Batley Grammar School: Prophet Muhammad cartoon row ‘hijacked’

3 weeks ago
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Protest at Batley Grammar School

PA Media

“Extremists on both sides” have hijacked the row over a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad being shown in a school, a Tory peer has said.

Crowds have gathered for a second day outside Batley Grammar School to protest over the “inappropriate” image.

It is understood the West Yorkshire school has switched to a day of remote learning after earlier demonstrations.

Baroness Warsi said the debate has been used to fuel a “culture war” at the expense of “kids and their learning”.

Batley Grammar’s head teacher Gary Kibble issued an “unequivocal” apology and said the teacher had been suspended since the image was used in a lesson on Monday.

Protesters had demanded the teacher’s sacking, while some parents who spoke to the BBC said they didn’t agree with the protests and found them “intimidating”.

As a crowd gathered for a second day, one protester read out a statement at the school gates.

He said the group “do not accept that the school has taken this issue seriously, given that it’s taken them four days to merely suspend only one of the teachers involved”.

Another protester, who gave his name only as Mr Hussain, told the PA news agency he was a parent at the school and said: “We would not like any form of extremism, any extremist viewpoints, to be taught to children.”

Former Conservative Party chairwoman Baroness Warsi said she had spoken to pupils and parents over the last 24 hours and “that many pupils were left distressed because of what happened”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “It’s about safeguarding children and making sure the school look again, as should every school, to ensure that every pupil in their school is being taught in a way which creates a positive, unifying learning environment.”

Sayeeda Warsi

PA

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News the protest was “not right” and that “we shouldn’t have teachers feeling intimidated”.

“We know that the school is looking into the matter and investigating, and that is absolutely right – the Department for Education is liaising with the school and the council,” he said.

“What I can say is 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 and that’s a balance to be struck by teaching professionals and the school concerned.”

Protest at Batley Grammar School

PA Media

West Yorkshire Police said no arrests had been made and officers remained at the school.

Parts of the Koran are taken to mean that neither Allah nor Muhammad can be captured in an image by human hand and any attempt to do so is seen as an insult.

Head teacher Gary Kibble

Head teacher Mr Kibble said the teacher had “given their most sincere apologies” and been suspended pending an investigation.

In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Education said it was “never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers” and that they encouraged dialogue between schools and parents when issues emerged.

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