NSW school prayer group audit targets religious extremism

SCRIPTURE classes will be exempt from an audit of all prayer groups in NSW state schools as the government cracks down on student exposure to violent extremist ideologies.

Premier Mike Baird announced all prayer groups would be reviewed, regardless of denomination, following reports last week of a Year 12 student preaching radical Islam at a Sydney school.

He vowed NSW schools would not become breeding grounds for hate.

"Our schools should be, and are, havens of tolerance, places where students can explore the reaches of imagination and knowledge," he said.

"We will never allow them to become the setting for extremist ideologies."

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A spokesman confirmed religious education classes would not undergo the audit.

"The prayer groups are held at the school - but not part of the special religious education (scripture) classes," he said.

Mr Baird told a media conference the investigation would target extremist minority groups, not Muslims.

"We're doing this together... I have been nothing but absolutely in awe of the Muslim leadership," he said.

"They have been determined to stamp out extremism."

The government has invited submissions to a $4 million program launched last month aimed at countering violent extremism.

"Our schools, our police and other authorities are operating in a new and different world, as far as risks to our young people are concerned," Mr Baird said.

"These new risks mean that, collectively, we are going to have to be vigilant, and take action as necessary."

Counter-terrorism police will also brief Education Department officers, the NSW Secondary Principals' Council and the NSW Primary Principals' Association.

Last week police began investigating a student at Epping Boys High School in Sydney following allegations he was espousing violent Islamic ideologies to his peers.

There were suggestions the boy may have been linked to 24-year-old Milad bin Ahmad-Shah al-Ahmadzai, who was jailed last year for threatening to slit a police officer's throat during phone calls in 2013.

-APN NEWSDESK



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