The Jewish school with Muslim students

Category: Europe, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Jews Values: Education Views: 12346

It's infant prize day at King David School, a state primary in Moseley, Birmingham, UK. The children sit cross-legged on the floor, their parents fiddling with their video cameras. The head, Steve Langford, is wearing a Sesame Street tie. 

A typical end-of-term school event, then. But at King David there's a twist that gives it a claim to be one of the most extraordinary schools in the country: King David is a strictly Jewish school. Judaism is the only religion taught. There's a synagogue on site. The children learn modern Hebrew - Ivrit - the language of Israel. And they celebrate Israeli independence day.

But half the 247 pupils at the 40-year-old local authority-supported school are Muslim, and apparently the Muslim parents go through all sorts of hoops, including moving into the school's catchment area, to get their children into King David to learn Hebrew, wave Israeli flags on independence day and hang out with the people some would have us believe that they hate more than anyone in the world.

The Muslim parents, mostly devout and many of the women wearing the hijab, say they love the ethos of the school, and even the kosher school lunches, which are suitable because halal and kosher dietary rules are virtually identical. The school is also respectful to Islam, setting aside a prayer room for the children and supplying Muslim teachers during Ramadan. At Eid, the Muslim children are wished Eid Mubarak in assembly, and all year round, if they wish, can wear a kufi (hat). Amazingly, dozens of the Muslim children choose instead to wear the Jewish kipah.

At the prize morning Carol Cooper, the RE teacher, says: "Boker tov," (Ivrit for "Good morning").

"Good morning Mrs Cooper," the children chant in reply. The entire school, Muslims, Jews, plus the handful of Christians and Sikhs then say the Shema, the holiest Jewish prayer, all together.

The Year Four violin club (five Muslims, two Jews) play "Little Bird, I Have Heard". Just as many prizes are being distributed to Hussains and Hassans and Shabinas as there are to Sauls and Rebeccas and Ruths. In fact, if anything, the Muslim children have beaten the Jewish ones. Thus does the Elsie Davis Prize for Progress go to a beaming little lad called Walid, the religious studies prize to a boy called Imran wearing a kipah and the progress prizes for Hebrew, to a boy called Habib and a girl called Alia.

Times being as they are, King David doesn't advertise its presence in a city where its pioneering multiculturalism could raise all kinds of unwelcome attention. There's a discreet signboard outside that reveals little about the school's unique nature. There are watchful video cameras high up on the walls, plus two electronic gates to pass through. Sadly, it is, to a significant extent, says Laurence Sharman, the (Christian) chairman of the PTA, "an undercover school".

The Muslim parents, however, are only too keen to talk in the playground about what might be seen by some in their communities as a controversial schooling decision.

"We actually bought a flat in the catchment area for the children to come here," says Nahid Shafiq, the mother of Zainah, four, and Hamza, nine, and wife of Mohammed, a taxi driver. "We were attracted by the high moral values of the school, and that's what we wanted our kids to have. None of us has any problem with it being a Jewish school. Why on earth should we? Our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences. It's not even an issue.

"At the mosque, occasionally, people ask why we send the children here, but there is no antagonism whatsoever, and neither is there from anyone in our family. In fact, it was a big family decision to try and get them into King David. This is the real world. This is the way real people do things in the real world. All the violence and prejudice and problems - that's not real, that's just what you see on the news."

Fawzia Ismail (the mother of Aly-Raza, nine, and Aliah, six) is equally positive. "My nephew came here and my brother showed me the school, so it's a bit of a family tradition now. We're very, very pleased with the school. It's so friendly. All the kids mix and go to one another's parties and are in and out of each other's houses. They teach a bit about Israel, but we don't have any problem with that. There are such similarities between our people and our societies."

Irum Rashid (mother of Hanan, nine, and Maryam, four) says that a lot of people in Small Heath are considering moving to Moseley because of King David. "It's a very happy school, the behaviour is fantastic, the food is great - because it's kosher - and so are the SATs results."

But what about learning Hebrew and the Jewish prayers? "I think it's great. The more knowledge, the more understanding," says one of the mothers. "They learn all they need about Islam at mosque school. Actually, the kids often sing Hebrew songs in the bath, which is a bit confusing because we speak Gujarati at home, but I think it's great."

The Jewish parents and teachers I speak to are just as enthusiastic. "You know, in these difficult times in the world, I think we show how things should be done. It's really a bit of a beacon," says one teacher, whose three children all went to King David and ended up at Oxford University.

