An Islamic school in Blackburn is to become the first in the UK to have an army cadet force.
The Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School in Blackburn has been granted approval to start a cadet force for its teenage pupils. According to The Times, the armed forces established links with the school earlier this year by inviting 50 boys to a cricket match at Lord’s and joining them on a visit to Regent’s Park Mosque.
Pupils who enrol as cadets from next September will practise drills, fieldcraft, map reading and experience being on a firing range.
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who was an ardent advocate of the Iraq war, is a director of the company which runs the school. But it is not clear what role he played in the decision to start a cadet force.
The move may prove controversial given the armed forces’ involvement in several bloody conflicts in Muslim countries in recent years. In the past 17 years the British Army has invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as bombed Libya and Syria. Hundreds of thousands of people – at a conservative estimate – have been killed in those devastating conflicts.
Perhaps due to these facts, the army has struggled to recruit from the Muslim community – 2015 figures showed that Muslims made up 4.4 per cent of the British population but only 0.5 per cent of the army.
Earlier this year an army recruitment campaign focused in part on attracting Muslim applicants.
The army has also been trying to get Muslim institutions to sign the “British Armed Forces Covenant,” whereby they pledge to support the army. So far Birmingham and Leicester Central Mosques have signed up, as has the Muslim Council of Britain, among others.
The Times claimed that local mosque leaders have given their blessing to the initiative and have approved the cadet force convening on Fridays. It has also been allegedly supported by parents and governors.
Mufti Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies, which runs Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS), told The Times: “They have recently been reflecting on the 400,000 Muslims who fought alongside the British Army for freedom during World War I, many of them buried in cemeteries across France. So the launch of the cadet unit at TIBHS will be particularly poignant. We are excited that this will be the first cadet unit in the country established by a Muslim faith school.”
The Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School in Blackburn is a 11-18 boys’ secondary school. It was assessed as “outstanding” in every category at its first Ofsted inspection in April 2014.
5Pillars contacted the school for comment but they did not respond.