Muslim Leaders Demand UK Shows ‘Respect’ to Islam or Face Becoming ‘Like France’

BATLEY, ENGLAND - MARCH 26: People gather outside the gates of Batley Grammar School, after a teacher was suspended for showing an image of the Prophet Muhammad in class, on March 26, 2021 in Batley, England. A few dozen people, including parents of students, gathered outside the school gates yesterday …
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Local Islamic leaders in West Yorkshire will send a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding that Britain show “respect” to Islam or face becoming “like France” following controversy over a teacher showing students a picture of Mohammed.

The imam of the Al-Hikam Institute in Bradford, Adil Shahzad warned that there may be consequences from the Muslim community if action is not taken against the teacher, who has already been suspended and forced into hiding after a local Islamic group shard his identity online.

Local campaigners have been protesting outside the Batley Grammar School, vowing to continue demonstrating until the teacher is fired.

“All we ask for is a bit of respect,” Shahzad told The Times, adding: “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.”

A Muslim refugee publicly beheaded a French teacher, Samuel Paty, who had shown images if the Islamic prophet during a lesson of freedom of expression.

Shahzad said that if Batley Grammar School doesn’t do the “right thing” then Britain will “likely that we will follow the route that France has taken, for example, or other European countries where firstly it’s ‘let’s insult the prophet’, then we’ll start banning the burqa.”

The imam claimed that local Islamic leaders tried to ease tensions during their Friday sermons in order to make “sure nobody does anything irresponsible, that we don’t spread hatred, that we don’t spread violence, that we do it in a peaceful way, within our democratic right”.

The chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), Imam Qari Asim MBE — who was appointed as the British government’s “Islamophobia advisor” in 2019 — has also suggested that showing images of the Islamic prophet should be as socially taboo as “using the n-word”.

“I guess when we talk of a potential curb or limitation on free speech, I think that sets alarm bells ringing, leaving some people [wrongly] thinking that Muslims are asking for restrictions on free speech,” he told The Telegraph.

“But I think what we should try and emphasise is that there’s already a phenomenon in place in that actually there are boundaries to free speech,” he added, contradictorily.

“Like, for instance, people cannot use the ‘n-word’ – and quite rightly so – because this is derogatory and causes deep pain and hurt.”

Schools are mandated by law in Britain to uphold free speech – but there is also a clause within the guidance that requires schools to promote respect and tolerance for religious beliefs. Free speech advocates have called on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to add a sentence to the guidance which would ensure that if there is a conflict between the two clauses, then free speech should win out.

Formal blasphemy laws in England and Wales were officially taken off the books in 2008. These had been intended to protect Christianity, although, although in practice Christians have been fair game in Britain for many years — with the infamous ‘Piss Christ’ modern artwork showing a crucifix submerged in urine being lauded by the British establishment, for example.

Some parents have vowed to remove their children from the school and send them to Islamic schools if the teacher is not sacked from his position. Islamic campaigners are calling for the school to hire a local imam to teach religious studies in place of the suspended teacher.

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

Parents at the school have said that the class devolved into chaos after the teacher showed the Mohammed caricature, with students attempting to film the teacher.

A neighbour of the unnamed teacher has claimed to have seen three Asian teens trying to open the door of the teacher’s house on Friday. However, West Yorkshir Police said that no reports have been filed over the incident.

Concerns over the teacher’s safety have forced him into hiding, where he is currently under police protection. Fears have been raised that violent retribution may be taken against the teacher, similar to what happened to Samuel Paty.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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