London, Mar 25: A teachers' union in Britain has advocated the need for appointing Islamic preachers, especially those well versed with Koran recitation, in state-run schools, stirring a fresh cultural controversy.
According to the Daily Express, the National Union of Teachers' conference has also said that existing religious schools - almost all of them Christian - should have to admit pupils from other faiths. The union's general secretary Steve Sinnott said that allowing Muslim imams to preach in schools would be a way to reunite divided communities.
The proposals have prompted immediate outrage, with Conservative Party leaders saying that the step would be seen as an attempt to further appease Muslim militants.
"We should just follow the existing laws on religious education, which state that it should be of a predominantly Christian character. All this will do is further divide many communities that are already split on religious lines," said a party backbencher.
Sinnott admitted that his plan would amount to religious indoctrination inside taxpayer-backed schools rather than simple teaching of what different religions believe.
The proposals also include providing private Muslim prayer facilities in schools and for daily religious assemblies to be abandoned. It also said local authorities should take control of all state school admissions, removing the right of faith schools to choose which pupils they take. Shadow Childrens' Secretary Michael Govesaid: "Faith schools provide children with an excellent education because their distinctive ethos helps to instil good values and respect for others."
John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned that extremists could seize control of schools, using religion to mask their real agenda.
A Church of England spokesman said: "It is for religions to teach their faith to people, it is for schools to teach about religion."
A National Secular Society spokesman said: "If it is allowed, it will be the zealots imposing their will on everyone else."
About 7,000 state schools in England are faith schools - roughly one in three of the total - educating 1.7million pupils. Most are either Church of England or Roman Catholic.