It has become clear to me, I must fight for the right to believe in evolution. Allow me to set the scene. My mum, head of year, deputy head teacher and I are sitting in the deputy head’s tiny office. The three adults are talking earnestly whilst I am sitting in the corner of the room trying to wish myself into a state of non-existence. What is the topic they are discussing? How to get other people in my class to accept my atheism.
As I have previously said, I am one of the 4 atheists in my year of 210. I am also probably the most vocal of the 4. Recently I have become tired of the jokes and snide comments made by others in my year and my mum has gone to the school about it.
I had always been taught to respect other people’s views, but having lived in Tower Hamlets, and being surrounded by religious people all my schooling life, I learnt to deal with the jokes and comments very quickly. From as young as primary school I have been told that I’m stupid and going to hell. Imagine being told that now. You would laugh it off, no? But having that said to you at 7 and it’s very different. It is extremely upsetting.
Secondary is no better. You would assume that at 14+ teenagers would question what their parents had told them or at least be more open minded than they were at 7. But no, they are no more clued up about what other people outside their religion think and are not more accepting.
For example, in a science lesson on adaptation the theory of natural selection and evolution inevitably comes up in the class discussion. Our teacher tries to explain that the theory states that humans originate from monkeys and that we originate further back from fish. We were then told as a class that the latter statement was wrong. I questioned this and was politely ignored. When we returned to the work, one of the girls, after a fit of hysterics, asked me that if I thought that we evolved from fish then did I believe in mermaids? At this point I walked away.
There are other instances where I have been shot down for my religious views, or lack of. An atheist friend, at the same school, has been asked if her grandfather was King Kong as she was atheist. The most regular one is being told that there is overwhelming evidence for the existence of God.
Allow me also to draw attention to the hypocritical standards of dealing with these incidents. Had I said anything remotely similar to any other religious person I would be temporarily excluded. However, even when the views towards my atheism are expressed in hearing distance of teacher no action is taken. Of course I wouldn’t dream of saying anything so flippant back to any religious person as it would be interpreted as racist. It seems that as my beliefs are in the minority that I am expected to take the jokes.
So yes this is a difficulty in going to a heavily Muslim school in Tower Hamlets but it also shows that not everyone has the same views as you which is an important life lesson.