Are Students Required To Accept Islam Is A Religion Of Peace? The BBC Thinks So..

Religion of Peace

The BBC is not unaccustomed to criticism. Some of it is merited; some is simply due to their stature.  People love to take a swing at a giant once in a while. I hold no agenda to single out the BBC as frequently as I have this year; it’s just that they seem to be going out of their way to mock the gods of reason.

From the censorship of satire in response to a chorus of bleating from a humourless Christian minority, to refusal to re-think the increasingly outdated and less than inclusive format of its ‘Thought For The Day‘.

There was also that nasty business whereby a ‘journalist’ was able to assert something as utterly irresponsible as “men are raised to hate women” on the flagship BBC news programme, without so much as a follow-up question. Poor editorial indeed.

Throw in the BBC’s unquestioning promotion of Atheism Plus’ odious Block bot and we have an organisation that has truly earned itself a spell on my naughty step.

Imagine then, the look of unrefined exasperation on my face, as I completed a “Practice exam” on their High School revision service, GCSE Bitesize.  You could have driven a school bus into the gaping negative space created by the rapid expansion of my oral cavity.  I still have jaw ache.

For the uninitiated, GCSE’s are qualifications awarded to high school students (age 14-16) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The BBC’s ‘bitesize’ service aims to provide revision tools and practice exercises relevant to the current school curriculum. In this instance, the subject in question is Religious Studies, with a focus on Islam.

Upon taking the two minutes required to answer the questions in question, it soon became clear that the BBC, or the relevant educational bodies do not give a flying horse about objectivity where the ‘Religion Of Peace’ is concerned.

As you can see from the below, two questions in particular, or more specifically, what the exercise deems to be the correct response, caught my eye:

RelOfPeaceIslamEquality

If you’re unsure as to my gripe at this point, it may be best to return to your bubble.

The questions’ approach jettisons any opportunity for a more nuanced consideration, going simply with the “True” or “False” format.  This is revealing in so far as it demonstrates without question what exactly it expects you to believe, or at least confirm about Islam should you wish to be considered ‘correct’ in your understanding.

This totalitarian approach, serves to accomplish a reinforcement of propaganda, rather than education. The requirement of young minds to walk this blatantly false and tepid line when it comes to the topic of Islam obstructs meaningful discourse on the harm currently propagated by this demonstrably non-peaceful and misogynistic ideology.

This of course, may turn out to be a little unfair to the BBC.  It’s likely the BBC chooses its ‘Bitesize’ content in accordance with the current curriculum provided to them.  If it is in fact the curriculum that is mandating falsehoods, presumably in the interest of cultural sensitivity (or fear), I would suggest this is much more of a concern, and would merit some statement of justification or explanation from the powers responsible.

Is the national curriculum committed to having pupils agree to the premise that a particular ideology is peaceful, and promotes equality, when the complete opposite is the reality? How are questions of this nature even necessary? Shouldn’t they be teaching ‘how’ to think, and not ‘what’ to think? Surely it’s more conducive to the enlightenment of fresh minds to teach the content of Islam and ask “what do you think?”  But, it appears they have had their minds made up for them, in plain black or white.

I’d be more than a little curious to know whether questions of this kind do actually appear on the relevant final exams, and if a student’s refusal to sing along to this preposterous hymn sheet would result in a reduction in grading.  If there are those reading this in a position to provide answers of this sort (teacher, student?), I’d very much like to hear from you.

I would therefore suggest, if you agree it’s unhelpful to reinforce such falsehoods to students, to email and politely request an explanation.  Bitesize can be contacted via gcsebitesize@bbc.co.uk

Feel free to use my email (provided below) as a template if you deem it appropriate, or please share your own correspondence in the comments section below.  I’ll update this entry with any responses from the BBC themselves or any relevant developments that may transpire.

GS

Dear whomever it may concern,

I’m writing to express my concern at certain elements present on the GCSE Bitesize service, specifically this web-based practice exam, relating to Islam and Religious Studies: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/war/islam/quiz/q60304712/

I understand the word ‘Islam’ to refer to the ideas and teachings contained within Islamic doctrine (the Qur’an and the Hadith) and the results of these ideas and teachings in theory and practice.  If you feel this is an inaccurate approximation on my part, please feel free to outline my misconceptions so we may discuss further.

