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Campaign Groups and Muslim Organisations Respond to Events at Batley Grammar School

Apr 1, 2021

 

Purpose of Life: 25 March 2021

[1]

 

Light Foundation PRESS RELEASE, Batley Grammar School Protests: 25 March 2021 

Imam Qari Asim MBE, trustee of Light Foundation said: [2]

“Protests outside of Batley Grammar school have caused alarm in communities. I sympathise with the parents and pupils because sadly, this is not the first time we have seen offensive images of Prophet Muhammad being used.

Muslims love the Prophet more than themselves and so we must be mindful and sensitive to the deep pain and hurt it causes to the Muslim community worldwide. Like all communities, regardless of faith, Muslims respect freedom of speech but to safeguard pupils.

Educational practitioners have a responsibility to exercise better judgement for sensitive classroom content. While the details are still being confirmed the school has acted to safeguard children & this reminds us of the importance of embodying the spirit of mutual respect.

Fair investigation by the school, in consultation with the parents, should be allowed to take place. Safeguarding of children is critical. I am urging everyone to continue to work together to ensure that no community is inappropriately targeted or portrayed.

I am relieved that resources to speak about religion in the future will be better moderated in collaboration with teachers, parents and relevant education authorities to protect free speech and freedom of religion & belief.”

…………….

5 Pillars: 25 March 2021

Yorkshire school apologises after teacher shows blasphemous images of Prophet Muhammad 

On the first day of the protests at Batley Grammar School, 5Pillars provided coverage of the events on its website, describing the following: [3]

“A peaceful but angry protest by some parents who want the teacher to be sacked took place outside the school this morning.

Imam Mohammed Amin Pandor, who is liaising with Batley Grammar School over the blasphemous images of the Prophet (pbuh) shown to Muslim pupils, said the school has suspended the teacher pending an investigation. However, this has yet to be confirmed by the school itself.

5Pillars has spoken to parents at the school who confirmed that a teacher (who we have decided not to name) showed derogatory caricatures of the Prophet (pbuh) and told the students that it was his right to show them. According to parents, the teacher later refused to apologise or accept any wrong doing when challenged.”

The 5Pillars article noted the intervention of Muslim groups in the local area, reporting that:

“Following the lesson several Muslim organisations in the area wrote to the school asking for an urgent meeting. The organisations say they wish to find an acceptable solution for all stakeholders – the school, children, their parents, scholars and the wider community.

The letter was signed by local organisations IMWS, The Peace Institute, Rabetah Al-Ulama Al-Islamiyyah, Masjid Quba, Ilaahi Masjid, Masjid Noorul Islam, Masjid E Noor, Masjid Mahmoodiya, Jamia Masjid, Jumma Masjid, Madina Masjid, Dawatul Islam, Al-Hira Educational Trusts and other masjids, senior scholars and community leaders in Kirklees.”

The full 5Pillars article is available here.

…………….

MEND statement on the displaying of images of the Prophet Mohammad ﷺ at Batley Grammar School: 25 March 2021

On Monday 22 March 2021, during a year 9 Religious Studies class, the topic of ‘Blasphemy’ was taught by a teacher at Batley Grammar School. [4]

Parents have stated that the RS teacher displayed a caricature of Prophet Mohammad ﷺ illustrated by French publication, Charlie Hebdo. The caricature entails an extremely offensive cartoon of Prophet Mohammad with a turban bomb and kalimawritten on it.

The parents further allege the teacher said, “some of you will be offended by what I am about to show… but it is my right to freedom of expression as per British values,” and that he went on to have a class discussion about the Charlie Hebdo attacks and who was to blame, the cartoonist or the attacker. 

Parents at the school, concerned Muslim institutes and mosques contacted MEND and the Islamophobia Response Unit for guidance on how to rectify the situation. In response to the parents, initial action the school have agreed to includes:

  • the removal of the resource from the RS materials,
  • suspension of that lesson content from the scheme of work, and
  • a formal review of the RS curriculum to ensure no other resource or statement is inappropriate

The IRU is assisting some concerned parents on this matter to achieve further positive and more satisfactory outcomes including:

  • Action to be taken against the teacher concerned;
  • A curriculum and staff training review to ensure this does not occur again;
  • Commitment to engage with parents and the wider community;
  • The School to share findings of the investigation to concerned parents, local community and concerned individuals; and
  • A full and unreserved apology to students, parents and concerned individuals.

