Fact Check

Did the First Muslim in the British Cabinet Criticize Nehru’s Education Policy?

Based on an article by Arjun Sidharth, originally published by Alt News, 13 June 2018

For a brief period in June 2018, Social Media and other platforms witnessed the wide distribution of a video, supposedly featuring the “first Muslim minister in the British cabinet” critique Nehru’s “removal of Hinduism from the syllabus.” The man in the video is seen telling the interviewer

“In the United Kingdom, I can go and teach Hinduism at every school I like… in India for some very weird reason, they decided to take Hinduism out of the syllabus; you can’t teach Hinduism in a single Indian school… This came about with the compliments of Nehru. This foolish man thought Hinduism should be taken out of the syllabus because we are a secular world…

I’ve been telling Narendra Modi… re-introduce Hinduism in the school syllabus… Because it was taken out, what has happened? The way the society operates is without religion… All the people who are runing Media in India… they’ve no link with religion, they have no knowledge. Who is to blame? Nehru pulled it out of the syllabus and threw it out.”

The claim went viral on WhatsApp and subsequently made its way into Facebook and Twitter.

It was a relatively simple exercise to establish that the person in the video was not the first Muslim Minister in the British cabinet. The distinction was achieved by the forty year old Shahid Malik on 27 June 2007, who might have aged eleven years since then but is hardly likely to look like the person in the video, even if the video was shot in 2018.

Shahid Malik, British Politician

Who then is this person claiming that Nehru “threw Hinduism out of the syllabus”? Alt News decided to search on the YouTube platform – with its wide repository of these videos, it was likely that the WhatsApp and Social Media posts had used a YouTube video. Using different combinations of search terms, Alt News was finally able to unearth the same video and many other videos featuring the same person. Tracing the chronology of these videos led them to conclude that the earliest version they could find of this interview was from February 2017, by a channel that called itself Hindu Academy. This establishment’s website describes themselves thus:

“We co-ordinate and run classes teaching Hinduism at GCSE and Advanced levels in many cities in England. Over the past few years many of our candidates have scored maximum possible marks in Hinduism modules at Advanced or Advanced Subsidiary levels… We act as Hindu advisors at both national and local levels, offering Hindu input to some awarding bodies, as well as the DCSF and the Religious Education Council of England and Wales.”

The speaker turns out to be Jay Lakhani, who is or was the head of the Hindu Academy and describes himself on his Twitter profile as a theoretical physicist. It should not be difficult for anyone to conclude that Lakhani is neither a Muslim nor a Minister.

It is unclear what Lakhani means by saying that Hinduism was “thrown out of the syllabus” in India, by Nehru or anyone else. It cannot be Lakhani’s case that the history, culture and traditions of Hinduism are not taught in Indian schools, just as students learn those of other major religions. Neither can it be his contention that the religion itself should be taught to students, because there are no provisions in government-run schools to teach any religion.

As for his claim that every UK school includes Hinduism in the syllabus, it is misleading – Lakhani has no right to teach Hinduism anywhere he likes in the country. The UK’s Education Act 1996 requires the syllabus to reflect that religious traditions are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of other principal religions. Local Authorities (LAs) in districts decide the syllabus for their schools, and convene Agreed Syllabus Conferences (ASCs) to decide which religions, other than Christianity, are to be included in the syllabus. Religious Education must be taught in all state-funded schools in England, but the laws are different for other types of schools, depending on whether these schools are explicitly defined as institutions of a religious character or not. Parents retain the legal right to withdraw children from these classes. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own curriculum guidelines.

Over the years, there has been a concerted and deliberate effort to malign Nehru. This video, in which the Head of the Hindu Academy makes false assertions about Nehru, being passed off as the opinion of a Muslim minister in the United Kingdom cabinet is just another attempt, starting with a lie in its production and building a few more lies on top of that in its distribution.

Disclaimer: This article has not been edited by AlignIndia Editors.
The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. AlignIndia does not take any responsibility for the content of the article.

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