30 June 2006

Does Muslim Dress lead to Rickets?

Three stories in the Leicester Mercury over the last two days highlight the rise of rickets among people of South Asian origin. Dr Peter Swift, consultant paediatrician at Leicester Royal Infirmary said they are seeing one or two cases a month of children with severe bone deformities, and that "substantial numbers" of children have infantile and adolescent rickets. "I think there's still tremendous ignorance in Leicester about this very serious problem," he says.

The disorder, largely eradicated in the 1970s but prevalent in Victorian times, is largely caused by vitamin D deficiency, mainly because of a lack of sunlight. 90% of vitamin D is made in the body from sunlight and 10% comes from food, such as oily fish, fortified margarine, evaporated milk, eggs and fortified cereal.

The same problem has been recognised in Bradford, where every child under two will be offered free vitamin D to tackle the problem at a cost of £50,000. "The evidence is that something like 50% of Asian women in pregnancy are vitamin deficient." Many Muslim women are at higher risk, because traditional Islamic dress codes prevent their skin from getting enough sunlight.

Abdulkarim Gheewala of the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations said: "We always encourage women that they should be getting out for a walk and get enough sunshine ... When the dress becomes an issue ... it must be approached in a very sensitive way."

Imam Ibrahim Mogra says "I think it's important for Muslim women to get their fair share of sunshine and there is no reason why they should not do that in the confines of their own homes. You can enjoy the sunshine in your garden."

27 June 2006

Creationism at Leicester University?

The Times Higher Education Supplement reports that it is becoming necessary for Universities to teach counter-creationism in their biology courses.


Creationism - the belief that the biblical story of creation is scientific fact - is beginning to make inroads into the science curricula of UK universities, The Times Higher can reveal.

Leeds University plans to incorporate one or two compulsory lectures on creationism and intelligent design into its second-year course for zoology and genetics undergraduates next Christmas.

At Leicester University, academics already devote part of a lecture for third-year genetics undergraduates to creationism and intelligent design.

In both cases, lecturers intend to present the controversial theories as fallacies irreconcilable with scientific evidence. But that these alternatives to evolution have been proposed for formal discussion has sparked concern among the UK science community.

We at LSS have heard from a contact at Leicester University that this situatioon has come about because some students have answered exam questions with creationist answers and the university wants to make very clear that they are unacceptable and will be given no marks. This is presumably happening because of comparatively larger intakes of students from evangelical Christian and Muslim families, who have acquired creationist teachings from their preachers and imams, or at overseas madrassas (religious schools). Hence the need to counter the effect of this religious brainwashing.

On the wider question of faith schools generally, Lyn Hurst (LSS President) draws atention to the views expressed by Ken Loach at the end of this interview about his controversial new film:


His socialist hopes remain unabashed, even though he knows the socialist republic in an undivided Ireland won't arrive soon. "One thing that the British could do if they are serious about governing Northern Ireland is abolish sectarian schools," says Loach when we discuss Ireland's future. "But Blair keeps putting money into faith schools. How mad is that!" As he speaks, there is, behind those crypto-Trotskyist glasses, a glint betokening political ardour. You don't get that much in Britain any more. It is a good thing to see.

There is an excellent new site just set up to coordinate the campaign against academies:


There is a discussion forum included.

10 June 2006

Creationism, Islam and Education

In this lovely summer weather it's nice to take a break to get away from serious matters and enjoy the weather, but meanwhile the world carries on its chaotic way. This week I have a miscellany of loosely connected topics.

On Sunday 11th I will be holding a discussion at Secular Hall on Countering Creationism. This wil take the form of a display of creationist literature (often very well printed in full colour) and point out the misrepresentations and even lies in it, and how it is often difficult to counter their claims without having specialised knowledge.

In this connection
Judge Jones
, from the Dover 'Intelligent Design' trial, has been speaking about how he has needed police protection.

On another local note, the Leicester Muslim Academy is now under way.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, having been disgracefully forced out of the Netherlands to the US has a new book out The Virgin Cage. In the
Preface she speaks of the need for an Islamic Reformation. She writes: "I am amazed that Muslims are not more offended by the invocation of Allah and "God is great" for murder than by cartoons. Why do Muslims not fly into flights of rage when people who go to help Iraqis are kidnapped, tortured, and beheaded in the name of Islam? Political cartoons that point up problems with an extremist religion are used to manipulate people into violence instead of reflection and debate. Freedom of expression for Muslims is a one-way street; Muslims can criticize the West, but the West cannot criticize the practices of Islam."

On education more generally, the humanist philosopher Stephen Law has brought out a book on The War for Children's Minds, touching on the whole question of education and the dangers of the government's faith-biased schools project.