With this in mind, I’d very much like to know how the following claims of ‘truth’ can be justified in any meaningful context:

“Islam is a religion of peace”

and

“Islam teaches that all people are equal and deserve equal respect”

Now, although it’s likely certain passages of doctrine could be sourced to vaguely represent the above sentiment, this is clearly at odds with the teachings of Islam as a whole.

I’d like to know how a religion meaning ‘submission’, with core principles such as ‘Jihad’ (holy war) and ‘Martyrdom’ can be considered ‘peaceful’. The texts are rife with commandments of violence and intolerance.

I’d also like to know how a religion committed to such principles as male honour, and production of laws (Sharia – jurisprudence based on Islamic doctrine) which deem a woman’s testimony to be worth half that of a man’s can be said to teach ‘equality’.  We need only point to the appalling treatment of women and ‘Kafirs’ in countries under Islamic law to falsify these claims.  Perhaps you could expand on how the two statements are compatible with the teachings regarding apostasy?

Could you please clarify if these questions mimic genuine curriculum content, or are they the work of an independent source? And if the latter is the case, by what criteria do they feel confident in making such proclamations, which appear to directly contradict reality?

Kind regards

GS

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11 comments

  • Well at least religious education in the UK has moved on from when I was at school. I failed for saying that that the bible was a book of fiction! Still, I agree that the BBC has a lot to answer for this year alone. It is supposed to be an impartial news service and the bite size questions would have been better if they were asking actual facts rather than opinions.

  • I think its ridiculous to answer either “true” or “false” to a question like “is Islam a religion of peace?”
    A truthful answer to such a question is “sometimes” “can be” “on occasions” “it depends”.
    The world is a complex nuanced place and True and False for something as complex as a religion with over 1 billion followers – all with their own individual take on things is insane.
    The second “all people are equal” is definitely false. A woman’s word is worth half a mans in court.
    One is less than two – you cant get around that.

  • I did my GCSE’s some 14 odd years ago so obviously I cannot comment with any certainy as to the content of the current curriculum, however from what I remember about the questions when I took this exam there were no simple true or false questions. With a subject as complex as religious studies as a believer or not, true and false answers cannot possibly display a students grasp of the subject matter with any degree of accuracy. I would be very surprised and indeed appalled if the education of young minds has fallen so far as to accept grading young people on one word answers. I would suspect that this is exercise is intended simply as a revision tool. That being the case this is a terrifying prospect, as far from being an accurate example of exam questions, this (as observed by GS) is an exercise of telling what to think not how to think. Clarification on the purpose of this revision tool and relevance to the current curriculum (if any) is essential. We’ll done GS for getting this out there.

  • The BBC is an news organization that reports the truth:
    FALSE
    Incorrect: the correct answer is TRUE

    The BBC is a news organization that is unbiased by religious group:
    FALSE
    Incorrect: the correct answer is TRUE

  • I just got the following automated message, 8 days, 8 days, after my original complaint:

    Dear Paul Niland

    Thank you for contacting us. Complaints are now handled centrally for us to make the most efficient use of your licence fee. To send your complaint to the BBC please submit it centrally through our complaints website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints to be guaranteed a reply (or alternatively by post to BBC Complaints, PO Box 1922, Darlington DL3 0UR or by phone on 03700 100 222). Full details of our complaints service are available on our Complaints website.

    BBC Bitesize

  • Another delaying e-mail…

    “Thanks for recently contacting the BBC. We aim to reply to complaints within 10 working days (around 2 weeks) and do so for most of them but cannot for all. The time taken depends on the nature of your complaint, how many others we are dealing with and can also be affected by practical issues such as whether a production team is available or away on location.

    This is to let you know that we have referred your complaint to the relevant staff but that it may take longer than 10 working days to reply. We therefore ask you not to contact us further in the meantime. If it does prove necessary however, please use our webform, quoting any reference number we provided. This is an automatic email sent from an account which is not monitored so you cannot reply to this email address.

    In order to use the licence fee efficiently we may not investigate every issue if it does not suggest a substantive breach of guidelines, or may send the same reply to everyone if others have complained about the same issue. You can read full details of our complaints procedures and how we consider the issues raised in feedback at http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/. In the meantime we’d like to thank you for contacting us with your concerns. We appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

    Kind regards,

    BBC Complaints.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

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