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NewsID : 73939
Date of publication : 5/1/2015 1:41:00 PM
Visit Count : 490

Beavers, Cubs and Muslim Scouts

The 22nd of February is International Scout Association Day. Many Muslims attracted by the core principles and fundamentals of Scouting have set up Muslim Scouts groups. Mohammad Davdani describes the history of Al-Asr (1st Harrow) Muslim Scout group and its exciting activities

‘I promise to do my best. To be kind and helpful. And to love God.’ The Beaver Scout Promise

Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) was a British soldier best known for his defence of the small South African township of Mafeking, during the Boer war. The Mafeking Cadet Corps were a group of youths that supported the military by carrying messages, and it kept them occupied during the long siege. These Cadet Corps performed well in helping to defend their town and made Baden-Powell realise that young people had huge potential that was often left untapped. Baden-Powell started writing the book, “Scouting for Boys”, to test out his ideas. He took a group of 20 boys from different backgrounds on a week-long camp to Brownsea Island in 1907. There he used the Patrol system, a key part of Scout training, where the boys organised themselves into small groups with an elected patrol leader. Today the Scouting movement has more than 31 million members worldwide and is active in 216 different countries (including Muslim countries) and is still growing. This movement is not affiliated to any political movement or religion but it does encourage the young people to practice, contemplate and reflect on whatever faith they follow. All members cherish the core principles and fundamentals of Scouting but they equally value the diversity that is there amongst members. The promise that is made when one joins the scouting movement can be modified to allow for cultural and religious differences. There are different sections in scouting:- Beavers (6 to 8 years), Cubs (8 to 10.5 years), Scouts (10.5 to 14 years), and Explorers (14 to 18 years). For 18 years and up there is the Scouting Network. Anyone can join at any stage. There is a different coloured uniform for each section but the neck tie will be the colour that the rest of your group wears so different groups are identified by the colour of their neck tie. For adults to join (as leaders of a section or to help with administration, for example) they have to believe in a creator. These are all voluntary positions and there is huge flexibility in how much time you want to put in so if you join as a volunteer then that doesn’t mean you have to turn up every week and if being in contact with children is not your thing there are plenty of other ways to get involved, e.g. fund raising, managing the groups, accounts etc. There is a training programme for adult volunteers. How much you train depends on what role you take on, and some positions don’t require any training. Like with all other positions in the UK that involve contact with youngsters a criminal background check is a must. The young people learn by doing things and having fun as well. There is a structured, balanced programme and badges to work for so when the adult leaders deliver the programme the young people learn a wide range of skills. Once the children reach the scout section (10.5 to 14years) the emphasis is on the outdoors - camping, map reading, hiking, using knowledge of knots and lashings to build things like water rafts, as well as first aid, helping out in the local community, conservation, and more. This is why scouts are often seen coming to the aid of others when, for example a natural disaster or conflict happens. Their skills and knowledge in setting up places of refuge, first aid and organising distribution of vital supplies means they are able to rapidly respond in these situations. They are used to working in teams and are trained to put others first. Our scout group is Al-Asr (1st Harrow) Muslim Scout group and our aims and objectives are as those of the worldwide Scouting movement while maintaining Islamic principles, which is quite easy to do as the two are so similar in what they want for the youth. Our youth have their Islamic training reinforced when they are with us. For example, if it is time for prayers during a weekly meeting we stop whatever activity we are doing and pray. The female leaders do separate physical activities with the girls. We are members of the Scout Association in the UK (the World Organisation of the Scout movement’s recognised member for the UK), and we receive our adult training from them. The other Scout groups that are local to us have been extremely welcoming and share resources with us as they do with each other. We have had no problems in fitting in as we all share a common goal - to teach young people lots of skills in ways that are fun and exciting. We join other groups, Muslim and non Muslim for different activities, ranging from going to camp together, working towards a badge, and raising money for charity. In 2013 our group joined other Muslim scout groups on a 5-mile winter walk to raise money for Gaza. Later that year we took part in a sponsored walk with other groups from Harrow to raise money for a local charity. We have been camping twice so far and we are planning to go on a winter camp next February, God Willing. We will be camping with another non-Muslim group who we know really well. They have incorporated our prayer times into the camp programme and they have also asked us to give a talk about Islam. We are also members of the Muslim Scout Fellowship (MSF). This organisation is the UK’s official body for Muslim adults who are active in Scouting. It is a part of the Scout Association in the UK. It developed from a few Muslim Scout leaders who believed in the values of Scouting and who wanted the Muslim community to share in the benefits and fun of Scouting. There are currently around 20 Muslim Scout groups listed on the MSF website. Other activities we do in our weekly meetings include learning how to light a camp fire and toasting marshmallows in it, treasure hunts in the park next to our meeting place using navigational skills, first aid, cooking pancakes on top of tin cans, finding North without a compass, planning a route to somewhere local and then using a map to get there. In the case of our Beaver group they planned their route to a local fish and chip shop and came back with some nice food!


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