*** DEBUG END ***

A problem in class

21 February 2014


JUST as you cannot blame an organist for not listening to every word of the sermon, it would be a little harsh to criticise a continuity announcer for not paying attention during one of the many radio documentaries that he or she is required to top and tail.

Even so, it appeared like a lapse in joined-up thinking when, at the end of Falling for a Student (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week; a repeat from October), the announcer supplied the familiar spiel about details of organisations that might help listeners affected by the issues discussed. For, if there was one take-home message from Falling for a Student, it was that there were no organisations offering support on the issues discussed: namely, what to do as a teacher if you find yourself attracted to a pupil.

Since the law was changed ten years ago, having a relationship with any student up to the age of 18 and when in a position of trust is a criminal matter; and this is where difficulties arise.

The head teachers who were asked to comment on Anita Anand's investigation were unambiguous about the inappropriateness of anything that invited intimacy, and even the teacher-support helpline played the issue with a straight bat. So I suspect that anybody asking the Radio 4 helpline would receive the same "Pull yourself together" message.

All of this was of no help to "Alex", the female teacher whose relationship with "Tim" provided the main case-study here. The couple are still together, and insist that nothing happened physically until the boy had left school; but in her blunt answers to Anand's questions, Alex displayed a fierce sense of guilt. "We are immensely damaged," she admitted at theend of the interview. The boy said little.

On Monday of last week, Edward Stourton, in Analysis (Radio 4), provided us with a useful bluffer's guide to Wahhabism, the strain of Islam which dominates Saudi Arabian religious practice, and has been blamed for much of the extremism of recent decades.

Naturally, the real story is more complicated than that. The founder of the "movement", the 18th- century scholar and dissident Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, was a fundamentalist in the sense that he challenged the traditional commentaries on Islamic practice, and insisted instead on establishing a direct relationship with the early texts.

In that sense, and in the way in which he emphasised the importance of the direct engagement of believers in these texts, his call was something analogous to that of the early Protestants.

Whether or not al-Wahhab was socially conservative in the same way as his modern-day followers are is debatable. He was keen on the education of women in scripture; but he was not averse to a good stoning. So it is no surprise that Stourton was able to find two British Wahabbis whose interpretations of what they saw as being authentically Wahabbi were hugely different.

We who stand as interested observers cannot fail to be impressed by the way in which the messiness of religious belief and affiliation, familiar from our own experiences, appears to be replicated in this other world of faith.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)