Parent Trevor Aremband is from South Africa. "In Johannesburg, we have Jewish schools, but they're 100 per cent Jewish, so we were a bit shocked when we first came here. But the integration works so well. It's clearly the way to go in today's world. My son is eight and has loads of Muslim friends."

The most important thing, I am told repeatedly, is that the cross-cultural friendships forged at King David last a lifetime. I hear a conversation about how a Rebecca is going to fly over from the States for a Fatima's wedding. I am told about a pair of lads, one Jewish, one Muslim, who became friends the day they started in the nursery, went to senior school together as well as to university and are now living close to one another with their wives and families and are currently on holiday together.

King David was not designed to be such a beacon of inter-faith cooperation and friendship. Founded in 1865 as The Hebrew School, it was 100 per cent Jewish until the late 1950s.

Then two things began to happen: there was a growth in the Muslim population in middle-income areas such as Moseley, and a shrinking of Britain's Jewish community, especially outside the main centres of London and Manchester. Muslim children started coming to the school in the early 1960s, but the current position, in which they are in the majority (Jewish children comprise 35 per cent, Muslims 50 per cent, Christians, Sikhs and other, 15 per cent) is very new.

"One of the things that surprises people about this school," says Langford, "is that it's not an especially privileged intake. Half of our kids have English as an additional language. But the amazing thing is how well it all works. We have a new little boy here from China, whose only English a few weeks ago was to ask for the toilet. He now speaks English - and can say the Shema perfectly.

"If you gauge success, for instance, by racial incidents, which schools always have to report to the LEA, we have at the most one a term. And that can just mean some harsh words with a racial slant used in the playground. At multicultural inner city schools where I've taught, there will be far, far more than that, possibly one or more a week."

In terms of SATs and Ofsted inspections, King David has also shone. It is rated as good - the second highest possible ranking - in all areas, and Ofsted made a special mention at the last inspection of the integration between children of different faiths and races. In the recent SATs results, the school also came in well above the national average in all subjects.

Steve Langford, a Warwick University economics graduate, is himself a bit of a paradox. He is Church of England on both parental sides and only became interested in Judaism when he worked in a Jewish summer camp in Massachusetts in his gap year. His interest paid off when he got a teaching job a King David. Now he is learning Ivrit at evening classes and goes to Israel for holidays.

The Rabbi of Birmingham's Singers Hill Synagogue, one of the financial backers of King David, is proud of Steve Langford and of the school's extraordinary interfaith record.

"King David School is amazing," says Rabbi Tann. "The reason I think it works well is that racism is engendered entirely by adults. Children don't have it within themselves. Their natural mode is to play happily with everyone. It's only when adults say, 'Don't play with him, he's black, or don't have anything to do with him, he's Muslim, that troubles begin.'

"We never have any racial or inter-faith problems at all. Not ever. In 20 years here, it's simply never happened in any significant way. We teach that if you don't like someone, you avoid them. Don't play with them. Go to the other side of the playground. I believe that if more people followed the lead of King David School, we'd have a much more peaceful world." 

Jonathan Margolis is a investigative reporter for The Independent

  Category: Europe, Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Jews  Values: Education
Views: 12346

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Older Comments:
This is a wonderful story. A year ago I had never encountered Jewish people. Now my children attend school w/so many, my son is the minority of his friends. But we have been welcomed and respected. In our city, and surrounding areas, we see Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish (from Orthodox to non-observant). I work out at a national chain women's only club and I can choose between two locations, one w/windows uncovered or the one frequented by Orthodox Jewish women with windows covered. Unfortunatly, most Muslims say they do not like, despise or hate Jews because of what Zionism has done in Israel. However, what many people fail to understand is Zionism is not Judaism. Zionism is not religious and if one studies the truth, it will be clear the difference. True Torrah Jews is one organization that explains this well.
Alhumdulillah that these children and their families coexist so well. I would prefer my child not wave the flag and I am not sure what are the words to the prayer, but anything that does not take us away from our deen is alright.

Salaamu alaikum,


It's about time you go back to your need to start by visiting
Br Hudd & sr Tanweer: Kudos to you and shame to self hating Muslims as far as we are concerned our Awlia are Muslims so alhamdulillah we are on the same page...

A true Muslim never demeans his faith: Pure tawheed!

