Teacher Who Showed Class Image of Mohammed Still in Hiding Three Years Later

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Three years after sparking Muslim protests after showing his class a caricature of Mohammed at the Batley Grammar School, a religious studies teacher is still in hiding with his family for fear of violent reprisals from the Islamic community in Britain.

In March of 2021, a religious studies teacher in a small town in West Yorkshire sparked weeks of protests from the local Islamic community after showing his class a caricature of Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a lesson on freedom of expression.

The teacher was suspended from his position at Batley Grammar School and was later forced into hiding after a local Islamic group shared his identity on the internet while claiming that he had committed an act of “terrorism” by “insulting Islam“.

There were concerns that he would face violent attacks given the fate that befell French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in the street by a Muslim refugee after he showed also showed his class Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed.

After receiving death threats of his own, he was placed under police protection and relocated to an undisclosed location outside of Yorkshire.

Now, three years later, the man, his wife and their four children remain in hiding, with even some of their family remaining in the dark about their whereabouts.

Speaking to The Times of London this week, a family member of the teacher said: “I literally haven’t seen him since it all happened. We’ve just had a few messages and that’s all. There’s not been much communication with the family and we don’t push things.”

As to whether the teacher would ever make a return to teaching at the Batley Grammar School, the family member said: “I doubt it… He just wants to put it behind him.”

Following his suspension, a group of his former pupils launched a petition calling for his reinstatement, which gathered over 70,000 signatures.

“The [Religious Studies] Teacher was trying to educate students about racism and blasphemy. He warned the students before showing the images and he had the intent to educate them. He does not deserve such large repercussions. He is not racist and did not support the Islamophobic cartoons in any manner. This has got out of hand and due to this, students have missed out on lessons because of ‘peaceful’ protestors,” the petition said.

His suspension was ultimately lifted and an external investigation found that he did not show the image of the Islamic prophet to offend but rather that he “genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit” the class discussion on blasphemy. However, by that time, the teacher and his family had already gone into hiding.

In the wake of the incident, the Charity Commission found that the local Islamic charity, Purpose for Life had acted without taking into account the “foreseeable risk to the person’s safety” to the teacher by releasing his name online, adding that the message posted was “was written in such a way as to be likely to inflame existing tensions within the local community”.

Others also criticised the supposedly Conservative government in Westminster for failing to protect the teacher and defend the principle of freedom of speech, with the head of the National Secular Society Stephen Evans saying that in failing to swiftly act to protect the teacher’s job and safety the government had “sent a damaging message on teachers’ ability to encourage critical thinking on culturally sensitive issues”.

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