Channel 4’s former Head of Religion Aaqil Ahmed has said Religious Education lessons are important to stop the “vacuum of stupidity”, after it was revealed that parents are removing their children from the lessons.
The Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) report for Thurrock in Essex found that parents were removing their children from lessons about Islam and stopping them from visiting mosques on school trips.
Mr Ahmed told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright: “I think [RE lessons] should be mandatory, not from the point of view of being indoctrinated but it is all part of being a better citizen.
“What we know in terms of the projections of migration in this country and across the whole world, the number of people who are going to be from a migrant-background is going to be quite significant as the decades go on.
“If you don’t have any knowledge about people who don’t come from a different cultural and religious background to you then you are not going to have a cohesive society.
“It is for that reason that I think it is important and it also stops the vacuum of stupidity.
“If you have such a low religious literacy then people can say any old rubbish and people will believe it.”
Mr Ahmed said that anyone had the option to take their children out of RE lessons, but that it was happening “more and more”.
He added: “I went to College in Dewsbury in the late 80s and there was a whole story there about people taking their children out of schools because they were learning about too many Asian things in those days - as opposed to Muslim things.
“There is a track record here and a history of it but it has accelerated for obvious reasons in the last few years.”
Mr Ahmed went on to say that he felt RE lessons made children “more rounded individuals”.
He said: “We have seen this growth and I think there are certain groups that will hide behind anti-Muslim rhetoric. That is why I think it is really important that people do let their children go to see different religious denominations.
“Then they can all understand who each other are because if they don’t then that lack of knowledge leaves you open to all kinds of rubbish.
“Speaking now as a parent, whose children went to those different religious institutions to learn about them, they are actually more rounded individuals than you and I were in terms of our education.”