…………….

Muslim Council of Britain Twitter thread: 25 March 2021

#Batley Grammar School is right to acknowledge that the use of such materials – universally understood to be highly offensive to Muslims – is inappropriate. [5]

We commend the swift & unequivocal action taken by the school to address the deep distress caused.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-56524850

….

This case illustrates the importance of close engagement between schools & parents regarding issues not on the national curriculum.

Consultation should be had in advance of anything that may cause communities to feel excluded & victimised.

….

Should any subsequent investigation find that the member of staff responsible for causing such distress to Muslim members of the Batley Grammar School community did so intentionally or recklessly, we trust appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. #Batley

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Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK: 25 March 2021

‘Media Statement on use of Caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in Batley Grammar School’. [6]

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK expresses its grave concerns at the use of caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in a religious studies lesson in Batley Grammar School.

It is completely unacceptable that such offensive material was used in the school and this is deeply distressing.

We acknowledge the fact that the school has since apologised for the incident and is taking steps to ensure that such issues do not arise in future.

It is vital that schools work to build a society that is based on mutual respect and understanding.
…………….

MEND PRESS RELEASE, Use of Islamophobic caricature of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at Batley Grammar School: 26 March 2021 

On Monday 22 March 2021, during a year 9 religious studies class, the topic of blasphemy was taught at Batley Grammar School in which an Islamophobic caricature of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) illustrated by French publication, Charlie Hebdo, was displayed. The caricature entails an extremely offensive cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with a bomb in his turban and the kalima (the Islamic declaration of faith) written on it [7]

MEND’s Islamophobia Response Unit (IRU) have been supporting concerned parents to engage directly with the school throughout the complaints process.

However, recent days have seen protests and intense media frenzy surrounding the children, staff, school, and parents.

This has also been accompanied by the releasing of the teacher’s name on social media. MEND condemns these actions unequivocally and calls for consideration of the safety of the teacher in question.

As a result of MEND’s IRU support and in response to the parents’ concerns, initial actions taken by the school include:

  • An unequivocal and sincere apology from the school and staff member involved,
  • Assurances to remove this resource from the religious studies materials,
  • Announcing a formal review of the religious studies curriculum to remove any other inappropriate resources or statements,
  • An assurance to work with communities moving forward,
  • And the suspension of the staff member involved, pending an independent formal investigation.

The IRU is continuing to assist parents in this matter to achieve further positive outcomes, including:

  • A review of the whole curriculum and staff training process to ensure this does not occur again,
  • And ensuring that the school share findings of the investigation with concerned parents, local community, and concerned individuals.

MEND’s spokesperson has stated: “MEND supports the right to peaceful protest but categorically condemns any threats to the staff or school. Freedom of speech should never be prioritised over the safeguarding and wellbeing of students, and this must be reflected within teaching materials and classroom practice. MEND’s Islamophobia Response Unit will continue to work and support both the parents and the school in following due process and ensuring a harmonious resolution.”
…………….

MCB Responds to Developments at Batley Grammar School: 26 March 2021 

Whilst it is unsurprising that some want to exploit this incident to further division and to marginalise Muslim communities, our primary focus must be on the wellbeing of young school-children.[8]

Reports suggest the image shown to students was one that depicted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wearing a turban with a bomb in it – an extremely offensive image that plays into the Islamophobic trope of Muslims and/or Islam being synonymous with terrorism, and Muslims having a unique penchant for violence

According to parents at the school, the cartoons created a hostile atmosphere and led to Islamophobic discourse and language. We all want our schools to be inclusive spaces that foster a productive learning environment – an increase in Islamophobic discourse within a school setting cannot be deemed as acceptable.

The NEU guidance on the responsibilities of teachers states that:

“All teachers, including those on the way to gaining QTS, have a ‘duty of care’ towards their pupils. According to this duty of care, you are required to apply your education and acquired skills to safeguard pupils, demonstrating reasonable and careful professional standards while you are at work.” 

It is important to assert that safeguarding children from becoming marginalised, or being victimised, in this way falls well within the remit of this duty of care. The need to safeguard children in the face of the current climate of increased hostility towards Muslim – and indeed BAME – school children is acute. 

