BBC News

Manchester Muslim and Jewish schools in 'historic' twinning

By Rahila Bano
BBC Asian Network

image captionThe visiting Muslim pupils talked to Jewish children about their faith and beliefs
It has taken more than two years to get off the ground but the plan to set up the first Islamic-Jewish school twinning project in Manchester has finally reached fruition.
It will enable the two faith schools to hold exchange trips and joint lessons so that closer ties can be formed.
The idea behind it is to improve relations by breaking down barriers that have existed between members of both communities.
As a result, the Jewish King David High School in Crumpsall has opened its doors for the first time to pupils from the Manchester Islamic High School for Girls in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.
Ten Muslim pupils attended an assembly where 100 Jewish children were able to talk to them about their faith, asking questions about the difference between a headscarf and a veil, the significance of Friday as a holy day and whether Muslim girls could mix with the opposite sex.
The visiting pupils gave a short presentation on what life is like to be a Muslim, in which they talked about why they chose to wear the hijab (headscarf) and why they prayed five times a day.
It is a groundbreaking initiative for both schools, as although there are a few similar schemes in London, this is the first in Manchester.

'Historic day'

King David's Head of Religious Education, Rabbi Benjamin Rickman said he has high hopes for it.
"We have two communities that have so much in common; there are so many similarities, philosophically, theologically and culturally but the two communities are divided by so much more," he said.
"I actually want to change the way we think in Manchester.
"It upsets me greatly that there is ignorance and prejudice and I want to create a situation where we can walk down each other's streets and be welcomed without the looks and ignorance."
Head of Religious Studies at Manchester Islamic High School for Girls, Tahira Parveen, also believes it could help to create a better understanding between the two faiths in the long term.
"It allows, if nothing else, the new generation to see each other in a good light," she said.
"These are the young people who will be the teachers and leaders of the future. I think links like this are very important."
The first meeting of the pupils has proved popular with Muslim students.
One student, Amara, said it was good because "we will see each other in a different way", while her friend Fatima said it had been a chance to "solve some misconceptions and prejudices that people have about Islam".
There was positivity too amongst the Jewish students - one pupil, Sam, said it had been a "special and historic day for this school and the two communities".
He added he had "found it very informative" and that "there needs to be more interaction and more education like this".