A teacher reportedly showed a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to pupils during a class in Batley. What followed was a familiar response and something that could have been avoided.
The school ‘unequivocally’ apologised for showing ‘totally inappropriate’ material to children and said a member of staff has been suspended pending an investigation.
The member of staff had ‘given their most sincere apologies’.
I know there will be a number of people who will disagree with what I am about to say next. Once the school has taken action themselves was there any need to protest outside the school? Knowing full well that the nation’s media would descend outside the gates, did we really need to go down this route?
Two things happen. Firstly, the whole process and protest tends to gets hijacked by people who wish to ‘show’ their anger. The idea being some sort of public anger will help to share our disdain with the wider world and we will be asked later what we did. And anyone who calls for some sort of calm is seen as someone who is appeasing what has happened, which isn’t the case.
If the staff member is dismissed will it make the situation any more tenable?
On the flip side we have an eager public using this excuse to share more offensive material in support of ‘freedom of speech’. Those who were offended are ridiculed and their comments are shown to represent the view of every Muslim in the UK. Tactfully, the very same claims of ‘freedom of speech’ are not used on other matters.
I am not saying that people should not make their feelings clear on something that is close to our hearts. In this case the staff member had apologised and clearly regretted the decision – that is where this should have ended. It was not as if we had a situation where the images were still being shared.
There are of course those saying that the staff member should have known better, realising this would be offensive to Muslims. That is quite obvious, you need to be stupid not to realise this. What is worrying that this allegedly happened in a school setting.
What made things worse were the words of the Department of Education who branded the protests ‘completely unacceptable’, and said they included ‘threats’ and ‘intimidation’.
This reaction was quite rightly condemned as being something that ‘amplify divisions’ by attacking the parents and pupils. None of whom is appears were Having been in this situation before maybe it was time to take a different approach. Maybe it was time to learn from past situations. Maybe we need to treat individual incidents differently. And that goes for everything that has happened in the past 24 hours and will happen in the coming week.