Scott Morrison, a senior Australian government minister, has criticised a school which allowed Muslim students to leave an assembly for the singing of the national anthem during a religious period of mourning.

The head of Cranbourne Carlisle primary school allowed about 30 to 40 Shia Muslim students aged eight to ten to leave the assembly, saying it was the Muharram period for the children, a sacred month when Shia Muslims observe a period of mourning, and they should not be required to take part in “joyous” events.

“It wasn’t a pre-thought-out action,” Cheryl Irving, the school principal, told Channel 10.

“When they came to the assembly, they were caught in a dilemma. They knew that they should not be taking part in music. They also knew that the national anthem had music, so they were caught in a dilemma and didn’t know what to do. Some stood to leave, so the teacher intervened and gave them the opportunity to move out quietly, so they weren’t confused and they weren’t upset.”

The decision angered parents, while Muslim schools said it was standard for all Muslim students to sing Advance Australia Fair, the national anthem.

Mr Morrison, the national treasurer, equivalent to Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, said he was offended by the school’s actions and believed it deserved the “muppet of the year award”.

“I know people of Muslim faith [who] would be just as offended about this as you or I would,” he told Radio 3AW.

“I just shook my head and went ‘that’s just doing nobody any favours’. Some do-gooder’s tried to make a point and they’ve ended up damaging the whole show. So look, they get the muppet of the year award from me for that.”

The education department in the state of Victoria reportedly backed the school, saying it was important to respect religious observances of all students.

Kuranda Seyit, from the Islamic Council of Victoria, said the situation was a “storm in a teacup”.

"I think that it is important that we don't blow this out of proportion, and understand that the national anthem is something that Muslims take great pride in singing,” he told The Age. “In this particular incident it happened at a time when they were not allowed to sing and I think we should respect that choice."

Courtesy Telegraph