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Call to remove prayer rooms from schools

Written by on May 10, 2024

The Hindu Council of Australia wants prayer rooms removed from public schools due to fears they could be used to promote “radical ideologies”.

A 16-year-old boy was shot dead by police last Saturday night after he stabbed a man in the back at the Willetton Bunnings carpark, in Perth’s south.

Police shot the boy after he ran towards officers with a knife and tasers were not successful.

It was later revealed that parents of another student at Rossmoyne Senior High School, where the boy attended, said they had sent a letter outlining concerns about the boy to police.

In the letter, the parents claimed they had previously reported to the school that their child had been “forced” to attend the school’s prayer room, “which he declined”.

The parents also claimed there were messages on their child’s phone that “contained information about conversion to Islamic religion inducing fear to world end, targeting other students for conversion”.

On Thursday, a statement on the Hindu Council of Australia’s website signed by its national president Sai Paravastu said it expressed deep disappointment about the incident at the school, as well as “other similar instances where prayer rooms have been misused for purposes that go against their intended function”.

“These instances include attempts at conversion and the promotion of radical ideologies,” Mr Paravastu wrote.

“It is of utmost importance to strike a balance between respecting students’ rights to freely practice their faith and ensuring that activities that may undermine the safety and unity of the school community are prevented.”

Mr Paravastu wrote that prayer rooms funded by taxpayers “should not exist in public schools,” and that it was “crucial” to have monitoring systems in place to detect signs of conversion and radicalism in schools.

“Removing prayer rooms from public schools upholds the principals of neutrality, inclusivity, and respect for multiculturalism within the Australian education system,” he wrote.

“Schools should create an environment where students feel empowered to maintain their faith identities while also safeguarding against potential risks to their wellbeing and security.”

When asked about the Hindu Council of Australia’s comments on prayer rooms on Friday, WA Premier Roger Cook said he would leave it to experts to decide how to approach the issue.

“I’m not an expert in an education environment or in terms of education issues. I’ll leave it up to them to decide,” he said.

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“But we want our schools to be inclusive environments, we want every kid to feel that they belong.”

Asked whether he would expect the education department to review the supervision of Rossmoyne Senior High School’s prayer room, Mr Cook said “every effort” was being made to ensure the school’s students, parents and teachers were being supported.

“I’m sure that they are doing a lot of review and reconsideration of everything they’ve done, just to make sure that they’ve got it right,” he said.

Read related topics:Perth