A teacher who prompted protests in a small Yorkshire town after showing his students a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad remains in hiding nearly three years on and is unlikely ever to return home, his family say.
As reported in the Times, the man, who was head of religious studies at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire, presented a drawing taken from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during one of his classes, provoking several days of demonstrations outside the school gates.
In response, the school swiftly suspended the unnamed teacher pending a formal investigation. Gary Kibble, the headmaster, issued an “unequivocal apology” for the teacher’s use of a “totally inappropriate image”.
Footage on social media showed police reading out the head’s apology statement to the protesters
He was put into police protection after allegedly receiving death threats and now lives with his partner and four children under an assumed name in a secret location outside Yorkshire.
A family member said that the man, who is in his early 30s, continues to live in hiding and remains cautious about contact with his relatives.
“I literally haven’t seen him since it all happened,” they said. “We’ve just had a few messages and that’s all. There’s not been much communication with the family and we don’t push things.”
An external investigation later found the teacher had not used the image with the intention of causing offence and the suspension was lifted. It concluded that the teacher “genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit, namely, to start a discussion about the meaning of blasphemy”.
The issue of Islamic influence in schools has been revived in recent weeks.
The headteacher at Michaela community school in Wembley, Katharine Birbalsingh, is facing a High Court challenge from a Muslim student over the institution’s prayer policy. Ms Birbalsingh said the school’s governing body decided to stop prayer rituals when some pupils started them “against a backdrop of events including violence, intimidation and appalling racial harassment of our teachers”.
Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, has also said it may have to conduct lessons online because of security fears following a decision to ban students from wearing pro-Palestine badges. The Met Police is now investigation after a series of bomb threats were made against the institution.
Last year, four boys at a school in Wakefield, just ten miles from Batley, were suspended for allegedly causing “slight damage” to a copy of the Quran. West Yorkshire police intervened as false rumours spread that it had been set alight.
One of the boys, who was 14 and autistic, was told by friends to bring in the holy book as a forfeit for losing at a video game. The boy’s mother apologised but said she had been left “petrified” by death threats.
At the time, the FSU wrote to Inspector Andy Thornton, the police officer leading the investigation, to complain about the fact that the episode was being treated as a ‘hate incident’ by West Yorkshire Police.
We asked Mr Thornton to assure us that the four boys at the centre of the story had not had ‘non-crime hate incidents’ recorded against their names and, if they had, to remove them immediately. We also pointed out that there was no evidence of any malicious intent and damaging a book that belongs to you, even if it is the Quran, should not be treated as a ‘hate incident’.
You can read the letter in full here.