A 2015 study on young people’s attitudes towards Muslims revealed that 31% of young children surveyed agreed with the statement that ‘Muslims are taking over England’ to some extent – an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that used to be the preserve of the far-right. Whilst in 2017, for example, Childline reported that it had held over 2,500 counselling sessions for children concerned about race and faith-based bullying, where children as young as nine reported being called terrorists, enduring abuse, and threats of violence. 

It is welcome that the school has acknowledged this material is inappropriate for use as a resource in a teaching environmentand is taking proactive steps to engage the local community so as to resolve the matter, and that the engagement between the school and parents on the ground remains measured, respectful and productive in nature. There is always value in close engagement between schools and parents regarding issues not on the national curriculum, and in particular where significant offense is likely, and/or where children may feel excluded or victimised. The MCB will continue to engage its affiliates to listen to their concerns on this issue and support ongoing efforts at a local level within the Batley community.

…………….

Muslim Association of Britain: 26 March 2021 Batley Grammar School; a call for engagement & consultation 

The incident at Batley Grammar School demonstrates the importance of engagement and consultation between parents and the school. We must ensure that the criteria for deciding on resources should be educational. [9]

It is well documented that Islamophobic rhetoric is on the rise and the use of pictures of Prophet Muhammad is deeply offensive to Muslims. The school has a duty of care, especially in a climate of increased hostility towards Muslim children. Therefore, it is necessary to ask if teaching the issue of blasphemy warrants showing cartoons depicting The Prophet Muhammad wearing bomb turbans. We trust that the school will investigate this matter and take the appropriate action needed.

Raghad Altikriti, President of MAB said “We stand ready to engage with all those involved to ensure topics such as these are taught in a respectful and sensitive manner, and that both teachers and students feel safe and respected in the classroom.”

…………….

MINAB: 26 March 2021

Advisory Statement for Member Mosques and Imams : Religious Education Teaching at Batley Grammar School  [10]

@RochdaleCoM @Council4Mosques @NottmMosques @McrMosques @IChishti @QariAsim

…………….

CoolnessOfHind Tweet: 27 March 2021

The Batley situation also demonstrates how PREVENT is used as a tool to attack Muslims. The teacher claimed free speech per “British values”. Did he forget the “mutual respect” part of the Prevent definitions? Selective usage to browbeat Muslim children. #BatleyGrammar #Batley  [11]

 …………….

Batley Parents and Community Partnership: 28 March 2021

[12]

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Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism: 29 March 2021 Al-Azhar Observatory deprecates showing satirical cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at Batley Grammar School 

Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism strongly deprecates showing satirical cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by a teacher at Batley Grammar school in Britain, asserting that such heinous acts of hatred provoke the feelings of more than 2 billion Muslims around the world. [13]

The Observatory stresses the abomination of this act which has been committed at a time when the whole world is afflicted by COVID-19 and all people are affected by its consequences. In this context, the observatory warns against those who always bide their time before they find a chance to sow malevolence and hatred and diminish principles of tolerance and acceptance of others among people.

Moreover, the Observatory reiterates that such disgraceful acts helps in provoking the feelings of others under the pretense of freedom of speech. With that said, the Observatory expresses its deep sadness and rejection for the repetition of such heinous acts which necessitate the concerned entities to take action. It also calls for enacting new legislations to criminalize the perpetrators of those crimes and those who fan the flames of hatred and racism under the disguise of freedom of speech.

#AlAzhar_Observatory_for_Combating_Extremism

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CAGE Tweet: 29 March 2021 

Inquisitions are led by those with power, not a minority, subjected to systemic marginalisation by mainstream media & successive governments #BatleyGrammerSchool  [14]

https://unherd.com/2021/03/the-new-inquisition-must-never-win/

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Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) Tweet: 30 March 2021

Great piece by @ItsSaraTor in @thetimes “society has an underlying disrespect for #Muslims. It does not care about understanding us, because it does not like us.”  [15]

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/have-the-discussion-just-dont-show-the-cartoon-whznpttmr

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MEND: 31 March 2021 The Teaching of Islamophobic Content Raises Concerns at Batley Grammar School

On the 31 March, MEND placed a piece on its website detailing the organisation’s activities around the events at Batley Grammar School.  MEND expressed its opposition to the public naming of the teacher involved, but also went on to say: [16] 

“At the same time, parents who are constructively engaging with the complaints process have been subject to abuse and threats. As such, the safety and wellbeing of these parents and children is also paramount. Constructive engagement through legitimate channels and the complaints process is a right of all parents that must be protected regardless of religious, ethnic, or other backgrounds.

