Every school in England could be sent free copies of the Koran, Michael Gove has said.
By Christopher Hope and Andrew Hough
4:30PM BST 25 May 2012
The Education Secretary said it would be “fantastic” if a rich benefactor would support sending out copies of the Islamic holy text to schools.
Mr Gove has been an enthusiastic supporter of a current privately-funded scheme to send copies of the King James’ Bible to every state primary and secondary school in England.
Last week thousands of the books were sent out to mark the book’s 400th anniversary.
Asked in a radio interview if he would “consider sending out other important texts like the Koran”, he said: “Well if people wanted to put forward proposals to me, philanthropists or others, for distributing great books to school then fantastic.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I think the King James Bible is specifically important because it was the root of so many important changes in the life of this nation.
Around 24,000 Bibles are being distributed to schools by the Government, with the inscription “Presented by the Secretary of State for Education”.
Mr Gove has supported the scheme because he wants school children to be able to appreciate the literary heritage of the King James’ Bible.
He said he had received “hundreds of letters” from head masters and head mistresses who were “absolutely delighted” to receive the books.
He said: “I visited a school just last week which had just received its bible that day and the head teacher thought that it was, and it is, a beautiful thing.”
Mr Gove said the cost of sending out the bibles had been borne by a “variety of philanthropists”, some Tory and Liberal Democrat donors, as well as “one person who would never support a political party but thought it was a good idea”.
Later aides to Mr Gove later played down suggestions that he was keen for a mass mail-out of Korans to schools. One source said Mr Gove was trying to emphasise how he wanted more schools to have access to great historical texts, like the Koran and other holy scriptures.
The third official translation of the Bible into English, known as the Authorised Version, was commissioned by the King James I in 1604 and published in 1611. It became the Church of England’s official version and was spread worldwide by the British Empire.
It also brought phrases such as ‘stumbling block’, ‘at their wits end’, ‘bottomless pit’, ‘born again’, ‘eye for an eye’ and ‘scapegoat’ to the English language.