Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick Says Muslims Protesting Muhammad Image In Classroom Is ‘Disturbing’
The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has said he was ‘disturbed’ to see parents protesting outside of a school after one of its teachers showed pupils a caricature of Prophet Muhammad.
His comments come after a teacher at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire was suspended for showing his class a cartoon mocking the Muslim prophet.
Depictions of Prophet Muhammad are considered deeply offensive in Islam.
In an appearance on Sky News this morning, Jenrick was asked whether the teacher was right to show the cartoons.
‘I don’t know what the teacher did in the classroom … What I can say is that there has to be an appropriate balance. We have to ensure there is free speech, that teachers can teach uninhibited, but that has to be done in a respectful and tolerant way,’ he said.
‘I was disturbed to see scenes of people protesting outside the school. That is not right. We shouldn’t have teachers, members of staff feeling intimidated. Reports that a teacher may even be in hiding is very disturbing, that is not a road we want to go down in this country,’ he said.
Yesterday, March 25, more than a hundred protestors, including students in uniform, gathered outside the school. They described the incident as ‘offensive’ and ‘Islamaphobic’, and called for the teacher to be sacked.
Imam Mohammed Amin Pandor, who was in attendance, addressed the crowd shortly after a meeting with the school’s headteacher, Gary Kibble.
‘What happened here, we are disgusted. What has happened is totally unacceptable and we have made sure they are aware,’ he said.
He added: ‘We’ve asked for an investigation. We are going to work with the school to make sure things like this don’t happen.’
As per the BBC, Kibble has apologised ‘unequivocally’ and confirmed that the staff member had been suspended pending an investigation.
‘We have immediately withdrawn teaching on this part of the course and we are reviewing how we go forward with the support of all the communities represented in our school,’ he said.
Police officers were also in attendance, with some guarding the school’s front gates and others patrolling inside its premises.
One protestor, a mother of a child at the school, said she had come to protest to show that ‘Islamaphobia won’t be tolerated’.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Do not disrespect our prophet, that’s the message. We need to respect all religions, including Islam. To me, this act seems malicious. We know the whole world is sensitive about this topic, look at what has happened in France. A religious studies teacher must be aware of these issues.’
The Department of Education has issued a statement condemning the protest:
It is never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers. We encourage dialogue between parents and schools when issues emerge. However, the nature of protest we have seen, including issuing threats and in violation of coronavirus restrictions are completely unacceptable and must be brought to an end.
Schools are free to include a full range of issues, ideas and materials in their curriculum, including where they are challenging or controversial, subject to their obligations to ensure political balance. They must balance this with the need to promote respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and beliefs, including in deciding which materials to use in the classroom.
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