Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech

Batley Grammar: Two More Members of Staff Suspended.

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The Left and Labour Movement Should Defend Secular Freedom.

LBC:

Two more members of staff at Batley Grammar School have been suspended, it has been reported.

The school had apologised and suspended a teacher pending an investigation following a protest over the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad being shown in a class last week.

The picture had been used as part of a religious studies lesson, and the teacher involved has since been suspended and gone into hiding with his partner and four children.

It has since emerged two other teachers have also been suspended although this information was not made available to the public.

According to Mail Online, one ‘school source’ said: “Two other teachers are also being investigated but the school has been trying to keep it secret because they don’t want attention being drawn to the fact that this went beyond the actions of one person.”

It is understood they were aware the material was going to be used, but were not in class when it was shown.

LBC continues:

Batley Multi Academy Trust said in statement on Wednesday that an inquiry panel would begin work within a fortnight and said: “We understand everyone will want clarity as soon as possible.”

It said: “We’re grateful for the constructive engagement with all our stakeholders over the last few days with regard to Batley Grammar, one of the schools within our trust.

“We believe the right way forward is for an independent investigation to review the context in which the materials (which caused offence) were used, and to make recommendations in relation to the Religious Studies curriculum so that the appropriate lessons can be learned and action taken, where necessary.”

This Blog does not usually recommend the Weekly Worker, still less ‘Eddie Ford’, although it is well known that many of our section of left contributed to its pages in the past, but one of the best articles on the issues raised is in this week’s edition, (extracts)

Blasphemy laws old and new

Outraged, the local mosque mobilised its supporters, forcing the school to adopt remote learning. Mohammed Hussain of the Batley-based ‘Purpose of Life’ group – a registered charity – declared that the teacher “has insulted two billion Muslims on the planet” and “we cannot stand for that”, sharing the teacher’s name on social media with a letter condemning him. Taking it upon himself to speak for the entire ‘Muslim community’, as so often happens, he went on to state: “We do feel that, if this had been something that offended the LGBT community or something that was anti-Semitic, he would’ve been sacked on the spot.” For Hussain, the teacher’s resignation “should be forthcoming immediately.”

Similar sentiments can be heard from the protestors. One of them was quoted in various media outlets as saying the western world “is at a loss in understanding the reaction” from the Muslim community, as they are “required to stand up when prophet Mohammed is insulted, and when all the prophets are insulted, including all the prophets of the Old Testament, including Jesus” – the British “Muslim community” everywhere needs to review the materials being taught in their children’s schools. Showing images of Mohammed, we are told, should be as unacceptable as using the word ‘nigger’. Just beyond the pale.

This begins with something on everybody’s mind.

The very first thing to say is that this is an extremely serious matter. In October last year Samuel Paty, a school teacher in Paris, was horrifically beheaded after he too showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons during a class about free expression. In that sense, very similar to Batley. It is widely reported that the teacher there, who loved his “fantastic job”, is now in fear for his life – as are his family. He was whisked away from his home on “police advice” after receiving constant death threats. He is unlikely to return to Batley, let alone his job.

Secondly, we should support the immediate reinstatement of the suspended teacher – the lesson was precisely designed, presumably, to elicit critical thinking and philosophical inquiry. In which case, why not show the cartoon? Teachers should be free to show cartoons, pictures or quote texts that are relevant to the subject. After all, how can you conduct a lesson on blasphemy otherwise? Thirdly, Kibble was totally wrong to make his wretched apology – it will only encourage a climate of censorship.

There are wider issues, as religious figures push for the banning of views they dislike.

Many of those protesting outside Batley grammar school, and beyond, want the UK to resurrect its blasphemy laws. The common-law offences of “blasphemy” and “blasphemous libel” were formally abolished in England and Wales in 2008 after an amendment was passed to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.1 

And in Scotland the blasphemy law was only formally abolished this month after the new Hate Crime Bill passed its final parliamentary vote. There is now a new offence of “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds, meaning that Scots could be subject to prosecution if their behaviour is deemed “threatening or abusive”.2 As a consequence, the threshold for prosecution for “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds remains lower than in England and Wales – inevitably having a chilling effect on freedom of expression north of the border. This only leaves Northern Ireland, where blasphemy continues to be an offence under the common law, despite an attempt in the House of Lords to abolish it in 2009.

”””

This Blog covered the SWP line. This is a excellent answer.

