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Inclusive Scouting 3

We decided to visit 10th Fulwood and Cardiff’s 1st Cathays Al-Huda Scout Group to discover how successful Scouting is in their communities and the difficulties they have faced putting this into practice. 

10th Fulwood Scout Group – based in suburban Preston – is one of the growing number of faith-based Groups opening across Britain but, once the Scouting begins, there’s no obvious difference to your standard weekday sessions. You might even be surprised to see how familiar things are.

Inclusion and diversity are part of the inherent values every Scout in the UK lives by.We open our huts to people from all backgrounds, ages, genders and abilities but, when it comes to ensuring that Scouting is truly inclusive, there are challenges to address. One of these is ensuring the way we Scout is flexible enough to accommodate the faiths and beliefs of everyone involved. 

10th Fulwood is a mere eight weeks old but, unlike many other fledgling Groups, there’s no obvious shortage of young people or volunteers. The Group already has Beaver, Cub and Scout sections, with the hope of a new Explorer Unit being launched in 2017. 

‘The reason it works so well is because, like other faiths, Muslims want their children to have the best opportunities in life,’ explains Group Scout Leader Fatima Ismail. ‘A lot of the volunteers are doing it because they want to invest in the community.’ 

Still in its infancy, the Group is full of expectations and aspirations but isn’t exempt from the usual challenges that arise along the way. ‘At the moment we are constantly changing because some kids try it out and then decide to leave, and we’ve had volunteers helping out before deciding they can’t carry on,’ continues Fatima. 

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In contrast, 1st Cathays Al-Huda is celebrating its 10th anniversary, with festivities such as a big dinner party taking place this year. This Group has had much longer to settle into Scouting and the confidence they exude shows what the future of 10th Fulwood could look like. 

It’s intriguing to see how Scouting in Muslim communities in the UK has blossomed and continues to grow with such vigour. When comparing the set-up and Programme of these Groups with other non-faith-specific Groups, it becomes apparent that this success is due to the flexible nature of Scouting. 

More problematic are the bigger, Christian-based celebrations, such as St George’s Day: ‘I looked into it and thought, realistically, this isn’t really going to work for us as Muslims. There are certain things like these that cause a dilemma,’ Fatima explains. ‘We need to find a way that people of other faiths and no faith can attend a St George’s Day celebration, and that they’re aware of the meaning and importance,’ adds County Development Officer Andy Marsden. 

When establishing 10th Fulwood, the Muslim community gathered in the mosque and all agreed to give Scouting their backing, which secured a solid number of volunteers to help run the sections. The process was similar for 1st Cathays, in that the local Muslim community recognised a need for some kind of group for the young people and saw how beneficial it would be to follow a structured Programme rather than meet without a sense of purpose. 

‘It’s the longevity of it, the support we get and variety of things that the kids can do within Scouting, as opposed to a youth club where structure can fall by the wayside,’ explains 1st Cathays Group Scout Leader Naveed. 

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Just as most other Groups face problems when establishing themselves, 1st Cathays and 10th Fulwood have had the additional challenge of dispelling the concern that faith-based Groups aren’t integrated enough in the rest of the Scouting community. This is particularly the case with Muslim Groups that have the added backing of the Muslim Scout Fellowship, a National Scout Active Support Unit working to promote Scouting in the Muslim community, support all Muslim members and represent their needs within The Association. 

Nora Nagi, representative of the Muslim Scout Fellowship explains why Scouting in Muslim communities is so important: ‘There is an important need to combat the lack of integration of many British Muslims, and need for Muslim youth to feel they are valued and influential members of the British society in which they live. Scouting provides a solution to this. Our aim is to work collaboratively with the District to make Scouting even more accessible to the Muslim community.’ 

Just because a Group follows a different religion, or runs their evenings slightly differently, it doesn’t mean they will become separated from the rest of the District. If anything, Groups such as these have proven they can encourage people to come together and learn from each other. Religious beliefs aren’t an issue in Scouting. The key is to ensure that members’ faith, or lack thereof, is recognised as a diverse element that enriches our Scouting experience. 

This story was originally printed in the March 2016 issue of Scouting Magazine. Read the full magazine online

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