This week, Islam Awareness Week, saw the launch of the Virtual Classroom a website where students, teachers, local education authorities, educationalists and others can go to find information and resources on Islam and Muslims. The launch hosted by the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) received immense support with a message from HRH Prince of Wales as well as speeches from some of the Big Guns in Britain, including the Secretary of State for Education and Skills Charles Clarke, Commission for Racial Equality Chairman Trevor Philips, Community Cohesion Inspector (Conservatives) Dominic Grieves, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Liberal Democrats) Phil Willis, and, of course, our very own Secretary General, Iqbal Sacranie.
The launch began with a beautiful recitation of a verse from the Holy Qur'an calling for equality and understanding of other cultures and nations. Education was the central theme for the gathering. Guest speakers Phil Willis and Iqbal Sacranie outlined some very interesting and often forgotten facts regarding the contribution of Muslims to the advancements of European and indeed global society - contributions which form the basis of our education system today.
The Virtual Classroom is innovative and an indication of the eagerness of Muslims to reach out and educate. An education vital to instill harmony, distill prejudice and negate stereotypes from a pluralist society, as Dominic Grieves pointed out. It also welcomes the introduction of multicultural elements into the education system and allows us to share our pleasant experiences of other communities.
Trevor Philips outlined the importance of knowledge and it being the basis for making the relationship between Muslims and others in this society and others more permeable. Looking forward a couple of generations he highlighted the need for people to look ahead to a society in which Islam will have a place; a society that still holds high moral values and respect for other faiths and communities.
With much praise, Charles Clarke welcomed the launch of the Virtual Classroom expressing his optimism and confidence in the positive steps the ISB has made in this initiative. He praised the constructive implementation of a vision that would certainly work towards bridging the divisions of communities as well as harnessing and upholding common and shared values between faith communities.
Finally, a much awaited presentation of the layout of the virtual classroom was delivered with Shayma Izzidien of the ISB taking the reigns and walking the audience through the website (www.thevirtualclassroom.net). An event such as this would not have been complete were it not for the delightful representation of young pupils offering their support, and a group photo with the distinguished guests underlined the good spirit and encouragement that greeted this launch.