An external investigation cleared the teacher of intentional offense
THE former head of religious studies at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire remains in hiding, nearly three years after sparking protests for displaying a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad to students, reported The Times.
The incident, which occurred in March 2021, led to several days of demonstrations outside the school and forced the teacher to leave Yorkshire, living under an assumed name in a secret location with his partner and four children.
The controversial cartoon, sourced from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, triggered outrage, particularly in the aftermath of the murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher in France who was beheaded by an Islamist terrorist for showing a similar cartoon.
The Batley Grammar School teacher was subsequently put under police protection due to alleged death threats.
Since then, the teacher, in his early 30s, has maintained a low profile and continues to live in seclusion.
A family member revealed that communication with him has been limited, stating, “I literally haven’t seen him since it all happened. There’s not been much communication with the family, and we don’t push things. I doubt he will ever return to Batley; he just wants to put it behind him.”
During the week of protests, individuals from various parts of the country, including right-wing groups and Muslim community figures, gathered outside the school gates. In response, the school swiftly suspended the teacher.
The headmaster, Gary Kibble, issued an apology for the use of the “totally inappropriate image,” but later left the school.
An external investigation cleared the teacher of intentional offense, stating that he believed using the image had an educational purpose, sparking a discussion about the meaning of blasphemy. Despite the exoneration, the teacher remains cautious about returning to Batley.
Yunus Lunat, a lawyer who represented concerned Muslim parents during the incident, believes the teacher should never have been suspended. He argues that the teacher would be safe if he returned, and students at the school would welcome him back.
However, a former governor of the school suggests that if a similar incident were to occur today, the response would likely be the same, with the teacher suspended until matters were clarified. The former governor points to the high proportion of Muslim students in the community, stating that steps would be taken to ease tensions.
The incident in Batley adds to the broader debate surrounding Islamic influence in schools. Recent cases, including a student suing a London school over a “prayer ban” policy and security concerns leading to online lessons in another school, highlight the delicate balance schools face in accommodating diverse beliefs.
Also, the issue extended beyond Yorkshire, as illustrated by a separate incident in Wakefield, where four boys were suspended for alleged Quran damage.
The West Yorkshire police intervened when unfounded rumors circulated, falsely suggesting that the Quran had been deliberately set on fire.
The school involved did not respond to requests for comment.