Gillian Keegan defends showing cartoon of Prophet Muhammad in classroom after teacher suspended over image

26 March 2024, 09:08

Nick Ferrari hears from Education Secretary on 60,000 new SEND schools

By Flaminia Luck

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has defended a teacher who was suspended after showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in a classroom in 2021.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Ms Keegan said the teacher was right to show the cartoon, given the "context".

When quizzed on whether showing the cartoon was the "right thing to do", Ms Keegan echoed the view from a report made by Dame Sara Khan which was released on Monday.

"So it is right? As long as it's part of the syllabus, as long as it's accepted that a teacher does do that?" Nick asked.

"Yes, and we've said that very clearly," she said. "And we've also said context is important."

She added that the government is to respond to the report which said the religious studies teacher was "let down" by Batley Grammar School, Kirklees council and West Yorkshire police.

The religious studies teacher received death threats and was forced to move house after protests
The religious studies teacher received death threats and was forced to move house after protests. Picture: Google Maps

Ms Keegan also the said the government will "support" teachers who end up in the "difficult situations".

"My job is to be there to support them and to make sure we do the right thing. We've had more than just this one incident in our schools," she said.

Read more: Teacher who showed Prophet Muhammad cartoon allowed to return to work

An independent investigation into the matter found that the member of staff did not use the image with the intention of causing offence.

However, it also recommended that staff should not use similar images in the future out of "respect" for the community as they are "not necessary... to deliver the learning outcomes on the subject of blasphemy".

The West Yorkshire school temporarily suspended the religious studies teacher, along with two others, in March after he showed pupils a cartoon that was first published in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, which resulted in the 2015 shooting at their offices that left 12 people dead.

His lesson sparked angry protests outside the school - with some people demanding he loses his job due to the "blasphemous" image - and a nationwide row.

The teacher was forced into hiding amid the angry backlash despite his "genuine" belief that the picture had “an educational purpose and benefit”.