According to the SWP, there is “a big difference between ridiculing a religion such as the establishment-backed Church of England and mocking the beliefs of the poor and oppressed” – apparently Islam is above analytical criticism, sceptical questioning, let alone biting humour, and can never be the belief of the rich and powerful. Ignorance in the extreme. Religions are almost always cross-class phenomena. The Church of England unites Elizabeth Windsor and Justin Welby with the worthy poor who huddle in church every Sunday. Roman Catholicism is the religion of Francis I, a bloatedly rich bureaucracy, and huge numbers throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa. The same with Islam. Sunni Islam unites the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the fabulously rich king of Saudi Arabia, with millions throughout the world. The same goes for Shia Islam, the Mormons and Judaism. Vicars, priests, imams and rabbis form a privileged middle class with a material interest in maintaining their hold over their congregations and fuelling hostility to secularism and anything that smacks of criticism.

There are countries with state churches, like England. But more widely it is not just the wealth of the pious religious bourgeoisie behind institutions of faith, right to their most extreme forms. Political Islamism enjoys the financial and political support of capitalist dictatorships, from Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The conclusion is absolutely spot on.

We do not want to unnecessarily offend religious people like modern-day zealots from the League of Militant Godless.5 Rather, we want to be freely able to use Marxism to investigate the truths and untruths of religion. Religion is profoundly human – bearing all the characteristics and contradictions of class society. In that sense, as Marx argued, religion is an encyclopaedia of humanity’s complex history.

Lest we forget, this is what actually existing Blasphemy laws are like,

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was sentenced to death in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad (P.B.H.) on Facebook.

Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Hafeez, whose death sentence is under appeal, is one of about 1,500 Pakistanis charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place.

But since 1990 70 people have been murdered by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including one of Hafeez’s lawyers and two high-level politicians who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was acquitted in 2019, she fled Pakistan.

Opinion: Is Pakistan’s blasphemy law a result of the ulema-state alliance?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

Day of Action and Bristol Protest to Defend David Miller.

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Another Bristol Protest.

A coalition of Labour Left organisations has called a lobby to ‘Defend academic freedom and free speech’ for tomorrow March 31 in Bristol. 

Bristol University is currently investigating Professor David Miller, teacher of political sociology, for alleged antisemitism. “Nothing could be further from the truth”, says the Labour Campaign for Free Speech. “Professor Miller is a highly regarded academic who has spoken out against Zionism. That is why he has come under fire. Professor David Miller’s job at Bristol University is at stake, because he dared to speak out on Zionism. This is an important test case – should he be sacked, this will result in even more attacks on academic freedom.”

Organisations in support of the March 31 action include Labour Campaign for Free Speech, Labour Left Alliance, Labour in Exile Network, Support David Miller Campaign, Labour Representation Committee, Labour International Left Alliance, Bristol and West Labour Left Alliance and a number of local left groups.

They will assemble at 2pm outside the Wills Memorial Building of Bristol’s University to express “solidarity and support for Professor Miller”.

Labour Campaign for Free Speech.

The claim that Miller is a “highly regarded academic” is not widely shared, nor that the controversy around him is primarily about free speech. However he clearly has the right to his views, however odd and unacademic. This is an interesting claim by these groups:

The proposed policing bill would make it illegal to cause “serious annoyance” – with punishment of up to 10 years in jail. Worse than that, the law is to be applied even if “somebody is put at risk” of so-called “serious harm” (like ‘annoying’ somebody) – ie, if no action has taken place. The bill would make it an offence if just one person complains about feeling “serious distress…annoyance…[or even] inconvenience”.

We hope these principled free speech defenders will stand up for the Batley Teacher in this row.

Yorkshire Live.

Batley Grammar School students are said to have been left “wordless and distraught” following the news a teacher accused of showing pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad is “fearing for his life”.

Yesterday (Monday), the suspended teacher’s father spoke out for the first time since protestors swarmed to the school’s gates calling for his son to be sacked.

Socialist Worker, which does not seem to be involved in the David Miller considers that no issues of freedom of expression are involved. Protests after teacher shows racist cartoon to Muslim pupils.

Bigots and Islamophobes want to defend the ‘right’ of a teacher to show pupils an offensive image of the Prophet Muhammad. But parents are right to be angry.

They cite an individual with a “colourful past” an authority on the affair.,

Mohammed Shafiq from the Ramadhan Foundation denied ­violence at the peaceful protests.

He instead feared the incident “will be hijacked by those who have an interest in perpetuating an image of Muslims”. It is alarming that the Department for Education chose to amplify those divisions by attacking the parents and pupils,” he added…..

