The move drew fury when scores of people posted the form on Twitter with utter condemnation, labeling the school move as targeting Islamic faith.
It happened last week when Buxton School in East London distributed questionnaire among Muslim students.
The test outraged many for its loaded questions, which appeared geared toward extracting specific information about religious students. One asked respondents to pick three words that best describe them from a defined list, mixing labels such as “Student” and “British” alongside three faith identities — Christian, Hindu, and Muslim. Another instructed students to mark whether they agreed, disagreed, or weren’t sure about hypothetical statements, such as “I believe my religion is the only correct one,” “God has a purpose for me,” and “I would mind if a family of a different race or religion moved next door.”
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Several British Muslims and other Londoners found the leading questions, which were administered to children as young as nine years old, shocking and inappropriate.
As controversy brewed, the Buxton School attempted to calm anxious parents by publishing a statement on May 22 from the Executive Head Teacher. The letter explained the exam was part of the Building Resilience through Integration & Trust (BRIT) project, a voluntary pilot program for schools in the area paid for by the European Commission.
“As parents you will be well aware of our inclusive ethos and be surprised that this project, aimed at developing a cohesive community, has been misunderstood,” the letter read.
Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), said in a press release the test was “clearly racist and Islamophobic,” arguing that “there would be uproar if they had mentioned ‘Jew’ or ‘black’ in the identity question.”
IHRC also expressed concerns the questionnaire is part of the UK’s larger anti-extremism efforts such as the The Counter Terrorism and Security Act, a controversial law enacted in February that aims to counter domestic threats.