Teacher Who Showed Class Mohammed Cartoon Abandoned by British Govt, Says National Secular Society

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

A British teacher who showed his class a caricature of the Islamic prophet Mohammed has been effectively abandoned by the British government in the face of widespread backlash from the Muslim community, the National Secular Society (NSS) claimed.

The teacher was suspended by the Batley Grammar School in March and later forced into hiding after a local Islamic group, the Purpose of Life charity, shared his identity online, saying that the teacher had committed an act of “terrorism” by “insulting Islam“.

The National Secular Society accused ministers of failing to ensure that the school’s investigation has will not be “unduly influenced” by local imams and claimed that the government has “washed its hands” of the case.

Department for Education (DfE) officials are also accused by the campaign group of refusing to make sure that the inquest will examine the role of the school in suspending the teacher before the results of the investigation were revealed.

“This is a bit of a test case for how these things are handled, that’s why it is important,” the chief executive of the NSS, Stephen Evans, told The Telegraph.

“Here we have a teacher in fear of his life, in hiding and suspended from his job – yet there is nothing to indicate the materials were not handled correctly.

“We are concerned that the Department for Education doesn’t seem interested enough given that the outcome of this will have national implications. They have washed their hands of it.”

Mr Evans warned that “fundamental principles are at stake”, saying that government ministers should take into account the “broader significance” of the incident, which he claims has “already sent a damaging message on teachers’ ability to encourage critical thinking on culturally sensitive issues”.

Should the government fail to stand up for freedom of expression in the classroom, Evans said that the school would be left “vulnerable to pressure from assertive religious voices”.

The Batley Multi Academy Trust, which operates three secondaries and two primary schools in West Yorkshire, announced that it would launch an “independent” investigation into the teacher at the end of March.

The trust said that the purpose of the investigation would be to determine “how certain materials, which caused offence, came to be used in a Religious Studies lesson at Batley Grammar”.

In a statement given on Monday, the trust said: “The investigation is underway and the investigator will have access to relevant expertise,” adding that “the investigator has no prior connection with the Trust or any of its Trustees or employees.”

The spokesman reportedly declined to comment on whether any local imams had been appointed to the panel of investigators.

The NSS chief executive said: “What we don’t want this to be is an exercise in justifying the school’s actions. That would be awful for the freedom to teach and freedom of expression.”

Fears have been raised that violent retribution may be taken against the teacher, similar to what happened to French teacher Samuel Paty, who was publicly beheaded by a Muslim refugee after showing images of Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a lesson on freedom of expression last year.

Following the terror attack, French President Macron launched a strident defence of Western liberalism, declaring that people who don’t believe in Englightenment values should leave “Frech soil“. In contrast, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been markedly silent during the Batley Grammar School row.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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