What is wrong with this ‘Muslim Eton’?

“The Bishop of Burnley wants the school placed elsewhere, lest it inflame local bigots. Is that how we do things, though, Your Grace? Work out what the worst people might think and pander accordingly?

“The local MP, Gordon Prentice (Lab), says: ‘The last thing we need is single-sex, single-faith schools for girls.’ Really? The last thing? Let us assume that an all-girl faith school is going to be, relative to the average urban comprehensive, well behaved, hard working, high achieving and safe. Is that the last thing we need? If you made a list of candidates for ‘the last thing we need’, in Britain today, would that be top? …

“I just can’t find room for a girls’ faith school in my vision of a nightmare world. But I understand what the bishop and the MP are worried about. The benefit or danger of separatism is one of the huge unanswered questions about education….

“Nevertheless, Mr Prentice, beware your use of the word ‘we’. You said: ‘The last thing we need is single-sex, single-faith schools for girls.’ Who is ‘we’ in that sentence? You don’t mean teenage Muslim girls, do you? … I can’t solve the social problems of Lancashire or the big philosophical riddles of education. But I do know, when talking about Britain, that teenage Muslim girls are also ‘we’. While they are likely to grow up underrepresented in government, perhaps the last thing we need is for our existing politicians to forget that.”

Observer, 27 December 2009