‘Muslim fury’ forces schools to withdraw gay fairytales
One story, entitled ‘King & King’, concerns a prince who rejects three princesses only to marry one of their brothers. And the other, ‘And Tango Makes Three’, features two male penguins who fall in love at a New York zoo. A book and DVD entitled ‘That's a Family!’, which teaches children about different family set-ups including gay or lesbian parents, has also been withdrawn.
According to Bristol City Council, the schools had opted to use these books in order to ensure that they complied with the new Sexual Orientation Regulations which were enshrined in law a year ago. They are not concerned with promoting homosexuality, but with combating homophobia.
Setting aside that Cranmer is bemused that children as young as five are forced to study this sort of literature (do they even know what sexuality is, let alone the homo variety?), what is intriguing is that it has been a threatening campaign by a group of Muslim parents which has forced Bristol City Council to change its policy.
And it must have been threatening, because the decision was made ‘to enable the schools to operate safely after parents voiced their concerns at meetings’. Groups of 40 or 50 were gathered at each school demanding to speak to staff, which must have been somewhat intimidating. They were ‘upset at the lack of consultation over the use of the materials’.
Perhaps they should be - as should all responsible parents - and undoubtedly they are right to express their concern at the sheer inappropriateness of this material for children so young. But since when have state schools had to consult parents of any faith over the use of educational materials? And where will such a consultation end? Will it result in the banning of The Merchant of Venice for alleged anti-Semitism, or Othello for racism? Parents have the legal right to withdraw their children from sex education classes, religious education classes, and from the daily act of collective worship. The rest is compulsory, as proscribed by the National Curriculum. But parents do not have a veto over textbooks or other educational resources which are within the law. That is for the professional judgement of headteachers and school governors, sometimes in consultation with a local authority.
Would Bristol City Council have withdrawn these books if the complaints had been from Christian parents, or was it the threat of violence which persuaded them to change the policy?
Yet there is in this Daily Mail reporting the voice of moderate Islam. Farooq Siddique is a governor at one of the schools concerned, and was thereby in a position to get the policy changed. He said: “The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us “our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven't even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet. They don't do sex education until Year Six and at least there you have got the option of withdrawing the children. But here you don't have that option apparently. You can't withdraw because it is no particular lesson they are used in."
He then added: "In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable, as they are not in Christianity and many other religions but the main issue is that they didn't bother to consult with parents. The issue should have been, how do we stop bullying in general, and teaching about homosexuality can be a part of that. This was completely one-sided. Homosexuality is not a priority to parents but academic achievement is. This just makes parents think 'What the heck is my child being taught at school?'."
He said the two schools were 60 to 70 per cent Muslim but pointed out that non-Muslim parents were among those who complained. It is curious therefore that The Daily Mail headline speaks of ‘Muslim fury’.
It couldn’t be purposely stoking ‘Islamophobia’, could it?