MEND’s Islamophobia Response Unit (IRU) have been supporting concerned parents to engage directly with the school throughout the complaints process to ensure that all inappropriate resources are removed from teaching materials and that robust staff training mechanisms are in place.

Thus far, initial actions taken by the school include:

  • An unequivocal and sincere apology from the school and staff member involved,
  • Assurances to remove this resource from the religious studies materials,
  • Announcing a formal review of the religious studies curriculum to remove any other inappropriate resources or statements,
  • An assurance to work with communities moving forward,
  • And the suspension of the staff member involved, pending an independent formal investigation.

The IRU is continuing to assist parents in this matter to achieve further positive outcomes, including:

  • A review of the whole curriculum and staff training process to ensure this does not occur again,
  • And ensuring that the school share findings of the investigation with concerned parents, local community, and concerned individuals.”

The piece on the MEND website also challenged those who defend the showing of the Muhammad cartoons in lessons on free speech grounds, stating:

“Meanwhile, many have mobilised around the mantel of “freedom of speech” in defence of allowing such materials within classrooms. However, freedom of speech is not absolute. It should not mean freedom from consequence and should not be used to insult or to target minorities. Such grossly inflammatory images have a track record of creating community polarisation, conflict, and enabling violent attacks against Muslims by the far-right.

Moreover, there must be consideration of the impact that such images have on Muslim students and how it may impact the way that they perceive and interact with their educational environment. Schools have a duty of care when teaching young people under the Equality Act 2010, to ensure that students of all backgrounds are learning in a safe and supportive setting. Additional safeguards should be in place to prevent discrimination against minorities under the Human Rights Act 1998. Considering the already high levels of Islamophobic bullying in schools, the use of such materials and particularly the direct linking of Muslims to acts of violence can only exacerbate the challenges that Muslim children face.”

The full piece from the MEND website is available here.

[1] Purpose of Life, 25 March 2021: https://twitter.com/POL_Charity/status/1375059889899372546

[2] https://www.facebook.com/L.Foundation/posts/press-release-batley-grammar-school-protestsimam-qari-asim-mbe-trustee-of-light-/2926372540976899/

[3] https://5pillarsuk.com/2021/03/25/yorkshire-school-apologises-after-teacher-shows-blasphemous-images-of-prophet-muhammad/

[4] https://www.mend.org.uk/mend-statement-on-the-displaying-of-images-of-the-prophet-mohammad-at-batley-grammar-school/

[5] MCB, 25 March 2021: https://twitter.com/MuslimCouncil/status/1375140643882815489

[6] https://www.loveforallhatredfornone.org/media-statement-on-use-of-caricatures-of-the-holy-prophet-muhammad-peace-and-blessings-of-allah-be-upon-him-in-batley-grammar-school/

[7] https://www.mend.org.uk/mend-press-release-use-of-islamophobic-caricature-of-the-prophet-muhammad-pbuh-at-batley-grammar-school-26th-march-2021/

[8] https://mcb.org.uk/community/mcb-responds-to-developments-at-batley-grammar-school/

[9] https://www.mabonline.net/batley-grammar-school-a-call-for-engagement-consultation/

[10] MINAB, 26 March 2021: https://twitter.com/MINAB_UK/status/1375450656585224192

[11] CoolnessOfHind, 27 March 2021: https://twitter.com/CoolnessOfHind/status/1375950759032934410

[12] https://twitter.com/_PeaceInstitute/status/1376209137323933702

[13] https://www.facebook.com/AzharObserverEn/posts/796795430927920

[14] CAGE, 29 March 2021: https://unherd.com/2021/03/the-new-inquisition-must-never-win/

[15] Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM), 30 March 2021: https://twitter.com/cfmmuk/status/1376966851553591308

[16] https://www.mend.org.uk/the-teaching-of-islamophobic-content-raises-concerns-at-batley-grammar-school/

 

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