Sufi Muslim Imams in North Kirklees say Dame Sarah Khan's report on social cohesion 'fails to understand how much offence is caused when people’s religious beliefs are insulted'

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Imams in North Kirklees have responded to Dame Sara Khan's report on social cohesion.

In the report published last month, Ms Khan – an independent adviser to the government for social cohesion and resilience – was critical of how Batley Grammar School handled protests against one of its teachers in 2021.

The material the teacher used in a religious studies lesson led to protests outside the school gates and a free speech row.

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Ms Khan used the incident that sparked a national row as an example of what she says is victims of “freedom-restricting harassment suffering devastating impacts yet often not being treated as victims or offered the support they need”.

Batley Grammar SchoolBatley Grammar School
Batley Grammar School

In a statement released via the Kirklees Faith Network, Sufi Muslim Imams from the district said the review fails to understand how much offence is caused when people’s religious beliefs are insulted.

The statement said: “We find it interesting this so-called report on 'social cohesion' has been published during an election year, and insultingly during Ramadhan – and nearly three years after an offensive animated caricature was shown to a group of high school children, sparking protests by parents and locals who were genuinely hurt and upset at what they saw as something exceptionally derogative.

“This current Conservative government, as well as those behind this so-called review or report, have clearly failed to understand how much hurt and offence is caused when people's religious beliefs are provocatively insulted under the excuse of free speech or under the excuse of free discussion.

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“The whole episode of the caricature was clearly distressing for our children, and for the local area's Muslim faith communities.

"As we the Imams reiterated three years ago, the government and Ofsted, and most importantly our own local MPs need to use their positions in Parliament to push for – and to develop – an inclusive and sensible community cohesion strategy especially around religious education and PSE learning.

Schools need to develop inclusive PSE and religious education lesson plans for their pupils on the topic of 'What is Britishness' and on the theme of 'What is positive citizenship?’.

“Information packs also need to be developed for staff around maintaining sensitivity so they do not then end up suffering like the unfortunate teacher at Batley Grammar School.”

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The statement added: “The Muslim religion allows people to ask questions and to have discussions. Yet there is a way of asking questions and having a discussion without insulting any religion's core values and beliefs.

“The foundations for social cohesion are instead laid through a balanced education inside our school classrooms.”

Following publication of Ms Khan's review last month, Batley Multi Academy Trust said it was “disappointed” with her findings.

A spokesperson said it was “extremely proud of the school and of our community, and how both have moved forward together so positively from the very difficult period in 2021”.