A primary school trust in the UK has banned Muslim students at four schools in London from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan on the grounds that it would endanger their health.
Lion Academy Trust’s Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, sent a letter to parents stating its belief that the health of young children could be compromised if they were deprived of sustenance and water.
The letter, dated June 10, said this year Ramadan, which is set to start this week, comes at the hottest time of the year and at a particularly busy time of the school year with added sporting and other events.
Alongside Barclay Primary School, the ban will be implemented across three other schools which belong to the Lion Academy Trust – Sybourn Primary School and Thomas Gamuel Primary School in Waltham Forest and Brook House Primary School in Haringey.
The school letter, signed by “Mr Wright, Acting Head of School” and posted on the school and trust websites, says that school officials “sought guidance” and learned that Islamic law does not require children to fast.
“We have sought guidance and are reliably informed that in Islamic law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan, only being required to do so when they become adults,” the letter said.
“Since the school policy and Islamic law have the same purpose, ie, to safeguard the health and education of the child, the policy of all schools within the Lion Academy Trust does not allow any children attending the schools to fast…,” it said.
“However, if you are considering your child fasting during the school week, you will need to meet with your Head of School individually to discuss how we ensure the safety and well being of your child whilst still ensuring that they are part of the Ramadan celebration. No child will be considered
to be able to fast in school unless you have met” with the Head of School, it added.
The move has been slammed by the Muslim community, including the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), which said there are “sufficient and stringent rules within Islam” protecting those who are too young to fast.
Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, the president of MAB, was quoted by media reports as saying that parents ought to have the ultimate say in whether their child participates in the fast.
Justin James, CEO of the trust, responded to the criticism by reiterating its position and outlining how it was trying to balance both its obligations under child safety and protection while working closely with the local communities it serves.