London: Critics have expressed fears that madrassas backed by the UK Government might be grooming vulnerable children for Islamic extremism or even terrorism.
Under a pilot scheme, the Open Madrasah Network has received a 550,00-pound government grant to pay for under-achievers to attend lessons in Arabic, Urdu and religion.
If pupils studying at four madrassas in Bradford, West Yorkshire, show improvement, the scheme is likely to be rolled out nationally.
But critics say it will lead to the risk of taxpayers’ money being spent on “suspect” organisations, the Daily Express reports. Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “These institutions are devoted almost entirely to pumping Islam into the heads of their pupils. We need to know who will keep tabs on these indoctrination centres to ensure taxpayers’ money is properly spent.
“Although there is no suggestion that the Yorkshire scheme is suspect, if this kind of idea rolls out, who knows what will happen?” he added.
There are almost 1,600 madrassas in Britain, where 200,000 children attend evening classes to study the Koran.
But anti-terror police fear that extremists could indoctrinate pupils with anti-Western sentiments.
Parliamentarian Ann Cryer said: “We should have some sort of review into how madrassas are run. They seem to be a law unto themselves.” But Kris Hopkins, Bradford Council leader and chair of the Open Madrasah Network, said: “Madrassas are not about indoctrination. What about Anglican and Catholic schools? Talking about religious instruction in that way risks discriminating against a particular faith.”