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London school bans Muslim pupils from fasting in Ramazan

LONDON: A primary school trust in east London banned Muslim students from fasting on school grounds during Ramazan.

The Barclay Primary School, which serves London’s Leyton area, told parents in a June 10 letter:

“We have sought guidance and are reliably informed that in Islamic Law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan,” adding that previously, children at the school had fallen ill, fainted, or been “unable to fully access the school curriculum in their attempts to fast.”

The school said it believed the health of children could suffer if they were deprived of sustenance and water.

The Muslim Association of Britain criticised the school for its decision, saying it was not the school’s place to interfere, and that the rules in place to protect those vulnerable from fasting were “sufficient”.

“We believe that there are sufficient and stringent rules within Islam which allow those who are unable to fast, to break fast,” a spokesman said.

“These rules include those who are medically ill or compromised; or too young or too old to fast. However, we believe that this determination should be decided by parents with their children; who can together reach a collective decision whether or not the child can fast.”

“MAB ascertains that the final choice of whether or not to fast should be the right of the parents, who should in turn encourage their children to fast without forcing them to do so.”

MAB President Dr Omer El-Hamdoon said parents should have a say in whether or not their child fasts.

“Schools should play a supporting role to parents; and issues like this should be discussed, not blanket enforced,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer of the school trust, Justin James, while responding to criticism said that the school was attempting to balance its obligations under child safety while continuing to work with the communities the school served.

In a statement published online, however, James says that parents who want their children to fast should contact the school to make specific arrangements.

“No child will be considered to be able to fast in school unless you have met with the Head of School,” the statement said.

“We have proudly worked and supported all of our communities across one of the most diverse and dynamic parts of London.

“The team and I appreciate how important this time is to all our Muslim families and we welcome working closely with you to get the best possible outcome for everyone – children, parents and the wider school community.”

Three other schools ─ Sybourn Primary School, Thomas Gamuel Primary School and Brook House Primary School ─ which belong to the Lion Acadamy Trust will also be implementing the ban, alongside Barclay Primary School.

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