"Ministry warns students against mocking Islam" Arab News, September 30, 2013
The Ministry of Education has warned that it would expel any student found mocking Islam or spreading illicit ideas at school. Penalties for violating the code of behavior include preventing a student from pursuing studies for one academic year. The ministry would notify all education departments of its decision without naming the accused.
The ministry called on school principals to inform their local education department of such cases so student committees could launch investigations. These committees should have sessions with students implicated in such behavior.
Sources said the decision of the ministry comes following reports of a number of students found mocking the rituals of Islam and discussing subjects and ideas the violate Islamic law. Sources said that the ministry has expressed concern about the harmful effect of such behavior on students and the community.
The ministry wants students to be educated on the punishment for such violations. It urged education role models to step up efforts to tackle such suspicious acts, the sources said.
The ministry has introduced a special therapy-based program involving advice and counseling sessions. Guilty students undertake voluntary community service and attend behavioral adjustment and life-skill sessions.
Students who wish to return to school after their one-year ban can do so only after gaining permission from their regional education director. In addition, the school will file confidential reports every month about the status and behavior of these students.
Students can compensate by acquiring an accredited certificate showing they had attended a five-hour life skills course and produce a document signed by two teachers and the school principal that their behavior has improved.
The ministry said the codes of behavior and attendance are mandatory for all schools and have to be applied by principals, teachers and administrators. Muhammad Al-Dakhini, spokesperson for the education ministry, said the codes aim to build a generation committed to Islam and the country.
A number of teachers who work in private and public schools confirmed that they have witnessed students between the ages of 15-17 expressing disrespectful views about Islamic laws. “I have noted that there are many students, under the age of 18, who are engaging in insolent behavior directed toward Islam. Most of them have been affected by globalization and are carried away by a desire to imitate what they deem as Western freedom,” Abdullah Al-Turki, a teacher at a public school in Jeddah, told Arab News.
“It is alarming to see students mocking our religious values. I have had some students who laugh during prayers. This decision will contribute in fostering greater respect within students toward religion, especially they are being deterred by serious punishment,” said Abed Mansour, a religion teacher who works at a private school in Jeddah.
Meanwhile, Ali Rushdi, a teacher who works at a private school in Jeddah, said, “We have to increase awareness among students regarding Islam before we apply severe punishments against them. The school’s role is to educate students and create morality. However, if students insist on violating the law, they should reprimanded and penalized as an example for others.”