A primary school has been slammed for allowing young Muslim pupils to walk out of assembly when the national anthem is played.
Pupils at Cranbourne Carlisle Primary School, south of Melbourne in Victoria, were given the opportunity to leave the hall in order to observe a religious month of mourning.
But the move has prompted a furious response from parents and politicians who criticised the ‘disgusting’ decision, saying all Australians should be ‘proud’ to sing the anthem.
Lorraine McCurdy, who has two grandchildren at the school, told 3AW that she ‘saw red’ when around 30 or 40 pupils got up and left the assembly during Advance Australia Fair.
‘Two children got up and said `welcome to our assembly’ with that a teacher came forward and said all those who feel it’s against their culture may leave the room,’ Ms McCurdy said.
‘With that about 30 or 40 children got up and left the room. I saw red. I felt ‘you don’t walk out on my national anthem’.’
Jacqui Lambie, an Independent senator for Tasmania, also voiced her surprise, saying: ‘I find these schools that are allowing this to happen disgusting.’
But the principal of the school, Cheryl Irving, defended the decision, saying Shi’a Muslims do not participate in joyful events, including listening to music or singing, during Muharram.
This religious event, which falls between October 13 and November 12 this year, marks the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad.
In a statement, Ms Irving said: ‘Our school is an inclusive and supportive environment for all of our students.
‘Cranbourne Carlisle Primary School supports all its staff and students in their religious and cultural observances.
‘Muharram is a Shi’a cultural observation marking the death of Imam Hussein. This year it falls between Tuesday 13 October and Thursday 12 November.
‘During this time Shi’a do not participate in joyful events, including listening to music or singing, as it is a period of mourning.
‘Prior to last week’s Years 2-6 assembly, in respect of this religious observance, students were given the opportunity to leave the hall before music was played.
‘The students then re-joined the assembly at the conclusion of the music.’
The primary, which has the slogan ‘Many cultures, one community’, caters to students from 37 different cultural backgrounds including Shi’a and Sunni Muslims.
The minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, has also spoken out about the decision, saying; ‘Schools often cater to the beliefs of religious and non-religious students as part of normal practice.
‘We are aware that this is a time of religious observance and singing the anthem has never been an issue for these students before.’
A spokesman for the Department of Education said: ‘The Department supports our schools to be inclusive for all students – this includes understanding and respecting religious or cultural observances.
‘From 2016, the new Victorian curriculum will include new subjects such as respectful relationships, world views and ethical understanding, helping to build more inclusive schools and communities.