The capitulation of Batley Grammar School has been a truly dispiriting sight. In response to protests by angry Muslims it has suspended a teacher for the supposed offence of showing a caricature of Muhammad to his pupils. This is an extraordinary act of moral cowardice. Batley Grammar has buckled to religious extremists, cravenly begging for forgiveness for something that ought to be perfectly acceptable in an institution of learning — encouraging young people to engage with and discuss controversial issues.
Everything about the Batley Grammar controversy stinks. It began when a teacher at the prestigious West Yorkshire school, as part of a religious education class, showed his pupils an image of Muhammad. Some Muslim groups that caught wind of this fact started stomping their feet. Mohammad Sajad Hussain of the Islamic charity Purpose Of Life said Muslims will feel ‘deeply hurt’ by the teacher’s behaviour and demanded that he be ‘permanently removed’. At 7.30am yesterday morning a group of mostly young men gathered at the school demanding that the teacher be sacked for the allegedly awful sin of displaying an image of the Prophet.
What happened next was staggering, even by the standards of today’s yellow-bellied culture of self-censorship. Batley Grammar’s headmaster, Gary Kibble, suspended the teacher — pending an investigation — and issued a ‘sincere’ and ‘unequivocal’ apology for the ‘totally inappropriate’ display of the Muhammad image. The school also put on hold the part of the religious-studies course in which the Muhammad incident occurred. And it is being reported this morning that the school has switched to remote learning, telling teachers and kids to stay home.
Forget the religious-studies teacher, who was only doing his job by encouraging his kids to confront all sorts of issues head-on. The true scandal here is the behaviour of the school.