Muslim prayer rooms should be opened in every Roman Catholic school, Church leaders have said.
"Down The Drain In the United Kingdom .What is Wrong with these people are they All Senile ?"
The Catholic bishops of England and Wales also want special toilet facilities in schools to be adapted for Islamic cleaning rituals.Their demands will shock both Catholic parents and the Government because they go way beyond the legal requirements on catering for the rights and needs of religious minorities.
But the bishops are keen to answer critics who say religious schools sow division - and to show that they are leading the way in building bridges between people of different faiths.
The bishops acknowledge in a new document proposing the measures that 30 per cent of pupils attending Catholic schools hold a non-Christian faith."If practicable, a room (or rooms) might be made available for the use of pupils and staff from other faiths for prayer," the bishops said in the document, Catholic Schools, Children of Other Faiths and Community Cohesion
"Existing toilet facilities might be adapted to accommodate individual ritual cleansing which is sometimes part of religious lifestyle and worship,” they said."If such space is not available on a permanent or regular basis, extra efforts might be made to address such need for major religious festivals."The Islamic cleansing ritual, called "Wudhu", is carried out by Muslims before they pray.
Islam teaches that Muslims are unfit for prayer if they have not performed Wudhu after breaking wind or using the toilet. Wudhu involves washing the face, hands, arms and feet three times each, gargling the mouth three times and washing the neck and inside the nose and ears. Some Muslims also wash their private parts.
Catholic schools would need to install bidets, foot spas and hoses to facilitate such extensive cleansing rituals, Muslims say.
The document has been published by the Catholic Education Service, an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.But it has been personally approved by Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham and the favourite to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor next year as the leader of the country’s 4.3 million Catholics.It will inevitably lead to accusations that the Catholic Church is ready to cave in to the Government’s agenda and some Catholics have questioned the wisdom of the policies as well as the cost.
Daphne McLeod, a former Catholic head teacher from south London, said it would be "terribly expensive" for the country's 2,300 Catholic primary and secondary schools to provide ritual cleansing facilities.
She said: "If Muslim parents choose a Catholic school then they accept that it is going to be a Catholic school and there will not be facilities for ritual cleansing and prayer rooms."They do their ritual cleansing before they go to a mosque, but they are not going to a mosque."I don't think the bishops should go looking for problems. Where will it stop?"
But Majid Khatme, a Muslim who sent his children to a London Catholic school, said he was delighted by the gesture."It is very kind of the bishops if they give this facility for Muslims to pray," he said.
"I would love to send a letter of thanks to the bishops, really. If they do this all Muslims in Britain will be thankful to the Catholic Church to have facilities to pray. It is very, very encouraging."
Archbishop Nichols, the chairman of the bishops' Department for Education and Formation, said in his foreword to the document that inter-faith dialogue has become increasingly important to the Church “as the presence of other faith communities grows and becomes more evident in our society”.
He said that the publication was being “offered to our schools in the hope that the good work already being done in them for children and young people of other faiths can be further strengthened and so that the lives of all our pupils, students and staff can be enriched”.
The document also urges head teachers to “keep under review” all policies which touched on other religions, including school uniform, dietary needs and the time-tabling of events.
Laura McCann, spokeswoman for the Catholic Education Service, said it would be a matter for the governing body of each school to decide whether to adopt the recommendations.