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Muslims urged on peaceful protest

The Muslim community has a "unique responsibility" to help ensure that there are fewer terrorist acts in the future, according to a leading private headmaster.

Richard Cairns, of Brighton College, is urging leaders of the Islamic faith to gather support for a peaceful protest against violence and extremism.

He suggests that while Muslims cannot and must not be held responsible for violent acts committed in the name of their religion, they do have a role to play in fighting against atrocities such as the attacks o n satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris earlier this month.

The comments will come in a speech at a conference on British values being held at Kingsford Community School in Beckton.

Mr Cairns also argues that schoolchildren should learn about freedom of speech alongside other values such as tolerance and respect.

He will tell the conference: " As schools, we do have a unique opportunity to discuss freely with them in a neutral setting why we think democracy matters, why individual liberty, tolerance and respect matter.

"We are not the only ones with a role to play, of course. The Muslim community cannot and must not be held responsible for the violence that some commit in the name of Islam. But while it cannot be held responsible for those terrible acts, it surely has a unique responsibility to help to ensure that there are fewer such acts in the future.

"On February 15 2003 I joined a march in London against the Iraq War. I was walking alongside huge numbers of Muslim men and women. Britain's Muslim community had been galvanised as never before in massive peaceful protest. The banners they carried read Not in my Name.

"I hope that today's Muslim leaders will ask today's young Muslims to march again. This time, in protest against extremism and violence. I hope they will carry the same banners, Not in my Name."

Ministers announced last year that all schools should be required to actively promote British values, such as democracy, tolerance, respect for rule of law, individual liberty and respect for others

The new rules were introduced in the wake of investigations into the Trojan Horse takeover scandal in Birmingham.

Earlier this month Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said all children should be learning these core ideals in order to combat extremism, regardless of their faith or cultural alignment.

In his speech, Mr Cairns questions whether these values are "particularly British or English".

"It strikes me that these are values that any German or Frenchman would share," he says. "We should, I think, be talking about liberal, Western values or even universal human rights instead."

The headteacher adds: " I am also disappointed that freedom of speech is not explicitly stated as a fundamental value.

"I can guess why. The Government is aware that many militants use their right to freedom of speech to incite violence and hatred. And clearly they don't want to encourage this any further.

"But I actually believe that this is precisely why we need to discuss freedom of speech in our schools because we need to explain to pupils that while they have the right to express opinions - and we should encourage them in that - they need to learn to do so in a reasoned, restrained and civil manner."

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