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Cartoon “blasphemy” – put down your crayons and pick up a book

On 22nd March, a teacher at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire presented provocative and derogatory caricatures claiming to be of the Prophet ﷺ to his students, reportedly in a belligerent tone to “teach” them to handle so-called “blasphemy” and insult. This was followed by a deep sense of hurt and anger amongst parents at the school, whose student population is predominantly Muslim. [1]

There have been calls for the teacher in question to be sacked after a parent reported the teacher had showed a highly offensive caricature of the Prophet ﷺ during a religious studies (RS) class. The caricature was originally created by the infamous French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The teacher is currently suspended pending further investigation by the school’s governing body.

One of the demonstrators outside the school arguing against deliberate provocation and wanton insult being taught in the classroom, added:

“This is a time when we can’t stay quiet, we need to stand up and let them know, the head teacher, the school and the governing body, that this is not something light. There’s a line you can’t cross…” [2]

The head teacher, Gary Kibble, apologised unreservedly for the actions of the teacher, saying on Thursday:

“The school unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate image in a recent religious studies lesson. It should not have been used.”

“A member of staff has also relayed their most sincere apologies. We have immediately withdrawn teaching on this part of the course and we are reviewing how we go forward with the support of all our communities represented in our school.” [1]

Kibble further added:

“It is important for children to learn about faiths and beliefs, but this must be done in a respectful, sensitive way.

“A member of staff has been suspended pending an independent formal investigation.” [1]

On Friday, demonstrators gathered outside the entrance to Batley Grammar School, with people demanding that the teacher either hand in their resignation, or be given marching orders by the senior leadership team.

The CEO of the Manchester-based Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, described the showing of the caricature and the lesson as a whole as a “despicable attack on our faith”.

Shafiq expressed his disheartened response as the teacher’s actions had never been expected, nor would the thought have ever entered the minds of the Muslim parents who send their children to the school. Shafiq added that there are fears the debate on portraying the Prophet ﷺ will be derailed, and the focus could potentially be twisted in order to depict British Muslims as being violent or wishing to respond with the same.

“Our hearts are pained to know a teacher working with 70% Muslim pupils didn’t consider the hurt this would cause…”

“We urge all who love the Prophet Mohammed within the British Muslim community to remember our responsibilities to reject violence and never give in to the narrative that some want to paint us as…” [1]

During one of the days of protest, a police officer delivered a statement from the school, saying:

“The school would like to thank the parents who contacted us on Monday 22 March highlighting concerns with a resource used in an RS lesson that day.

“Upon investigation, it was clear that the resource used in the lesson was completely inappropriate and had the capacity to cause great offence to members of our school community, for which we would like to offer sincere and full apology.” [1]

The Government has responded abysmally to the justified protests by instead focusing on the reaction as opposed to the teacher’s action that caused the profound upset and anger from the Muslim community.

In a video interview, the Secretary for Housing, Robert Jenrick, claimed that the peaceful protesters’ demonstrations were “disturbing”.

Jenrick argued:

“That is not a road we want to go down in this country so I would strongly urge people concerned about this issue not to do that…” [1]

The Department for Education also released a statement relaying its concern that large gatherings had grouped in front of the school in violation of social distancing restrictions. However, the West Yorkshire Police, which was in attendance, made no arrests and handed no fines to protesters.

Same old provocation

Islam21c Chief Editor Dr Salman Butt commented:

“Here we go again. The toxic cocktail of unwarranted colonial hubris and below-average intelligence tends to bring about the same predictable result. An indoctrinated teacher armed with a juvenile understanding of the philosophy behind slogans like “free speech” attempts to “civilise” his/her savage, backwards students by deliberate provocation.

“This then feeds into a dominant, pre-existing nationwide narrative of civilising “offended” “religious” zealots by the enlightened methods of “neutral” secularism (which is simply blind to its own zealous religiosity). We would do well not to perpetuate the biased discourse of painting the parents as simply being offended or hurt. Rather, they are rightly exercising their rights and duty to condemn inappropriate behaviour with their children and demanding their children are not exposed to such inappropriate and ignorant people.

“The real debate here is with those fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent Muslims’ interpretations of what is “appropriate” and “inappropriate” as being given legitimacy next to their own. This outrage at former subjects asserting their citizenship as equals is what is really driving the hostile tone we are so used to seeing in the mainstream media and political establishment. When Eurocentric secularist zealots are ready to face up to the prospects that they can no longer dominate inferior races, and put away their crayons in lieu of engaging in intellectual discourse, we will be here waiting for them inshāAllāh.”

Our Islamic duty

Shaikh Dr Haitham al-Haddad added:

First of all, Muslims should not take such incidents lightly, but respond to them, of course in a wise way. If we take them lightly then other people will be encouraged to do these things, possibly even local and national governments cementing the lack of concern for Muslim citizens, which led to extreme examples in France of public displays of insult against Islam and Muslims being broadcasted nationally by the state. If we leave this behaviour to linger it could become bigger and bigger.

The other reason we should respond is we will get reward by showing our love for the Prophet ﷺ. If people show love of the Prophet ﷺ by celebrating things like this mawlid, then they should be even more keen to show love to the Prophet ﷺ when condemning attacks against his sublime reputation.

If we do not act and this behaviour becomes common and fostered by more people—particularly the state—then Allah the Almighty will take revenge Himself. He has told us in the Qur’ān:

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

“Indeed, We are have sufficed you against the mockers”[1]

إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ

“Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off.”[2]

There are so many incidents in history when Allah the Almighty took revenge immediately on behalf of His beloved Prophet when his enemies mocked and attacked him. We do not want such things to happen in Britain at the end of the day as this is our country after all.

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] https://news.sky.com/story/batley-grammar-school-teacher-suspended-as-parents-protest-after-image-of-prophet-mohammed-shown-in-class-12256247

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

[1] Al-Qur’ān, 15:95

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 108:3

About Shaheer Choudhury

Shaheer is a regular news writer for Islam21c. Alongside this position, he also currently works as a casework coordinator at the UK-wide charity, HHUGS. He maintains a strong interest in politics and current affairs, and on the varying worldwide situations of Muslim communities. Prior to working for Islam21c, he developed a number of years' experience in the health and social care sector, and has previously volunteered at the Muslim Youth Helpline.

One comment

  1. Asalaamualaikum. Thank you for this important article. So sad that this happened in this time of BLM and Muslim genocide around the globe. It’s funny you say “a juvenile understanding of the philosophy” of “freedom of speech”, when teachers go through rigorous training before going into the classroom. They are taught to value and respect the cultural and religious background of their learners. This seems to be a fallacy for the Muslim child, to be respected. Allah strengthen our Ummah and give us the knowledge to deal with these unnecessary acts of racism and discrimination. We need to encourage our children to gain an education so we have a strong platform for future generations to come. Pick up the pen!

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