New citizenship lessons challenging the notion that there is any conflict between being a good Muslim and a good citizen are starting to be taught in after-school madrassahs or mosque supplementary schools across the country as part of efforts to emphasise shared values.

Around 30 madrassahs in East and West London, Bristol, Bradford/Kirklees, Leicester and Oldham/Rochdale are piloting the new materials.

Through class discussion, role play and written exercises, the children aged 7-14 are learning through Islamic tradition, the importance of tolerance and respect, how to be better neighbours, the importance of volunteering and how to play an active part in their schools and communities.

This follows a package of measures announced In July by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears responding to calls from Muslim communities to support the promotion of citizenship and shared values and to stop Islamic theology being distorted by those who seek to divide communities.

Taught alongside or through traditional lessons on the Qur'an and supported by quotes from the Hadith (Islamic scripture) the lessons draw out the compatibility of Islam with wider shared values.

Using enquiry and research children will examine a wide range of topics including:

  • Equality - the importance of individuality and how Islam encourages acceptance of all differences, including respect for other faiths and the different groups within Islam and wider discussion on contemporary topics such as the role of men and women in society
  • Resolving conflict - how Islam teaches patience and kindness and how conflicts should be resolved in a peaceful manner
  • Volunteering - group role-play on the Prophet Muhammad's teachings on volunteering and charity and how these virtues relate to day-to-day life
  • Identity - an examination of the multi-faith nature of the UK and how multi-faith communities have existed historically such as Andulucian Spain where under Muslim control all religions were protected; and
  • Democracy - the importance on getting involved in decision making that affects the running of your school by joining the school council.

The topics explored, through 20 lesson plans will help to reinforce to young Muslims the teachings of Islam, that they can be Muslims and citizens of the country where they live and that there is no contradiction between being British and being Muslim.

Speaking on a visit to the Aziziye Education Centre, a Turkish Mosque and Madrassah in Stoke Newington, Communities Minister Sadiq Khan said: "Engaging all young people in society and developing their understanding of what it is to be a citizen is crucial to creating a diverse but cohesive country.

"Improving young Muslims understanding of Islam and its compatibility with wider shared values through their mosque supplementary schools has been identified by the British Muslim community as an important way of building resilience to extremist ideologies.

"Through effective early citizenship education we can undermine the belief that there is a conflict between being British and Muslim and challenge misguided and misinterpreted violent and extreme messages."

Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: "Equipping young people to live, work and enjoy being part of our diverse society is one of the key responsibilities of education.

"Every mainstream school now teaches their students the Citizenship curriculum and these excellent lesson materials will allow Madrassahs and Mosque Schools to explore the same issues further, in the context of Islam.

"Pupils will be able to discuss citizenship-related issues in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

"They will learn more about their rights, responsibilities, duties and freedoms and about laws, justice and democracy.

"Through these lessons, young people will improve their understanding of how Islamic values and tradition mirror closely the shared values of tolerance, respect, courtesy and understanding that we all aspire towards."

Farooq Mullah, Leicester Area Lead and a Madrassah Teacher said: "I believe that the ICE project is long overdue and it will go a long way to addressing some of the key issues and challenges faced by the Muslim youth.

"The resources developed will help in creating a better understanding, respect and tolerance among people of diverse backgrounds."

All young people receive statutory citizenship lessons at school. However, there was demand from members of the Muslim community to relate citizenship lessons taught in schools to shared values with Islam.

The new lessons for madrassahs under the Islam and Citizenship Education project build on existing community led work and reinforce the citizenship curriculum within Islam.

While the impetus behind the project has come from the Muslim community, the Government has supported an independent educational organisation - the Schools Development and Support Agency - to work with scholars, educational experts and mosque school teachers to develop the new citizenship materials and training packages.