My questions are as follows;

1. Will members of the Jewish faith send their children to Islamic Schools?
2. Will members of the Islamic community welcome students from the Jewish community to attend their schools?

The Jewish community is a SMART community. They are not a stupid people and demand respect for what they have accomplished. Note, that I did not say a righteous or a good people...just as we muslims are not a righteous or a good people. Both societies are in error and need correcting.

If a real cultural exchange takes place, then I am all for it. However, I cannot imagine either society will do anything to truly meet each other on even terms. Why? People want the upper hand...Muslim and Jew alike.

The parents on the surface may have good intentions, but I am not fooled. No one wants to be a looser, so they think they can become winners by joining in partnership with those they preceive as winning. But, we all know only those who love allah(swt) will be the rewarded, whether they are muslim or people of the book.



No incidents? Come on - Muslims are taking over in the UK and terrorizing the British Jews!

Look at the hate-filled comments from your Muslim readers and one who posted using a stereotypical Jewish surname: disgusting!

Don't the Jews in the UK read about the horrific attacks made on them by Muslims there? Oh, wait, I forgot just how many self-hating Jews there are.

This would be merely sad if it weren't so dangerous. "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it" by which I mean the Nazi-Islamic connection is alive and well. Now it is thriving throughout Europe and the UK.

Thank God for the USA and Israel!



This is like sending Jewish children to a Nazi school. What a wonderful idea! Zionism doesn't equal Judaism as well as Nazism doesn't equal Christianity. My opinion.

I am 100 % for it. People have differences but still we can respect each other. If only all the people respect the war .

The differences in theology between Islam and Judaism are hardly enough to call them separate religions. The students will one day grow into the age of reason. At that time they will have to come to grips with the ethical problems of Israel. I have no doubt that the parents of the Muslim students can guide them through the disparity of what monotheism teaches and what humans do. By that time they will have no doubt experienced plenty of peoples actions and reactions and this will form a base of experience with which to grow.

As long as they learn to treat others with respect and compassion, forgive others their faults and represent monotheism to the best of their abilities they will be a force for the betterment of humanity, Muslims included, beyond anything books or websites can accomplish. This is something the author hasn't discerned clearly and by the tone of some of the comments, many Muslims as well. Dua isn't accomplished by self isolation and racism.

Just one respectable Muslim, that can articulate the ethical ideal of treating others as they would wish to be treated, and thereby get others to think about the plight and rights of the Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghanis, Bosnians, Algerians, ... will put the ill willed in a bind.

These so called Muslims that want to have their children wave the Jewish flag and "coexist" with the people who are responsible for the thousands of children that die on the streets of Palestine are a disgrace to the Muslim society. We see the result of the implications that the media has had on even our brothers and sisters. It is hard to comprehend that any parent would let their child wave the flag of the country that is responsible of the slaughter of their own Muslim brothers and sisters, and in turn defy their own religion by saying Jewish prayers. I read a comment where an individual describes for us to look in the mirror and to stop trying to control others. Well who are you to tell anyone to look in the mirror when it is your advice that Muslim children celebrate the birth of Israel by the killings of your own brothers and sisters? All these supporters of this article are clear and sad examples of people who base their arguments on no knowledge and just love to boast on ideas that are intolerable in Islam and go hand in hand with the teachings of the media. Have you even looked at the Quran before showing your ideas? It is evident that none of the supporters have for in the Quran it clearly states, "O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not take the jews and the Christians for your allies: they are but allies of one another and whoever of you allies himself with them becomes, verily, one of them; behold, God does not guide such evildoers". Thus all of these so called believers should pay more attention to their teachings and principles, before boasting about ideas that are wrong and even more harshly said with the name of Allah.
We live in a time where Muslims are brainwashed against their own teachings, it is important for us to unify not amongst Jews (who are taking over our lands and beliefs), but amongst ourselves before we tackle issues of prejudice and discrimination that govern our world today.

I seek refuge with Allah....what are these parents thinking,sending their kids to a Jewish school, learning Jewish prayer...environment plays a crucial role in the development of a child's mind. and at that early age they're being taught these haram things. ... May
Allah forgive us.

