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Sen-Rothschild calls for cultural homogeneity in Britain and is
"appalled" that there can be schools run by non-Christians.
Only Christian faith schools are acceptable: Amartya Sen
PTI Jul 27, 2006, 07.02pm IST
LONDON: Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has attacked the Tony Blair
government for encouraging a society in which ethnic minorities were
defined almost exclusively by their religion and for allegedly
endorsing establishment of faith schools. He also said that faith
schools, barring those run by Christians, should be scrapped.
Christian schools "are perfectly acceptable" but other faith schools
"are a big mistake and should be scrapped if the Government wants to
encourage a unifying British identity," Sen said in an interview to
Claiming that the faith schools have been set up since the Government
wanted to give them parity with Christian institutions, he said, "I am
actually absolutely appalled."
Sen, who has come from Harvard, is on a Britain tour delivering
lectures on how religion is being used to pull this country apart and
to encourage inter-communal violence.
Speaking at the Nehru Centre last night, Sen praised Britain's
multi-cultural society but criticised the Blair government for what he
called two serious policy blunders - increasingly encouraging a
society in which ethnic minorities were defined almost exclusively by
their religion and endorsing the establishment of faith schools.
In the interview, Sen said, "Christian schools have evolved and often
provide a much more tolerant atmosphere than a purely religious school
would. A lot of people in the Middle East or India or elsewhere have
been educated in Christian schools. A lot of my friends came from St
Xavier's in Kolkata- I don't think they were indoctrinated
particularly in Christianity." But the new generation of faith schools
"are not going to be like that," he added.
Although he wanted mainstream British schools to broaden their
curriculum to include more on the contribution of, say, Muslim
mathematicians to science, Sen said faith schools "are a pretty bad
thing. Educationally, it's not good for the child.
"From the point of view of national unity, it's dreadful because, even
before a child begins to think, it's being defined by its 'community',
which is primarily religion. That also drowns out all other cultural
things like language and literature. I am a believer in the importance
of British identity."
But he wanted the definition to be framed in such a way that allowed
the evolution of a "plural multi-cultural society", rather than a
"mono-cultural" one in which different groups lived side by side with
"We have many different identities because we belong to many differe
nt groups. We are connected with our profession, occupation, class,
gender, political views and language, literature, taste in music,
involvement in social issues - and also religion. But just to separate
out religion as one singularly important identity that has
over-arching importance is a mistake.
"One of the problems of what is happening in Britain today is that one
identity, the religious identity, has been taken to represent almost
everything." "Of course, this policy immediately has the effect of
making some people extremely privileged - those who speak in the name
of religion. There may be some moderate people but mostly they are
extremists," he added.
"Religion has been inadvertently politicised by the UK government in a
way that is counter-productive. It makes the battle against terrorism
so hamfisted and clumsy," he said.