There were angry protests outside Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire after a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad was shown in class (Picture: PA)
The RE teacher suspended over a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad reportedly ‘defended his right to freedom of speech’ in a heated telephone call with a parent.
The teacher, who has not been named, is believed to have told the parent ‘British values’ allowed him to ‘show the cartoon to his class of year nine students’.
Protests erupted outside Bately Grammar School in West Yorkshire on Thursday after it was claimed a cartoon of Muhammad, thought to have previously been published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was shown in a religious studies class.
Any depiction of the prophet is deeply offensive to Muslims but some have defended the use of the image using freedom of speech arguments.
According to the Mail Online, the teacher allegedly called an upset father who had left a message with the school asking to speak with him following the incident.
He told the parent that he had warned his pupils that some would find it offensive – but his aim was to pose a question to his class.
He believed he was ‘right’ to show the cartoon as he wanted to discuss whether the cartoonist was to blame or the terrorists who had committed murder over it in France in 2015.
The school has apologised for what happened and said the teacher has been suspended pending an independent formal investigation (Picture: PA)
In a group Whatsapp message shared among parents and protesters who have demonstrated outside the school, the father said he was not satisfied with this explanation.
The messages, seen by Mail Online, read: ‘I expressed I was not happy with his actions and he had caused offence to the community. He should have known better, after all these images caused international outrage.
‘He was not apologetic and was arrogant in his response that what he did was right. He stated that he knew some of the pupils would tell their parents.’
The school has apologised for what happened and said the teacher has been suspended pending an independent formal investigation.
The teacher, 29, has allegedly gone into hiding, and has not been seen at his home for several days, according to neighbours.
Some protesters are calling for the teacher to be sacked (Picture: PA)
Protesters say they will continue demonstrating until the teacher is sacked.
But past students and parents have defended him, saying he’s been singled out and the image has been used as a resource by different teachers previously, without attracting the same controversy.
One parent told The Times: ‘This was taught last year to my daughter by a different teacher. I know it’s been taught in other years, in other lessons. Why single this teacher out?’
The protests have sparked a major debate in the country, with even the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson weighing in and condemning the ‘threats and intimidation’.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also called for the ‘deeply unsettling’ scenes outside the school to ‘come to an end.’
‘It must be right that a teacher can appropriately show images of the Prophet Muhammad,’ he told the BBC.
‘In a free society, we want religions to be taught to children and for children to be able to question and query them.’
Meanwhile, a petition to reinstate the teacher has over 44,000 signatures.
The organisers behind the petition claim to be students at the West Yorkshire school.
They said the teacher ‘was trying to educate students about racism and blasphemy’ and was ‘not racist and did not support the Islamophobic cartoons in any manner’.
Protesters gathered on Thursday and Friday following the incident (Picture: PA)
It added: ‘This has got out of hand and due to this, students have missed out on lessons because of “peaceful” protestors’ .
The school was forced to close for the rest of the week after the protests started on Thursday.
A protester speaking ‘on behalf of the Muslim community’ read out a statement outside of the school on Friday, in which he said: ‘The teachers have breached the position of trust and failed their duty of safeguarding, and this issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
‘We do not accept that the school has taken this issue seriously, given that it’s taken them four days to merely suspend only one of the teachers involved.’
He called on the entire British Muslim community to review the materials being taught in their children’s schools.
Dr Shazad Amin, deputy chair of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), said it had been helping several parents liaise with the school.
He said he saw ‘no problem’ with blasphemy being discussed at the school but said the particular image shown to pupils was ‘deeply offensive’ and ‘furthered stereotypes and anti-Islamic tropes’.
As a result, he said, people in the local community had ‘a right to feel hurt and a right to feel angry’ but called for them to allow the matter to be properly investigated.
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