As a religious body whose role it is to advise Mosques and Imams about various issues that affect the Muslim communities, we wanted to issue this guidance to firstly give some background, provide reassurance and thirdly advise on the way forward.
The circumstances as we understand them:
- On Monday 22nd March 2021, a teacher was teaching an RE lesson about blasphemy at the Batley Grammar School.
- The teacher explained how some pupils in the class would be offended due to some images that he intended to show.
- That image was a controversial and offensive caricature of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) being depicted with a bomb in his turban.
- The teacher stated that he believed it was his right as per “freedom of expression” to show the image.
- Pupils then informed parents who complained in the first instance to the school and then to other local faith leaders.
- On Thursday 25th March 2020 via social media some local people organised a demonstration outside the school.
- Local Imam attended the gathering and tried to calm the attendees and then met with the Headteacher at the school. Subsequent to this meeting he returned and informed the protestors that the teacher in question had been suspended and the school agreed to an independent formal inquiry.
- The school has written a clear statement of apology both from the Headteacher and the teacher in question.
This incident has caused alarm and distress amongst Muslims in the UK. Sadly, this is not the first time we have seen offensive images of Prophet Muhammad being displayed and we are all reminded of the serious impact on community cohesion.
We call upon all our communities, to remain calm and work together for a long-term solution that ensures the sanctity and honour of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is never denigrated ever again. As British Muslims we have always believed British Values to be of the highest standards which has the inherent ability to balance freedom of expression and respecting religious sensitivities.
We offer our support, prayers and guidance to any of the families and individuals affected by this traumatic experience of having to see the most beautiful of creation in this the most vile and untruthful depiction.
The real concern here is that students have not been afforded the positive safe environment where difficult issues are taught and explored without causing distress. This is even more concerning given the recent return to school after an unprecedented disruptive year.
We request our Imams to remind the Muslim communities more than ever, that whilst people may have depicted the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) negatively causing much pain and anger, we must all continue to respond in the manner that he himself responded to hatred – with love, compassion and forgiveness.
As British Muslims, we are obliged to abide by the law and never take the law into our own hands.
It is the legal route that we must take and ensure that freedoms of expression are enshrined in civility and responsibility. People have the right to express their views freely but it is not conducive to social cohesion if that expression ignites anger and pain.
As a national body we will be liaising with national and local bodies responsible for the delivery of Religious Education in schools (NASACRE, local SACRE’s) to ensure that appropriate training and then protocols are put in place to ensure that such an incident is not repeated again.
Moving forward, we commend the school with its swift action and engagement with parents and local faith leaders. We look forward to seeing the report from the independent investigation to ensure that appropriate policies have been reviewed and implemented.
Lastly, we would urge our communities to share with their non-Muslim friends, neighbours and colleagues the real beautiful character and personality of the Mercy to the Universe (May the Blessings of Allah be upon him).