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Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Segragated Islamic Schooling comes to Madrid

Por: | 29 de septiembre de 2011

Classroom-education-on-HIV-and-AIDS-at-Madrasa

Cut, slash, gash, incise, chop and even sever…strong words deeply atoned every day around the world. The twenty-four hour media then echoes this curious form of liturgical chant offered by the new high priests in suits and ties so that it reaches every hidden corner on earth. Their message is clear; that there is a newly-decreed desperate need to hack away at profitless ventures like universal health and education in order to appease the newest and latest deity to demand tribute from us humble mortals: God-Market.

For God-Market is voracious, all powerful and demands growth and profit at all expense, and your poor neighbor’s cancer treatment and little junior learning to read are not listed as exceptions in GM’s commandments.

But clear away the fog of incense, hymns and 24-hour misinformation and it becomes clear that the mantra of reduction may not always be what it seems. In fact, one person’s reduction may be someone else’s gain.

Gods very rarely get along and play well together, especially those which insist on being the ‘real’ and only one, but it seems that here is where we can find an exception. God-Market and other deities can get together if they share a common foe: hapless, profitless, public education.

Back in 2009 when the current economic crisis was well underway, the government of Madrid ceded 24,000 square metres of public land to an Islamic educational foundation based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia to found a school that would segregate girls and boys in Alcala de Henares.

This is the second piece of land, albeit slightly smaller than the first, that the regional government has given over to the foundation. The new agreement will give the Islamic foundation the exclusive right to use the land for the next 75 years. There were various bids for the land but in the end the Islamic foundation outbid similar projects from similar foundations from Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel.

The school, which will eventually give classes to children from zero to eighteen, will only start off with classes for children in primary school. On their web page, the Islamic foundation states that their reasoning for separating boys from girls is to attend to the diversity that inherently exists between boys and girls while respecting their dignity and their rights, allowing of course for the obvious differences that exist between the two.

The decision was greeted with surprise and disbelief from the opposition and from the local public school board which had also recently been granted the use of public land, although 10,000 metres smaller than the one granted to the Islamic foundation and clearly not big enough to meet their demand.

The foundation’s director however defended against the criticism by saying that the parents of the children who attended his school were also tax payers and had the right to educate their children in creationist ideals along strict lines of Islamic belief. He also emphasised that the parents of children who attended his school would take advantage of the fact that 90% of students with special needs are enrolled in public schools and that the great majority of immigrants also chose the public sector, thus making his school a much more attractive investment for the regional government.

Curiously enough, all of this comes at a time when the Spanish courts are trying to establish the exact legality of publicly funded schools that segregated girls from boys. The Spanish education law (LOE) clearly states that mixed schools will be given preference yet Madrid lies just behind Catalonia (15) and Andalusia (11) in the number of said schools.

The above is a startling piece of news and one that is of course (mostly) false. Many readers were surely ‘indignant’ at the thought of an Islamic foundation teaching their particular version of the world in schools paid for with public money. Yet take out the italicized word Islamic and replace it with another and for some reason the piece suddenly becomes less offensive to some. A reason that brings into the open that the war waged against public education is not something that arose solely due to the crisis, but a frightening amalgamation of deities set on eroding what should be free and available to all, a truly public education.

 

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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