Richard Dawkins says parents who make their children fast should be ashamed

richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins. Photo: David Shankbone (used under the Creative Commons licence).

Richard Dawkins, the Kenyan born British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and writer, has Tweeted about the plan to move secondary school exams in the United Kingdom to accommodate Muslim students who are fasting for Ramadan.

The shake up in the exam timetable could mean GCSE and A-Level students having their schedule rearranged so that some exams in key subjects are clustered before the start of the Islamic holy month.

Where maths and English tests do fall during the festival, a larger number than usual are being held in the morning to avoid disadvantaging fasting pupils who can suffer low energy levels in the afternoon.

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards, said timetable allowances would be made where possible in subjects with large numbers of entries.

The move bring exams forward means candidates will have fewer days to revise with the measures likely to be in place for at least five years, until Ramadan no longer clashes with the exam season.

Critics have slammed the decision as pandering to a minority with others pointing out that there is no stipulation in the Koran for children to fast and that attempts to move the exams previously to help students who suffer from hay fever had been refused.

Speaking on Twitter, Richard Dawkins echoed the thoughts of some critics by saying “Parents who starve their children for idiotic religious reasons should be ashamed.”

He went on to say that he was “tempted to say if they’re stupid enough to fast they deserve to fail the exam. But that’s unfair if parents & mullahs make them fast.”

The National Secular Society (NSS) have also warned that the rescheduling GCSE and A-Level exams to accommodate Ramadan must not disadvantage non-Muslim pupils.

“Moving exams earlier in the day to lessen the effects of fasting will bring exams into a period of the day when teenagers may not be at their most focused or alert: Some researchers suggest that academic performance is improved in lessons held later in the day. Rescheduling exams to take place earlier may well disadvantage the majority of students on account of Muslim students fasting. The decisions around exam scheduling should be driven by evidence and research, not religious considerations.”

– NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood

Do you think that exams should be moved to help fasting students during Ramadan? Let us know in the comments section or in the poll below.


  1. He is absolutely correct. If I still lived in England and made my kids fast for that length of time, I’d have had a visit from social services, not had people bending over backwards to keep me happy.

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