Imams call for more inclusive religious education strategy

Sufi Muslim Imams from the Batley area have issued a statement calling for schools to develop an inclusive and sensible community cohesion strategy, especially around religious education.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 8:00 am
British Orderlies serving jugs of milk to a group of Indian Muslim comrades at sunset after they have just completed their Ramadhan fasting for the day.

The statement, issued via the Kirklees Faith Network, has been given after the conclusion of an inquiry following an incident in April when a class of pupils at Batley Grammar School was shown an animated caricature during an RE lesson.

An independent inquiry was held in the immediate aftermath of the incident. The inquiry’s findings have led to a teacher being allowed to return to the classroom after initially being suspended.

The statement by the Kirklees Faith Network said: “This whole episode was clearly distressing for our children, and for the local area’s Muslim faith communities.

Batley Grammar School

“We now hope the senior leadership team at Batley Grammar School, as well as SLTs from other secondary and primary schools, will learn some important lessons on why it is important 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?’.

“We are obviously very concerned the Department for Education, as well as Ofsted, made some very insensitive comments at the time when parents and faith leaders gathered outside Batley Grammar School to protest against use of the offensive image.

“For the DfE to play the so called ‘freedom to discuss card’ is not the way forward.

“The Muslim religion allows people to ask questions. Yet there is a way of asking questions without insulting any religion’s core values and beliefs.

“But there is also a positive alternative.

“Instead of children being shown controversial offensive images, we now recommend to the DfE and Ofsted to make it mandatory for teachers to use and show archive photographs of soldiers from the former British-Indian Army as a powerful learning tool in our school classrooms.

“These images will go a long way to complement our children’s PSE lessons.

“There are no archive photographs of the British-Indian Army at the moment in any school history textbooks, even after a full century since the First World War came to an end.

“All BME children, as well as those from white-English speaking backgrounds, deserve an opportunity to learn about such an important aspect of our shared history through these amazing images.

“The timing is perfect now that a debate is taking place to reinterpret history following the tragic death of George Floyd.

“But such a positive move can only become a concrete reality if the DfE is ready and willing to show leadership from the top by incorporating this forgotten common history as an important embedded extension to the PSE curriculum.

“We hope the DfE and Ofsted will now listen to our advice and move forward quickly”