A primary school in London is under fire after it announced a ban on fasting during school hours.
In a letter sent out to parents, the Barclay Primary School stated that although it recognizes that it will soon be a “very significant and special time of year for our Muslim community,” the school will prohibit fasting.
This decision comes a week before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins.
“We have sought guidance and are reliably informed that in Islamic Law children are not required to fast during Ramadan,” stated Aaron Wright, acting head of the school, “only being required to do so when they become adults.”
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He continued, “Although we accept the age of adulthood is disputed … in Islamic law the health of an individual is the first priority. Previously we have had a number of children who became ill and children who have fainted or been unable to fully access the school curriculum in their attempts to fast.”
The letter also mentioned that the school would be celebrating Ramadan through an assembly held for the students.
Parents who insist that their child fast during the month of Ramadan will be able to, as long as it is in accordance to the policy stating: “If you are considering your child fasting during the school week, you will need to meet with me individually to discuss how we ensure the safety and well being of your child whilst still ensuring that they are part of the Ramadan celebration.”
The ban on fasting also affects three other schools in London. More than 2,350 students attend the schools and they reportedly cater to a high number of Muslim students.
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Ramadan is slated to begin the end of next week and will last for a month. During that period, observant Muslims fast from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
Some people are upset by the policy, including former head teacher Ibrahim Hewitt who said, “I’ve had 5- or 6-year-olds fasting in my school without any problems. Of course if a child’s health is suffering something should be done about it but in general schools or teachers should leave it to the parents and children to decide.”
“How exactly is the school going to enforce this?” he continued, “Are they going to force-feed kids who want to fast? The fact is that Muslim kids see their parents and siblings getting up for suhoor (the last meal before sunrise) and fasting and they want to be part of that.”
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