UK Muslim leaders urge ‘respect for Islam’ after school incident

Sunbd Desk || Published: 2021-03-28 14:34:22 || Updated: 2021-03-28 14:34:22

British Muslim leaders will warn UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the country “could become like France” amid controversy over a school teacher sharing a picture of Prophet Muhammad with students.

The incident took place in Batley Grammar School, West Yorkshire, and leading Muslims have insisted on respect for Islam and demanded that the teacher be dismissed.

Adil Shahzad, imam of the Al-Hikam Institute in Bradford, said that a letter outlining the feelings of Britain’s Muslim community would be sent to Johnson and several local MPs, The Times reported.

He added: “All we ask for is a bit of respect. If one teacher can do it, another teacher can do it five years down the line, and we do not want this to be the case. Otherwise we are not responsible for the actions of some individuals.”

As part of the growing backlash, several Muslim parents have threatened to transfer their children to Islamic schools if the teacher at the center of the controversy remains in his position.

Shahzad added: “We’re hoping that the school will do the right thing and set the right precedent, because if this is the first case, which it is in this country, then it’s very likely that we will follow the route that France has taken. For example … where firstly it’s ‘let’s insult the prophet,’ then it’s ‘we’ll start banning the burqa.’”

Muslim campaigners have vowed to continue protesting outside the school until the teacher is sacked.

The teacher who showed the image, reportedly a cartoon from the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, is a father of four.

He has been placed under police protection and neighbors say that his family have “not been seen since Thursday,” when protests began.

One neighbor, Jamal Alterk, said that he got on well with the family. “They’re decent. I think what happened is not with any intention or any racism or anything like that. We are Muslim. At Eid they would give us Eid Mubarak cards for the kids, and even sweets, halal sweets for the kids. He probably wasn’t aware that the cartoon could be offensive.”

Another neighbor said: “I don’t think he’d do anything to insult anyone. We’re Muslims, and they’re a really nice family.”

Protesters demonstrating outside the school include parents, but also people arriving from nearby Leeds and Rochdale.

Shahzad said that local Muslim figures had tried to ease tensions on Friday with sermons. “We are making sure nobody does anything irresponsible, that we don’t spread hatred, that we don’t spread violence and that we do it in a peaceful way, within our democratic right.”

The schoolchildren who were shown the image of the prophet “with a turban and bomb strapped around him” reacted immediately, parents said, adding that “the lesson soon descended into chaos.”

Farooq Hussain said: “If they don’t do anything about it, I’ll have to move my child out of here. A lot of the parents will probably do that. We’ve got our own schools that teach everything they teach as well — Islamic schools.”

Another parent, 40-year-old Muhammad, said that he “did not blame the school,” but that he wanted the matter “to be taken seriously.”

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