This is great. Now think about why are there no Jewish kids in Muslim schools? Because a kid is a clean slate their brains are there to absorb knowledge and whatever they learn at an early age they will retain for their entire LIFE. It is the Muslims who have to start realizing what we are doing to our kids. We need to build schools which are of HIGH STANDARDS. Sending our kids to Public schools (jewish or christian) will get them to indoctrain their beliefs and will get them thinking like them. Now if this school was Multi-cultural they should have a Balance of Muslim teachers (50% Muslim teachers) as well. Also the kids waveing Israeli flags... these kids will grow up to favour Israeli opresions against poor Palestinians. THINK ABOUT IT. Our community in the west is relatively new and we don't have the think tanks the other communities like the Jews have. Please take your kids out of schools like these and Support Muslim Schools because you don't hear about no Jewish kid going to a Muslim School.
Our kids are our investment for the future, please take care of them
From your Brother in Islam
Muhammad Ali

In principal we have no problem with building friendly relationships with Jews or even sending our children to Jewish schools. In many Moslem countries some parents choose to send their children to Christian missionary schools. However, in those schools Moslem kids are not asked to pray or practice or get involved in any Christian religious rituals. I can see the only problem we have here is the involvement of children in Jewish religious practices and celebrations related to the state of Israel. In my point of view this is totally unethical and raises big concerns. If the school management really wishes to bring the Jewish and Moslem communities closer together then at least they should respect the feelings of their Moslem students (which are quiet big number) and avoid any celebrations pertaining to the state of Israel. On the other hand, the parents of those Moslem kids should be reminded that the occupation of Israel to the holly Moslem land should be denounced by all Moslems and not celebrated. They should approach the school so as not to involve their children in any religious rituals or celebrations related to the Zionist state. They should remember also that there are many Jews on this planet that do not support the creation of the state of Israel and supporting Israel has nothing to do with Moslem-Jewish coexistence. In deed such coexistence existed and was successful in many Moslem countries until the Zionist state was formed.

Are there no Islamic schools in the U.K which teach kids about Islamic manners and education? There is a saying that if you want to control the generation of a nation so that they become like yours then simply change their education system and raise them in such environment. That's why I have heard scholars say about Phiroan (king of eygpt at the time of Mosa (PBUH) that he was stupid in many ways. Since that interpratation of his dream was that a child will be born and he will take away his kingdom. He decided to kill all that children in order to save his kingdom but that stupid pharoa did not realize that the same dream also predicted that kingdom will be lost no matter what. The scholars say that if he had only made that children of israel to go through his education system in which those children were taught that he is there lord (false one) ..etc or brainwashed their mind then he would not have to kill all those children, which were basically growing up to become the slaves of this kingdom. But guess what he was stupid and so are these parents who are sending there children in jewish school to recite there prayer. How much you got to be out of your mind in order to send your childern where they are tought scripture of jews and made to flag celebration for the occupation of muslims. I can not imagine that in the whole U.K there is no muslim school for the children and where they are not taught Islamic manners (which are by far the best than other religions). I think these parents will be held responsible for there actions. And I pray that Allah (swt) save these kids from the corruption of their Faith and find better environment and education from the mosques of U.K.

Alhamdulillah, we can coexist, its a shame that in England we have to be taught by preschoolers what life could be like, I grew up and adored my Latvian Jewish best friend when I was little, her parents adored me and treated me like their daughter and my family loved her. I really really loved her. I didn't think of my religion as an impedence to our friendship.

Inshallah we can all learn from this.

This story is wonderful. Now, if only everyone else would learn from this and just chill out and relax. All of us need to realize that life is way too short and that acting stupid is old. As a muslim I see this here is the U.S. Muslims and non-muslims want everything divided. Stupid. Simply Stupid.
Before pointing the finger at other people look in the mirror because that's the real problem. As muslims, jews and human beings we need to stop trying to control others and learn to control ourselves. It's good to know that there is a school that allows kids to be kids with no stupid divisions.

If only more Islamic schools could attract this kind of following!


I doubt this to be true otherwise they are all jewish they just split themselves on jewish and moslems and...

Arrassoul Salla Allah Alaihe wa sallam spoke in hadith about the jewish of his Ummah, I don't recall alhadith, but the question: is it about their time to appear? Allah knows the best.

laa hawla wa laa kuwwata Ellaa be Allah Alalay Alazeem. are they making fun at Allah? do they not learn from the consequences of the people before us?

