(Image from Reuters)
(Image from Reuters)

London, 11 Rabi’ul Awwal 1437/22 December 2015 (MINA) – Britain’s chief rabbi has called on the country’s Jewish schools to amend their curricula to include Islamic studies in order to be able to comply with new educational guidelines being put in place by the government, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle published on Wednesday, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis took a radically different position than he had expressed in the past, when he and representatives of other Orthodox organizations advocated against the push for British schools to include a second faith in their religious studies curriculum.

The new rules would cut down the amount of time Jewish schools that follow the state curriculum could dedicate to Jewish schools by a quarter.

It is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims, International Islamic News Agency (IINA) quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

As such, the chief rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed but often poorly understood in public discourse,” a spokesman for Mirvis said.

Although the chief rabbi has not issued any formal guidance on this issue since, ultimately, it is for the schools themselves to judge how best to tailor their curriculum we have had a series of positive discussions with a number of our schools and made recommendations to them, the spokesman added.

The spokesperson called the chance to include Islamic studies a “valuable opportunity.”

The Reform Movement in Britain praised Mirvis on Thursday, with the movement’s senior rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, telling The Jerusalem Post that she felt that teaching about Islam was both “an excellent idea” and “long overdue.”

“We are stronger as a faith group, and as a community, when we better understand others in our society,” she said.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founder of the New York based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which works on Muslim-Jewish dialogue both in the United States and Europe, also approved of the decision.

“Given that Jewish communities live alongside Muslim communities not only in the UK, but around the world, it is very important for Jewish youth to be exposed to the guiding principles of Islam,” he said.

British Muslims were likewise welcoming of the move, with the Muslim Association of Britain (MCB) stating that it believed that such a policy would foster better understanding and cohesion in society.

“The more schools teach about other religions, the more understanding will prevail among children, which can only be a positive thing,” said Association President Omer El-Hamdoon. (T/Imt/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)