The UK's Bold Plan to Stop Islamists Intimidating Teachers Over "Blasphemy"

Under proposals in a new, government-commissioned report, teachers in the United Kingdom could be protected from accusations of blasphemy.

This new report, from crossbench peer Lord Walney, who also serves as the British government’s adviser on political violence and disruption, will urge the Department for Education (DfE) to issue schools with statutory guidance to manage blasphemy-related incidents in schools and protect teachers’ freedom of expression. The report has more than 40 recommendations for government and public bodies.

The proposals also include measures to protect teachers and their rights, which include preventing teachers involved in blasphemy-related incidents from being publicly identified and preventing schools from automatically suspending teachers facing accusations of blasphemy. 

Under these new proposals, schools would no longer be obligated to consult parents, faith, or community groups on educational content that might insult religions. The report said that schools would no longer be required to "engage with or appease local activist groups or religious institutions" in managing blasphemy-related incidents or other tensions, including relationships and sex education.

The report is widely believed to have been influenced by recent, high-profile blasphemy cases involving teachers in the UK, which forced some teachers into hiding. One famous case is the Batley Grammar School incident in March 2021, where a teacher was forced into hiding and received death threats after showing a class a picture of the Prophet Muhammad, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.

The teacher remains in hiding with his partner and four young children and has said he felt “let down” by his school and authorities after his identity was revealed to the public.

Department for Education (DfE) officials are understood to be drafting new guidance that could be issued to schools before the next academic year in September. 

Lord Walney, who commissioned the report, declined to comment on the proposals, but a government spokesperson said that “extremism of any kind has no place in our society, and we will not tolerate tactics that set out to intimidate, threaten or cause disruption to the law-abiding majority.

In recent months, we have also witnessed a small number of protesters display violent and hateful behavior, and the police have our full support in tackling extremism and hate crime,” the spokesperson said. “We will consider the report’s final recommendations extremely carefully and will respond in due course.

The National Secular Society, which has long campaigned for protections for teachers involved in blasphemy-related incidents, lauded the report’s recommendations and issued calls to provide greater support for teachers.

The Walney report's focus on the threats and intimidation faced by UK schools in relation to blasphemy accusations is welcome, as is its recommendation for greater protections for teachers.” Jack Rivington, spokesperson for the National Secular Society, said regarding the report.

"Teachers and schools need to be far better supported. The Government should take heed of concerns about blasphemy-related violence by enacting Walney's recommendation to issue statutory guidance,” he added.

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