Yaa Rabb, laa tuwaakhidnaa bemaa fa'ala assufahaa'a minaa, Ameen

I notice that a lot of Muslims are angered at the Muslim children reciting jewish prayers...I can understand that, BUT, nearly all Jewish prayers declare the oneness of God "Here O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is ONE" I know that isnt a problem for Muslims! Moreover, one responder made a disparaging remark against these Muslims because they were obviously not Arab. Who do you think you are? Arabs are no better than non-Arabs, all Muslims are supposed to be equal...but thats not how too many Muslims act, thats why Palestine and Iraq are bigger issues for the Ummah than the genocide in Darfur or the persecution of Muslims in China. I guess if the Islam isn't "Arabic Islam" it just doesnt count.

What a wonderful little idea.
Can we open a few more in entire world please. especially in Usa and palm Springs area?

My congrats to the principal, teachers and entire community.

I agree with steve connolly regarding this article. I think parents are being ignorant and need to educate themselves


The actions in this article is what this verse for Qur'an is all about:

22:17 Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.

This is GREAT news...and makes me feel good inside that the religion of man is not totally currupt, bankrupt and stolen by evil, hate-filled, point-missing nomads who now have oil money.

Salaamu alaikum,

Raising Israeli flags and celebrating the destruction of Palestine or the so called Israel's independance day? as if Israel existed before 1948 to fight for its independance? Weird!

I have a question for those of us that changed their skin color. Are Jewish parents in the UK ok with the idea of sending their children to Islamic schools, chanting Islamic Anasheed, reciting Alma'atoorat or Alfatiha & learning Arabic, raising the Palestinian flag & mourning Alnakbah of 1948?

the Arabic proverb says: "whoever teaches me one letter, I become his slave". Tomorrow, these many Muslim and non-Jewish kids at this school will be the many varied mouthpieces in defense of the Zionist project in Israel!!!! Do those Muslim parents have any sense???? Where are their brains???? No wonder there aren't any Arabs among them!!! And they all seem to come from modest, poor backgrounds where Islam to them is only a 'culture'!!!!! Believe me, you'll see quite a handful of these Muslim kids tomorrow appearing on FOX news to defend Israel (like the few Arabs existing today who do so, after the Jews 'fed' them, so what will these kids do after many years of being educated by Jews and reciting their prayers???????????) May Allah destroy them and their parents if they will become like daggers in the Muslim body!!!

The Jewish community wants to encourage other muslims to adopt their culture, therefore they have got jewish students and their parents to act like muslims. Some muslims ofcourse understood the trick but others are just fools.
Nice one from the jewish community

everything in this event is ok except
waving Jewish flag and Saying their Prayer.

saying their prayer is a Haram for those Islam kids. and i can't imagine how their parents allow their muslim kids to say Jewish prayer..

and why should they (islam childre) wave their flags? do their parents really happy that our Muslim Brothers' Land are occupied by those Jews>?

praise be to allah. I think its great to have such a school like that in a world so divided by racisim.I hope the school last many more years.

Mashallah. In the midst of all the darkness, hatred and blood around us, a small reminder of what human beings can be and ought to be.

These muslim parents did not send their children to a jewish school to learn about Islam (or Judaism); they sent them there to get the best education which prepares them the real life in a real world and not in "God's Kingdom". And that school happended to be a jewish school and that too, coeducational one. I am sure, other schools run by christians do exist (at least in Switzerland) where muslim children go. I wonder, if such schools exist in muslim countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

Funny, lot of muslim groups in UK are clamouring for separate schools for muslims with education in local languages (e.g., Urdu) and they want strict sex segregation in their schools.

There is a real issue here of Muslims waving the flag and celebrating the independence of a belligerent state occupying Muslim land. This is definitely amongst the actions classified by the scholars of Islam as constituting prohibition (Tahrim or Haram). Furthermore, the learning and enactment of worships other than according to the Islamically defined methods is considered invalid (Batil) and even a repugnant innovation (Bida). Shame on the Muslim parents for allowing their children to partake in these particular actions. Otherwise, there is no other problem in principle for Muslim children to learn in a Jewish school or evironment.

This is an excellent example of coexistence, glaring example of
religious tolerance and social acceptance in the society. These
kids will never be intolerant to other ethnic back ground rather
they will have more respect for each other. The only thing I think
is that year the kids can practically see only one side of the coin
that holy Jew religion but it would have been excellent had their
been some opportunity for Muslim student also to exhibit and or
display their faith to their Jew friends. It would have developed
further understanding and avoid an misconception about each
other. Nevertheless it a glaring example and many more school
should take it as an example to build a better peaceful world.

This article made me smile. What a beautiful story!