The Labour MP for Batley and Spen has released a second statement on the Batley Grammar School incident reported on this site yesterday, striking a markedly different tone to her first in an embarrassing row back.
The West Yorkshire school apologised to the Muslim community on Thursday over the alleged educational use of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad by one its teachers during a recent Religious Studies lesson.
The apparent use of the image sparked a furious backlash by the significant Muslim presence in the constituency, with community members protesting and chanting at the school gates, prompting the required assistance of local police at the scene.
The school later confirmed that the teacher in question had been suspended as a result of the outrage, pending an investigation. It is now known that the teacher is under police protection due to the backlash and has reportedly received death threats.
Tracy Brabin, the incumbent Labour MP who is also the party’s candidate for the upcoming West Yorkshire mayoral election, issued a statement reported by Yorkshire Live at 3.30pm on Thursday in which she claimed the “upset and offence this has caused is understandable but it was also predictable.”
She stated she was “pleased” that the school had recognised the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad was “inappropriate” and that the school had apologised to the Muslim community.
Her comments were met with ridicule on social media with one user suggesting they amounted to “appeasement” and another questioning whether or not Islamic blasphemy laws now exist in the UK, “or do we have freedom of speech?”
The Conservative mayoral candidate Mr Matt Robinson offered a more forthright response, insisting that whilst “peaceful protest, respect and religious freedom are at the heart of our society… intimidation or threats toward staff or schools should not be tolerated”, urging people to “consider carefully any further action or comments.”
On Friday afternoon, the the Labour MP Ms Brabin issued a second, markedly similar statement to her Conservative candidate, now showing apparent support for the teacher in question, stating that “no teacher should be facing intimidation or threats, there is no excuse for that” before calling for conversations between the school and the local community to proceed “in a dignified and respectful matter [sic]”.
Significantly, it made no reference to the teacher’s alleged educational use of the Prophet Muhammad as being “inappropriate”, unlike her first attempt.
Fellow West Yorkshire MP for Morley and Outwood, Andrea Jenkyns tweeted: It’s a shame you didn’t say this in your original statement 18 hours ago. We need to protect our teachers. They certainly should not have to be under police protection. And if elected as West Yorkshire Mayor, you will be in charge of the policing.”
Yorkshire Live is reporting that around 35 protestors have continued to campaign outside the school gates on Friday, calling for the teacher to be sacked, telling reporters they will be “very disappointed” if the sanctions taken by the school are limited to a temporary suspension.