Fears are emerging that vulnerable children might be groomed for religious extremism or even terrorism at taxpayers’ expense.
Muslim pupils are being taken out of classes and sent to study at Islamic schools, or madrassas. A pilot scheme, the Open Madrasah Network, has received a £550,000 government grant to pay for under-achievers to attend lessons in Arabic, Urdu and religion.
The classes, described as booster lessons for primary and GCSE age pupils, are already running at four madrassas in Bradford, West Yorkshire. If pupils show improvement, the scheme is likely to be rolled out nationally. But critics say it will lead to the risk of taxpayers’ money being spent on “suspect” organisations.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “These institutions are devoted almost entirely to pumping Islam into the heads of their pupils. We need to know who will keep tabs on these indoctrination centres to ensure taxpayers’ money is properly spent. Although there is no suggestion that the Yorkshire scheme is suspect, if this kind of idea rolls out, who knows what will happen?”
There are almost 1,600 madrassas in Britain, where 200,000 children attend evening classes to study the Koran. But anti-terror police fear that extremists could indoctrinate pupils with anti-Western sentiments.