Police descended on a school today as dozens of furious Muslim parents protested outside after a teacher allegedly showed derogatory caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a religious education lesson.
Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire had to delay its opening and told pupils to stay at home amid chaotic scenes at its gates this morning. Headteacher Gary Kibble has since apologised for the ‘inappropriate’ resource.
Parents began gathering at 7.30am outside the co-educational free school and could be heard chanting – with about 20 to 30 pupils also milling around outside the school gates, one of whom gave a speech.
By the late morning, the Huddersfield Examiner reported that a crowd remained outside the school – which was founded in 1612 by a Christian, the Reverend William Lee – and the road outside was still closed in both directions.
It comes five months after French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded on the street near his school in a Paris suburb by an Islamic extremist last October after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students.
The killing shocked the country and led to a fresh debate about freedom of speech and the integration of France’s large Muslim population. It also brought back memories of a wave of Islamist violence that started with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, sparked by the same cartoons in the satirical magazine in 2015 when gunmen killed 12 people.
Police descended on Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire today as dozens of furious Muslim parents protested outside after a teacher allegedly showed derogatory caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a religious education lesson
Mr Kibble said in a letter to parents: ‘The school would like to thank the parents who contacted us on Monday, March 22 highlighting concerns with a resource used in an RS [religious studies] lesson that day.
‘Upon investigation, it was clear that the resource used in the lesson was completely inappropriate and had the capacity to cause great offence to members of our school community for which we would like to offer a sincere and full apology.’
He added that the school had taken ‘immediate action’ to investigate what had happened, including the removal of the resource from materials and the suspension of that lesson content from the scheme of work.
Mr Kibble continued: ‘As an additional precaution, we will undertake a formal review of the RS curriculum to ensure no other resource or statement is inappropriate and take appropriate action as needed.’
Batley Grammar School had to delay its opening and told pupils to stay at home amid chaotic scenes at its gates this morning
He also told how the school was now investigating the matter ‘using formal processes and we are grateful for the support of the local authority’.
With parents gathering outside the school, it sent them all a text message to say: ‘Due to the disturbance outside of school, if your child has not already set off please keep them at home as school will be starting at 10am.’
The protesters were demanding the resignation of the teacher, with organisers asking anyone attending to do so in their vehicle if possible. Officers were guarding all school entrances but the protest appeared to be peaceful.
Mufti Mohammed Amin Pandor, a local prominent Muslim scholar who is director of the Peace Institute, told the crowd outside this morning: ‘What has happened in the school, we are appalled.
Batley Grammar School headteacher Gary Kibble has since apologised for the ‘inappropriate’ resource amid an investigation
‘Look at what we do as a community, and you’ll understand our stance. What has happened is totally unacceptable and we have made sure that the school understands that. The school is preparing a statement.
‘So our discussion is they prepared a statement and we weren’t happy with the statement, so we said no, the statement needs to be worded in this way. Some people think I tried to stop you guys from coming.
‘I don’t know where that information is from, so that’s between whoever has spread that rumour and Allah. So that’s nothing to do with me. This is a democratic country, you can protest. It’s your right to protest.
‘Somebody called me last night and said there’s a protest for tomorrow, what should we do? I said we, as a group, have got a different stance, we want to work with the school. But if anyone wants to exercise their democratic right, you are here. So let’s move on. So what’s happening?
Batley Grammar School (file image) is a co-educational school founded in 1612 by a Christian, the Reverend William Lee
‘The school is going to issue an apology, issue a statement. We have asked for amendments on the statement to say that they are very apologetic and they apologise. All the resources that were used have all been pulled out.
‘The teacher has been suspended, the teacher has been suspended. Now then, you cannot sack him. You guys are professional, you know you can’t just dismiss someone like that, they have due process.
‘So he’s been suspended, OK, he’s been suspended. Now we’ve asked for an investigation, an investigation to be independent, and we have asked also that some of us get onto the investigation panel.
‘So this is what we’ve asked for. So whether they do it or not, we can’t force them, but they’re investigating. And then we’re going to work with the school to make sure in future things like this don’t happen.’
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said at about midday: ‘We are aware of a small demonstration at the school, which is still ongoing. Local neighbourhood officers are in attendance.’