10 Sep 2008

Faith schools ‘will hinder fight against terrorism’

The Independent - UK   September 10, 2008

by Steve Connor | Science Editor

The expansion of faith schools in Britain will hinder the fight against terrorism by fostering a belief in separate identity, says a psychologist who has studied the causes of violent religious extremism.

Professor David Canter, director of the Centre for Investigative Psychology at Liverpool University, said: "Faith schools are terribly dangerous. Setting up these divisions based on faith is the starting point for people thinking of themselves as separate, and identifying an 'out-group' that you are not part of.

"Identifying yourself as part of a group with power is a well-established notion in social psychology – social identity. Social identity is in part defined by an out-group distinct from yours."

A division of schools based on religion fostered separate identity between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, and expansion of faith schools in England and Wales is likely to do the same, Professor Canter said. "It will create the possibility of people considering their significance in terms of religion."

Professor Canter has overseen psychological interviews with 49 convicted terrorists in India. "They seem to [have] got really hooked into a very intensive religious framework early on," Professor Canter said at the British Association's science festival in Liverpool. "Schools with a mixture of faiths seems psychologically more healthy."

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