Head of Noor Ul Islam Primary School, Aslam Hansa “A typical day for me is… anything but typical” By Robi Chowdhury “Have you brought your camera equipment with you” the sister at the reception jokes with a laugh. As I meekly say no, she suggests I use my phone as it’ll work just as fine. Walking into the building, with student displays on the wall and reward sticker boards lining one another, it gives out the aura of a warm institute. Brother Aslam Hansa shows me to his office as we briefly reminisce about the old days before eventually plunging into serious discussion. Br Aslam is the Head Teacher of Noor Ul Islam Primary school situated on Dawlish Road, Leyton. A former student of Leyton Sixth Form College, he tells me that he has been involved with the Mosque and the local community from the beginning. His father, Br Yusuf Hansa is the Chairman of the Noor Ul Islam Trust which began in 1990 (as featured in the last issue). I ask him about his involvement with the school and whether there is a clear way he can define it. He tells me that he has been involved with the school since its inception in September 2001. ‘My job really is to set the vision of the school and implement it,’ he says. He further defines his role, ‘I deal with the board of governors, passing on what they want and where they want the school to go and try my best to ensure that the staff and school understand that vision and actually put it into practice.’ Describing a typical day at work, it ranges from an initial team briefing in the morning to speaking to the children at break times and meeting with parents and carers all throughout the day. Br Aslam thoroughly praises the staff that he works with as he explains that all the staff at the school share the same objectives, and at the end of the day they are there to please Allah. The school was recently featured on national television as part of an ITV documentary titled “The Muslim Jesus”, which illustrated the Prophet Isa’s (PBUH) role as viewed by the general mainstream Muslim community. He mentioned in the program that some people generally had stereotypical attitudes when it came to Islamic schools. Questions like ‘what are they thinking?’, ‘what do they teach?’, ‘what are they up to?’ and ‘how will it affect my child’s CV?’ I posed the question to Br Aslam as to what his response would be to meet these concerns and dilemmas. He says, ‘When these kids grow up and they start seeking employment and their prospective employer looks at their CV and says “oh you attended Noor Ul Islam School”, or Azhar Academy or the Lantern of knowledge, what happens? Well I hope by
that time, they’ll be grabbed. Schools like us will prove our worth by then.’ The Head Teacher further goes on to explain, ‘They will learn all the good things from the state schools here. We try and increase our interaction with non-Muslims as we take them out on trips. It’s amazing when we have elderly people come up to us to compliment the children’s behaviour.’ Br Aslam informs me that people often ask him if the school would allow non-Muslim students to join the school. He acknowledges that it would, ‘What we are hoping to do in the next couple of years is make sure there are more activities where we can invite more non-Muslims into our school to see what we are doing here.’ After Br Aslam explains to me that many of the teachers here have taken huge sacrifices in order to teach at the Primary school, I enquire as to what exactly drives them each day in this role as a teacher at an Islamic school. ‘This is a highly stressful job, but my fear is that on the day of judgement if I ever did quit, Allah will say that He gave me an opportunity to make a difference and I didn’t. I gave up. So while I have this opportunity and while the teachers have this opportunity, we will get the ultimate repayment. And that is for our children to be flag bearers of the Ummah. The cultural baggage that many of us and maybe our previous generations had; we can get rid of it. At the end of the day we are all Muslims so there is no racism in our community. There is wisdom. And there is wisdom in what we do and what our children do.’ Talking about the way things are bound to move forward for the future generation of young Muslims, Br Aslam suggests that, with more information on hand and with the access of modern technology, we can incorporate the idea of the global community using the Internet amongst a set of other tools. ‘Our children can make a difference. We don’t want our children to grow up and believe that they need to live in a cocoon. They need to go out there and meet people across social networks.’ As the meeting drew to a close, Br Aslam went on to talk about his role in the forthcoming Think Tank project and how important it is for Muslims to be seen as the ones trying to develop something that will cure many of the ills of society such as drug-taking, lack of respect etc. He hopes that in the long run, people will turn around and realise that Islam has a role to play in the local community. Br Aslam concludes, ‘People will turn around and realise that Islam has the answers. That is what we are hoping to achieve.’
A profile on Aslam Hansa, Head Teacher of The Noor ul Islam Primary School in Leyton, London.