A teacher was suspended after reportedly showing an “offensive” cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad during a religion class, sparking an out-of-school protest.
Protesters gathered outside Batley Grammar School near Bradford in West Yorkshire on Thursday after allegations that a staff member showed students a cartoon believed offensive to Islamic beliefs.
Images shared earlier in the day on social media showed dozens of people standing in front of the school gates, partially blocking the street.
The school has “unequivocally” apologized for showing children “totally inappropriate” material and said a staff member has been suspended for an investigation.
Dr. Abdul Shaikh, a local Batley scholar and Muslim activist, said he heard about the incident on social media Wednesday night.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “I was shocked, like many Muslims in the city, that the religious sensitivities of Muslim school children were utterly affected by the school teacher who chose to display an offensive image that mocked the noble prophet Muhammad were ignored.
“Every Muslim in the whole world values the Prophet the most.
“I believe that the school should be allowed to complete its investigation in due course and find a fair and reasonable solution that will primarily satisfy Muslim students, their parents and the wider Batley Muslim community.
“For reasons of community cohesion in the region, this situation should not be allowed to recur.”
West Yorkshire Police said they were called to protest at around 7:30 a.m. today.
A police spokesman said Schulstrasse had been closed for a short time, no arrests had been made and no fines had been imposed.
In a statement, Batley Grammar School Principal Gary Kibble said: “The school clearly apologizes for using a completely inappropriate resource in a recent religion class.
“The employee also sincerely apologized.
“We immediately stopped teaching this part of the course and are looking into how we can proceed with the support of all the communities represented in our school.
“It is important for children to learn about beliefs and beliefs, but it has to be done sensitively.
“The employee has been suspended because of an independent formal investigation.”
In a letter to Mr. Kibble shared online, the founder of Batley-based Purpose Of Life charity, Mohammad Sajad Hussain, said he was “deeply hurt” by the “insulting caricatures of our beloved Prophet Mohammed.”
He said the charity was unwilling to partner with or sponsor the school until the teacher was “permanently removed”.
The National Secular Society described the protest as an “attempt to impose an Islamic blasphemy taboo on a school”.
Stephen Evans, Executive Director of the National Secular Society said, “Teachers must have an adequate degree of freedom to explore sensitive topics and allow students to reflect critically on them.
“And the school’s weak response will fuel a climate of censorship created by attempts to force society as a whole to accommodate unreasonable and reactionary religious beliefs.”