The cartoons in Charlie Hebdo are intended to humiliate people who bear the brunt of institutional and state racism. The Tories use their version of free speech as an excuse to offend and scapegoat minorities.

Stand Up To Racism said, “In educating students we must be clear—insulting the Prophet Mohammed is not freedom of speech, it is racist abuse.”

Here’s the background of the friend of the SWP and new expert on the Batley affair ;

In January 2014 Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz, a secular Muslim, posted a “Jesus and Mo” image on his Twitter account.[25] The image depicts Jesus saying “Hey” and Mohammed saying “How ya doin'”.[26][27] Shafiq then posted on Twitter “We will notify all muslim organisations in the UK of his despicable behaviour and also notify Islamic countries.”[28][29] Shafiq further Tweeted “Ghustaki Rasool Quilliam,” so linking Nawaz’s anti-extremist think tank with an Urdu term which means “defamer of the prophet”,[30] which under Islamic law is a crime that carries a death penalty.[31] Maajid Nawaz has since received a number of death threats.[25][29][32] Shafiq also reportedly organized an on-line petition to Nick Clegg to have Nawaz removed as a Liberal Democrat candidate,[30] though when the organizers of the petition, named as SA et al., were contacted by the press they distanced themselves from Shafiq.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 30, 2021 at 3:56 pm

Batley Blasphemy Protests: Suspended Teacher Receives Police Protection.

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Dur d'être aimé par des cons" remis à l'affiche à Lyon, Aubenas et  Fernay-Voltaire

En soutien au journal “Charlie Hebdo”.

The Guardian reports:

A teacher displayed satirical cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The teacher has been suspended pending a formal investigation.

Gary Kibble, the head of Batley grammar school, apologised to parents for the inappropriate use of the cartoons, taken from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, during a religious studies lesson this week which sparked a protest outside the school on Thursday morning.

“Upon investigation, it was clear that the resource used in the lesson was completely inappropriate and had the capacity to cause great offence to members of our school community for which we would like to offer a sincere and full apology,” Kibble said in an email sent to parents that promised further investigation.

Images on social media showed about 30 to 40 protesters, many wearing masks, outside the school, with police at the entrances to the school grounds and the road outside. The Huddersfield Examiner reported from the school that the protests were peaceful as children arrived, with the start of the school day delayed until 10am. West Yorkshire police said that no fines or arrests were made.

However, the Department for Education spokesperson condemned the protests which it said included issuing threats and was “in violation of coronavirus restrictions”. A spokesperson described the protest as “completely unacceptable”

Sky

A demonstration that took place outside a school after a teacher showed a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed in the classroom was “disturbing”, a cabinet minister has said.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the protest was “not right” and that “we shouldn’t have teachers feeling intimidated”.

“That is not a road we want to go down in this country so I would strongly urge people concerned about this issue not to do that,” he told Sky News on Friday.

Mr Jenrick added that reports the teacher is now in hiding are “very disturbing”.

National Secular Society:

The National Secular Society has criticised the protests and the school’s response.

The NSS is planning to write to the school, to ask for an explanation of its rationale and urge it not to pander to demands for blasphemy taboos.

Reports suggest the teacher warned that some members of the class may find the cartoon offensive, before using it to prompt a discussion about killings that have taken place after the publication of Muhammad cartoons.

School’s statement

In a statement, the school said: “The school unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate resource in a recent religious studies lesson. The member of staff has also given their most sincere apologies.

“We have immediately withdrawn teaching on this part of the course and we are reviewing how we go forward with the support of all the communities represented in our school.

“It is important for children to learn about faiths and beliefs, but this must be done in a sensitive way.

“The school is working closely with the governing board and community leaders to help resolve this situation.”

NSS comment

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said the protest was “an attempt to impose an Islamic blasphemy taboo on a school”.

“Teachers must have a reasonable degree of freedom to explore sensitive subjects and enable students to think critically about them.

“Schools will understandably want to promote community cohesion and inclusiveness. But this cannot be achieved by pandering to religious groups who wish to dictate what can and cannot be taught.

“And the school’s weak response will fuel a climate of censorship, which is brought on by attempts to force society as a whole to accommodate unreasonable and reactionary religious views.”

Note

In October last year a school teacher in Paris, Samuel Paty, was killed after he showed cartoons of Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo magazine during a class about free expression.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 26, 2021 at 9:39 am