Recent comments by an Islamic school principal to his students have been “slammed” by Victoria’s (Australia) Education Minister James Merlino as he says they could be considered “dangerous and confusing” to students. The Islamic school, which is the largest of its kind in Victoria, has reportedly been telling its students by the principal that they should not join the Islamic State because it is a scheme devised by Western nations.
Merlino says that these comments by principal Omar Hallak are destructive and could lead to confusion in the young students:
“We have a multicultural and harmonious society. The best way to tackle radicalisation is through the education of our young people,” Mr Merlino said. “The worst way is to put reckless and dangerous ideas into their heads.”
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) also does not support the comments, with their spokesman, Kuranda Seyit, stating that they might “muddy” the underlying message of Islam, which is that of peace, positivity and non-violence:
“Everyone has a right to have their own theories and beliefs but I don’t think we should be confusing young people.”
Islamic Friendship Association of Australia spokesman Keysar Trad said that Hallak was simply trying to discourage the young from joining IS, although his approach was the wrong idea:
“I can understand anyone taking offence to being in any way implicated in the type of crimes that IS has been reported to have done,” Mr Trad said, “But in the bigger picture scheme of things, the real issues are that we have to find as many ways as possible to convince young people to keep away from this group and have negative feelings towards this group.”
In response, Hallak claims that radicalization would not be an issue for his students because they were educated to be good Australian Muslims, the Brisbane Times reports. He also said that his school appealed to many parents as there was a strong focus on discipline.
“We have not had any problems here,” he said. “We are Australian Muslims and have to follow Australian law.”
Al-Taqwa College is currently the largest Islamic shool in the state, with a roster of over 1,900 students.
This problem isn’t just localized to Al-Taqwa College, however, as a number of other schools are dealing with the threat of radicalization. Following the death of Numan Haider last year, an 18-year-old who was shot after stabbing two counter-terrorism police officers, the Department of Education has appointed an adviser to promote social cohesion in schools. The DoE has also strengthened its relationship with the police in hopes of promoting quality education and advice for students.