Muslim students in four primary schools in London will not be allowed to fast during Ramadan without special permission, with the headmaster of one school citing the students' welfare as the motivating factor behind the decision.
In the letter, the acting headteacher of Barclay Primary School – identified as Mr Wright – said the school understood "that this is a very significant and special time of the year for our Muslim community and that from a very early age Muslim children learn to understand and practice adherence to the Five Pillars of Islam, of which the annual observance of Ramadan is one".
However, he continued, the school's Muslim students will not be allowed to fast during school hours because the school is concerned about their welfare.
In the second page of the letter, the headmaster wrote that no student will be allowed to fast without first getting permission from the acting headmaster.
"[In] Islamic law," he said, "the health of an individual is the first priority. Previously we have had a number of children who became ill and children who have fainted or been unable to fully access the school curriculum in their attempts to fast."
He said that the fact that Muslims would not be eating or drinking for up to 18 hours would particularly affect younger students.
Wright went on to say that students who attend the "schools within the Lion Academy Trust" would not be allowed to fast without permission. This extends to four schools across the city, three of which are in Walthamstow and the other in Tottenham.
"No child will be considered to be able to fast in school unless you have met with myself," Wright wrote in the letter. This meeting would discuss how best to "ensure the safety and well being of your children while still ensuring they are part of the Ramadan celebration."
As explained by BuzzFeed, Muslims with health issues and those under certain ages have no obligation to fast. This is likely to exclude most, but not all, of the students in primary school.
Although the schools have enacted the policy, they have not explained how they would enforce it if students took the decision to fast without getting permission from the headmaster. A spokesperson for Barclay Primary School said the school would not be providing a comment. None of the headmasters from the three other schools responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.
BuzzFeed News was initially supplied with only the first page of the letter. The second page showed that students will be allowed to fast if their parents have a specific meeting with the headmaster. The article originally stated that students will not be able to fast under any circumstances; this has now been corrected to reflect information on the second page of the letter.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Siraj Datoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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