LONDON: Mosque leaders have asked parents to stop protesting outside a school in northern England at the center of an uproar following the showing of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Last week, Batley Grammar School suspended a teacher who had shown cartoons drawn by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo of Islam’s most revered figure during a religious studies lesson.
The teacher and the school’s headteacher Gary Kibble have both apologized for showing the image, which the latter said was “totally inappropriate.”
Some parents have promised to continue protesting outside the school until the teacher is fired.
But local mosque leaders have told the Daily Telegraph that they are encouraging parents to stay away from the school.
Akooji Badat, chairman of Snowdon Mosque, said: “We’re working together with the parents and the teacher, and the school have been kind to all the sectors by suspending the teacher so there’s no real cause for a peaceful protest outside the school. The school has done its job and cooperated well with us.”
The school “unequivocally” apologized for showing the materials, and has since withdrawn them from the course and committed to reviewing the rest of the course’s content.
“It is important for children to learn about faith and beliefs, but this must be done in a sensitive way,” it said in a statement.
Roughly three-quarters of students at Batley Grammar School are from ethnic minorities, and while the school’s religious composition is not clear, the Kirklees local authority where it is located has a significant Muslim population.
In a statement issued to Arab News, Birmingham’s Green Lane Masjid said: “The recent events at Batley Grammar School … reflect some of the challenges that Muslims in the West face in the realm of showing mutual respect. As a mosque, we empathize with the frustration of the Muslim community in Batley.”
The mosque urged Muslims “to maintain a sense of wisdom and balance,” and praised the school’s handling of the matter by quickly suspending the teacher.
Sheikh Zakaullah Saleem, the mosque’s head imam, said showing young children offensive cartoons of the prophet is antithetical to British values of respect, and could contribute to stereotypes and marginalization of the UK’s Muslim minority.
“Showing respect is part of our religion, and it is an integral part of the religion of Islam,” he added. “Living in this country, we believe in respect and tolerance. This is one of the British values, and as Muslims, we promote respect and tolerance.”