The United Kingdom is currently dealing with the case of a teacher showing Prophet Muhammad cartoons to his primary school stiudents during a religious education class in Batley, West Yorkshire, resulting in the teacher being suspended. The school principal has apologized, but demonstrations in front of the school continue.
Meanwhile, politicians have gotten involved in the debate.
The unnamed educator showed the students a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, published by the monthly Charlie Hebdo, during a religion lesson. He allegedly warned them before showing the drawing, saying that the cartoons were to serve as a visual aid in a class devoted to the topic of blasphemy.
Once the children at home told their parents what subjects they were discussing that day, a wave of resentment arose among some Muslim parents, resulting in a group of local Muslims demonstrating in front of the school for several days since the incident.
Due to the cartoons, the Charlie Hebdo editorial office in Paris became the target of a terrorist attack in 2015, in which radicals murdered 12 people. Last year, teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by a young Chechen for showing his students the same drawing in an incident that rocked France and led for calls to tackle radical Islam.
The British teacher is now allegedly in hiding, the school is closed, and has since switched to distance learning.
“Upon investigation, it was clear that the resource used in the lesson was completely inappropriate and had the capacity to cause great offense to members of our school community for which we would like to offer a sincere and full apology,” the school’s director, Gary Kibble, said in an email sent to parents that promised further investigation.
But for some, it is not enough.
“It took the school four days to suspend a single teacher who was involved. Therefore, the claim that it takes the matter seriously cannot be accepted,“ said one of the demonstrators.
The British media has extensively reported on the controversy. The Times noted that the name of the Batley teacher has already appeared on social networks. It was published by the local Muslim charity Purpose of Light, whose members were allegedly “deeply injured” by the act.
“It’s sadistic. Even in a liberal democracy, there are limits to freedom of speech. We can’t abuse it to insult people,” said its founder Mohammad Sajad Hussain.
The Ministry of Education and the Minister for Communities got involved in the case.
“We cannot allow teachers and school staff to feel intimidated. The news that the teacher is hiding is very disturbing. This is not the path that our country should take,“ said Robert Jenrick. Hundreds of people have already signed the student petition for the teacher’s return to school.
Some Muslim clerics are calling for moderation from the protesters.
“People have a right to express their concerns and hurt, but protests can’t always achieve what can be achieved through constructive dialogue. Fair investigation by the school, in consultation with the parents, should be allowed to take place. We do not want to fan the flames of Islamophobia and provoke hatred or division,“ said Qari Asim, a leader of the Muslim community in nearby Leeds.
Title image: A veiled Muslim protester takes part in a demonstration in front of the Danish embassy in London, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006. Hundreds of people demonstrated outside Denmark’s embassy in London on Saturday to condemn the publication of cartoons considered insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)