School visits to Edinburgh Central Mosque are valued highly, says City

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Edinburgh Central Mosque
Annette Dubois
Edinburgh Central Mosque

Last week it emerged that two school visits to Edinburgh Central Mosque had been cancelled, apparently because of concerns arising from the Paris terrorist attack. The cancellations raised fears that there had been a shift in Edinburgh City Council policy over these visits. 

Prompt action by the Muslim Women's Association of Edinbirgh (MWAE) has secured a re-affirmation by the City Council that school visits to Edinburgh Central Mosque are "valued highly." The Council says that the cancellations last week were not made on its advice.

Statement from the Muslim Women's Association of Edinburgh.

27 November 2015

MWAE were very disappointed to hear of school groups cancelling visits by their pupils to Edinburgh Central Mosque this week.

The purpose of mosque visits is to educate and inform visitors about the architecture, uses and practices within a mosque. Such visits are enriching for MWAE volunteers, our Muslim community and for the visiting groups. Our volunteers accord the best of hospitality to visiting groups.

In pursuing this matter we have learned that one school consulted the Council about safety of visiting public places after the Bishopsbriggs attacks and the Headteacher made the decision independently of the Council to cancel the mosque visit. Another school that was influenced by this decision thought the Council were giving out such advice.

Being assured that this is not in fact Council policy the latter school has apologised for the misunderstanding and asked to have the visit after all.

MWAE work hard to challenge myths and misconceptions about Muslims and the religion of Islam. As Scottish citizens we extend a welcome to our Edinburgh community at all our events including our mulitcultural celebration "Love Culture Hate Racism" as well as our work at the Central Mosque Open Days and Islam Festival during the Fringe.

We feel supported by the City of Edinburgh Council in our attempts to encourage unity and mutual respect at this difficult time.

Statement from Edinburgh City Council

Letter from Edinburgh City Council to Councillor Mclnnes, 27 November 2015

Dear Councillor Mclnnes,

With reference to the email to Gillian Tee dated 26 November 2015, I have now conducted a thorough enquiry into the circumstances surrounding this.

I would like to make clear in the first instance that no advice regarding visits to the Edinburgh Central Mosque was given to schools. Through 'Time for Reflection' our young people learn about other faiths and about Islam in particular; the visits to the Mosque underpin this and are highly valued. The city of Edinburgh has well-established links with the BME community throughout the city.

The circumstances surrounding the cancellation from the two schools are as follows:

In the first school, following events in Paris and the fact that there had been an incident at a Mosque in Bishopbriggs, the parents and teacher (who is coincidentally a Muslim) were anxious about taking a school party to a public place in the capital city. The Head Teacher rang the City of Edinburgh Council to tell us that, in consultation with the parents of the children going on the proposed trip and the teacher, he would like to invite the Imam into the school for Assembly instead. This was agreed and the visit is due to take place next month. Once again it is worth repeating that this was not advice given by the Council but an agreement that this seemed a positive way forward in this particular case.

The second school had a trip planned to the Mosque on 15 December. Due to a misunderstanding the school mistakenly assumed the Council had advised schools not to visit mosques which, as outlined above, was incorrect. It has now been made clear to the Head Teacher that this is not City of Edinburgh Council advice.

She has emailed the Mosque making it clear that this has been the school's mistake, apologising for their error and requesting that the trip take place as planned if the Edinburgh Mosque were willing to overlook this insensitivity. She has informed parents that she is delighted that trip will now take place as planned in December.

In addition, as Senior Education Manager, I have spoken personally to Zareen Taj, Press Officer MWAE, to explain the above and to assure her of our continued support.

Yours sincerely

Sheila Paton
Senior Education Manager