I was working in a school yesterday, I will not mention it by name but it is a faith school, or more precisely, a Muslim school.
I've only ever taught in a Muslim school once before, some time ago, girls only if I recall but the work I was doing was related to creative writing, so the issues that arose yesterday were no where to be seen.
It was an odd remit from the start, to work with the children on prejudice but we were forbidden from dealing with homophobia, there was also sensitivity around mentioning equality between men and women. This did not bode well and felt hypocritical and blinkered.
The sessions passed relatively normally, aside from the closing exercise, devised originally by Coretta Scott King, where various offensive sentences are read out loud but the object of each sentence is changed and the children respond with how it makes them feel. If it upsets them or makes them angry, they raise their hands and if they agree, they are to touch their ears.
When the key word used in the prejudiced sentences was Black, or Disabled Person, or White; the hands shot into the air but when the key word was switched to Jew, something quite disturbing happened: a few hands moved to ears.
Anti-Semitism in nine year old children is never nice to see, even if it is unthinking, learned behaviour from parents and family but our job is to challenge, gently of course, such perceptions. The exercise is clever in that we can compare and contrast the reactions to the other key words, the rest of the sentence is the same and unpick why it is different for Jews.
The answers showed a moral absolutism, a resistance to the idea that this particular group should be exempt from prejudice and so, as a last straw, the word Muslim was used in the prejudiced statements to draw the connection between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The response to the use of the word Muslim in the statements was visceral, understandably because when the prejudiced lie is about you directly, it hurts all the more.
I was amazed to see that a hardcore still refused to accept the connection, that abuse of Jews was somehow justified based, no doubt in their young minds, on Jewish past actions. Indeed, it was the classic dehumanisation of the 'enemy' to fully enable hatred but in humans so young, it was a profoundly disturbing and distressing experience.