Pitched Battle for Young Muslim Minds

December 9, 2006

Author: Cameron Stewart

Source: The Australian


EVEN before Muslim schoolboys desecrated a Bible with urine, spit and fire last week, a civil war was brewing inside the corridors of the East Preston Islamic College.

For months, a small group of teachers - Muslim and non-Muslim - were increasingly alarmed by what they saw as a radical stream of Islamic teaching inside the school.

"Extreme or hardline interpretations of Islam have no place in an Australian Islamic school," one angry Muslim teacher wrote to the principal, Shaheem Doutie, in May this year.

The Australian flag fluttering in the playground belied the pitched battles going on behind closed doors as moderates and fundamentalists locked horns over the direction of the Islamic college of 650 students in Melbourne's north.

It is an ideological battle that is being replicated across the nation's 29 Islamic schools and one that will help shape the nature of Islam in Australia for a generation.