Prophet Mohammed cartoon sparks second day of UK protests
Batley Grammar School was forced to close its doors as dozens gathered outside the building, outraged by a teacher’s decision to show a satirical image of the Prophet.
Demonstrators, who claim the images were taken from the controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, said they aimed “to show the country Islamophobia won’t be tolerated”, as the image is “so offensive” to them.
One phone shop owner interviewed by the Independent said the teacher's act wasn’t unintentional. “He’s a religious teacher. He knows what’s wrong and right. He should not teach again,” he said.
A 25-year-old whom the news outlet referred to as Tainy said the Prophet is a figure “dearer to us than the air we breathe” and called the teacher “a hate preacher” who is “inciting hatred.”
“We are making our feelings known. This is not okay,” he said.
The teacher was suspended and has since said he regretted his action, while the school has offered an “unequivocal” apology.
Garry Kibble, Batley school’s head teacher, said “we have immediately withdrawn teaching on this part of the course, and we are reviewing how we go forward with the support of all the communities represented in our school.”
However, a petition launched by a student to reinstate the teacher has now received more than 600 supporters. “The religious studies teacher was trying to educate students about racism and blasphemy,” it read.
“He warned the students before showing them the images and he had the intent to educate them.”
According to the author of the petition, the teacher “is not a racist and did not support the Islamophobic cartoons in any manner.”
UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has called the protests “unacceptable”.
“It is never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers. We encourage dialogue between parents and schools when issues emerge,” Williamson said on Thursday night through a spokesman.
Baroness Warsi, the former chairwoman of the Conservative party, told the BBC’s Radio 4 that the issue had “unfortunately been hijacked by extremists on both sides to kind of create this culture war."
"What we’re forgetting in all of this is the most important party in all of this, which is the kids and their learning. It’s obvious that many pupils were left distressed because of what happened,” Warsi added.
The Muslim Council of Britain commended the “swift and unequivocal action taken by the school to address the deep distress caused”, saying the school was “right to acknowledge that the use of such materials – universally understood to be highly offensive to Muslims – is inappropriate”.
Mainstream Muslim belief considers any depiction of God and the Prophets mentioned in the Qur'an to be sacrilegious.