A British teacher who showed his class cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed has reportedly been moved to a safe location and is under police protection.
This week, the headteacher of a school in the north of England made a grovelling apology to parents after one of his teachers showed an image of Mohammed to his class during a religious education lesson. Media reports claim the cartoons were shown during a discussion on freedom of speech and blasphemy laws.
Gary Kibble, the headteacher of Batley Grammar School in the West Yorkshire town of the same name, which has a large Muslim population, had written that the pictures of the religious figure were “completely inappropriate” because they “had the capacity to cause great offence” to certain members of the school’s community. Kibble also had a meeting with a local imam before announcing the suspension of the teacher.
The Telegraph reported on Thursday that a senior police source at West Yorkshire Police told them that the 29-year-old schoolmaster, his domestic partner, and their four young children had gone into hiding. Police had expressed concerns for the family’s safety after the educator’s identity was revealed online.
“Officers have been especially assigned to him,” the source told The Telegraph. “This is obviously very sensitive. Local Muslims are up in arms. There is obviously significant risk around the individual now.”
A report from The Times states that a local charity, Purpose for Life, led by chief executive Mohammad Sajad Hussain, had exposed the teacher’s identity on social media.
Blasphemy: Grammar School Teacher Suspended for Showing Mohammed Cartoon https://t.co/ICFJa7CqNh
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 26, 2021
Despite Headmaster Kibble’s apology, protests at the school gates by dozens of Muslim parents have continued, in contravention of coronavirus rules on public gatherings and social distancing.
The Telegraph reported that Facebook posts by members of the local Muslim community have called for parents and others from the faith to protest outside the school “to demand the resignation of this teacher as an absolute minimum”.
Parents at the school claimed that they were protesting outside the premises — in a manner which ministers have described as intimidating — “to show the country Islamophobia won’t be tolerated”, and that showing Mohammed images is “offensive” to them.
Islamic scholars claim that images of their prophet is against their religion, and that any depiction, in earnest or in mockery, is prohibited.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that the school protests, at which he said “threats” were made, was “completely unacceptable”. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said that the “reports of intimidation in Batley set a deeply unsettling and potentially dangerous precedent.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that he found reports that a teacher was in hiding “very disturbing”.
“I am deeply troubled by the suggestion that a teacher conducting a religious studies class should have materials censored or should feel threatened or intimidated,” Mr Jenrick also told ITV News on Friday.
They do not appear to be proposing to do anything about the fact that he has been suspended, however.
Aspects of the scenario are similar to those experienced by French geography and history teacher Samuel Paty, who faced an online hate campaign perpetrated by the Muslim father of a pupil, which was amplified by a mosque, after showing pupils Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression.
In October 2020, a Muslim teen refugee beheaded the teacher in the street.
French Teachers Receive Death Threats Explicitly Referencing Beheading of Samuel Paty https://t.co/N9GjlIhcQT
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 24, 2020