbury a couple of years ago for using the premises for military drill training.
About one third of the 21,000 state schools in England are faith schools, the vast majority Christian. Of the 48 that are non-Christian, 37 are Jewish, seven Muslim and two Sikh. 63 per cent of Jewish children attend Jewish schools.
Tahir Alam, education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said last September: “There are half a million Muslim children at school in the state sector, but only a handful of Muslim schools. If you are a Christian child, you have a 33 per cent chance of attending a school of your faith. But if you are Muslim, the chances are 0.75 per cent.” The MCB also claim a “significant interest” among about 30 of England’s 115 independent Muslim schools to enter the state sector.
While other so-called socialists, including the SWP, have spent the last few years scuppering attempts to mount a campaign through the NUT against faith-schools in the name of such “religious equality” — accusing left-wing secularists of racism and Islamophobia — Solidarity and its supporters in the labour and student movement have consistently argued for the abolition of all existing faith schools funded by the state and an end to all private involvement and profiteering in the education sector.
We are fighting for the rights of children to a secular education with teachers and children who might be socialist, atheists, of different cultural, political, linguistic and religious backgrounds — (relatively) free from segregation imposed by parents and “communities” and free from doctrines that seek to demonise gay people and oppress women and attempt to subjugate young minds to belief in God.