Furious parents accuse Australian schools of brainwashing and Islamizing their children after video shows students being taught Islamic prayers in schools.
Video of a social experiment docu-series where people from different religious backgrounds are ‘swapped’, making them explore each others’ culture. The participating schools and families were willing participants of the social experiment.
A video purportedly showing non-Muslim students in an Australian school being taught how to pray in a mosque has created a stir on social media platforms. Those sharing the video allege that the “furious parents accuse the school of brainwashing and Islamizing their children in the name of pleasing a migrant community.” Newscheker found the claim to be untrue.
Twitter handle @MeghUpdates, who has been previously fact checked several times by Newschecker for sharing misinformation, was among those who shared the video, with the caption, “Australia: Parents go furious as a video of children in Australia being taught how to pray in a mosque goes viral. Furious parents accuse the school of brainwashing and Islamizing their children in the name of pleasing a migrant community.” Multiple other Twitter users shared the video with similar captions.
Archived versions of such tweets can be seen here, here, here, here, here and here.
Also Read: Video of Namaz Outside Russia’s Cathedral Mosque Shared With False Claim
We found that the viral footage was shared on the official Facebook page of SBS Australia, on March 3, 2023. The caption read, “Sometimes in trying to educate others about our values, we may come across as rude or abrupt… that is something which (the students) have to learn how not to do. The students get a deeper insight into cultural values as some of them attend prayer for the first time. The Swap | Premieres on Wednesday 8 March at 8.30pm SBS and SBS On Demand”
We also noticed that the viral footage carried a snippet of a man identified as “Ali Kadri, CEO of Islamic College Brisbane ” speaking to the camera, and the logo of SBS in the last frame of the video.
Taking a clue, we looked up “Ali Kadri,” “Islamic College Brisbane,” & “SBS” on Google which led us to an article published in the SBS website on February 15, 2023, titled ‘New SBS series ‘The Swap’ is a bold school experiment.’
It featured a photograph of 11 students, some of whom were seen in the viral footage. The article elaborated on a “three-part documentary series The Swap follows what happens when 12 students and families from very different cultures, and religions backgrounds are thrown into each other’s worlds. Exploring whether a ground-breaking social experiment encompassing a school swap can make a real difference in breaking down social barriers and building greater acceptance, respect and understanding between diverse cultural communities, The Swap also observes the possibility of the experiment backfiring as cultures collide, with the potential for controversies to flare.”
Adding, “The architect behind The Swap is Ali Kadri, CEO of the Islamic College of Brisbane. Taking part are six Muslim families, four Catholic families and two atheist families. Over one school term, Kadri accompanies the students on an emotional rollercoaster as they experience the anxiety, excitement and wonder of spending time at each other’s schools and with each other’s families and communities.”
It further quoted the Senior Commissioning Editor, Documentaries at SBS, Bernadine Lim as saying, “We’re excited about the potential for The Swap to spark understanding and create positive transformation for all the families involved, and for all Australians who follow their journey. We’ve been given incredible access to this bold community initiative, and we hope the stories and experiences of those involved will encourage discussion, and enlighten and inspire audiences. It’s a unique story of contemporary Australia.”
The trailer of The Swap, which can be accessed on YouTube, features children and adults from visibly different cultural backgrounds interacting with each other. It carried snippets of people performing namaz, interspersed with visuals of Jesus Christ.
Participating Student: I’d Do This Experiment 100 More Times If I Could
In a report dated February 23, 2023, The Sydney Morning Herald, shared experiences of three participants of the show – Sonya Gerstel of Ferny Grove State High School, Amna Zia Chaudhry of Islamic College of Brisbane and Martina Vitale of Mount Alvernia Catholic College.
It quoted Amna Zia Chaudhary as saying, “I was the only one wearing a hijab when I visited the Catholic school and while a couple of girls gave me looks, I was shocked at how quickly I became close with [my assigned buddy] Martina and all her friends.” Adding, “I didn’t know much about Catholics and their rituals, like the whole biscuit and wine thing in Mass, so it was interesting to learn about that,” indicating that she attended Catholic prayer sessions.
Another student who was involved with the project, Martina Vitale, is quoted as saying, “The opportunity to go into a mosque and learn something new has made me more open-minded and welcoming of any opportunity that comes my way. I’d do this experiment 100 more times if I could because there was never a dull moment with Amna; we could actually rely on each other and we just stuck together like glue.”
The first hand account by Laila Ali, a Muslim student who also participated in The Swap can be seen here.
We then scanned through the social media accounts of schools mentioned in the report, and found posts supporting and promoting the show.
In a post dated March 9, 2023, Ferny Grove SHS stated, “We are so proud of Brynn, Sonya and their families for taking a giant leap of faith, and participating in “The Swap”, which premiered at 8.30pm last night on SBS Australia. Sonya, Brynn, their families and representatives from our school attended a premiere event alongside the students and families from the Islamic College Of Brisbane (ICB), Padua College Kedron (Official) and Mt Alvernia College…”
Other participating schools including Padua College Kedron and Mount Alvernia College also promoted the show on their Facebook pages.
The Queensland Department of Education stated , “It’s here! #TheSwap premieres on SBS Australia this Wednesday night. Follow 12 students from Ferny Grove State High School, Padua College, Mount Alvernia College, and the Islamic College of Brisbane on their ground-breaking adventure as they confront and explore their differences – and similarities – in an experimental school swap…”
Ali Kadri: Parents Were Aware Of The Premise Of The Show, Were Supportive
Newschecker reached out to Ali Kadri, the CEO Of Islamic School Brisbane – one of the participants, who is also dubbed as the “architect” behind the show, for his comments. He told us, “The purpose behind the experiment was to build bridges by confronting stereotypes on all sides. Most of our students are Muslims and are born in Australia. By studying at the Islamic college they have limited exposure to people of different religions and cultures. Conversely there are stereotypes and racist opinions about Islam and Muslims held by non-Muslims. Through this experiment, our aim was to let young students of different faiths and values to get to know each other and build common understanding of each others differences and similarities.”
“During the swap, 6 Non-Muslim students went to the Islamic College of Brisbane and 6 students of ICB went to a Catholic and a secular State school. This involved students partaking in each other’s prayer sessions. Non-Muslim students attended the prayer session and Muslim students including myself went to a Catholic mass. There are no religious observance at the state school,” he further added.
On the misrepresentation of the show on social media, he said, “The critics have taken a snippet of a show to perpetuate a stereotype and bias to further alienate and demonise Muslim community. Furthermore, the parents on all sides were aware of the premise of the show and were supportive of all actions by the students. There is NO outrage or disagreement shown by any parent.”
In an interview with TV Tonight, Ali Kadri, who steered the show, can be heard saying, “They (students) didn’t spend overnight with the families. They did visit them and they did attend classes in each others’ schools and other functions. In the first episode, the non-Muslim students attended the prayer session, and a special scripture class. Whereas our students went to a Catholic school and attended a Catholic mass, and also a scripture class.”
Grace Grace, the Minister for Education, Industrial Relations and Racing, Queensland Government also talked about the show in a recent Facebook post.
We could thus conclude that a clip showing non-Muslim students attending an Islamic prayer session as a part of a docu-series The Swap, a social experiment which involves people from different religious backgrounds exploring each others’ lifestyle and culture, has been shared in a false context.
Facebook Post By SBS Australia, Dated March 3, 2023
Report By The Sydney Morning Herald, Dated February 23, 2023
Email Correspondence With Ali Kadri On March 9, 2023
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