This month, it was reported that over 600 Muslim students had been withdrawn from Parkfield Community School in Birmingham over claims that they were being brainwashed by a ‘gay agenda’.
Yesterday, in a move that demonstrates the institutional strength of British democracy, Ofsted said in a report that there was no evidence the curriculum overly focused on LGBT issues or was not taught in an age-appropriate manner.
Parkfield was piloting ‘No Outsiders’, a new curriculum being taught in RE classes that promotes equality and LGBT-inclusivity, when it was met with severe backlash and protests from religiously conservative parents.
One angry campaigner, Fatima Shah, who was seen holding a leaflet with the header “Is it okay for your child to be gay?” said of the headteacher: “Mr Moffat is running what’s called CHIPS – challenging homophobia in primary schools – and it’s totally against Islamic beliefs.”
While many have been taken aback by this intense pushback from the largely Muslim community, it comes as no surprise to those that have been closely observing trends within the British Muslim community as a whole, which is often lagging behind the rest of the UK when it comes to socially progressive values.
Less than 3 years ago, an extensive survey found that a staggering 52% of British Muslims disagreed on the legal status of homosexuality in the UK, this is compared to 5% of the public at large that hold the same belief. Almost half (47%) of British Muslims said that it was unacceptable for a gay person to become a teacher, compared with 14% of the general population.
Rather than encouraging those who hold these views to move ahead with the rest of the country, the local Labour MP Shabana Mahmood instead agreed with the protesting parents, claiming that the children are too young to be taught such complex and unfathomable social concepts such as ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’. Mahmood has asked schools to take “proper consideration for pupils’ religion and background”. Is Mahmood suggesting that public schools, funded by UK taxpayers, ought to accommodate different curriculums for different religious groups? In other words, bigotry and homophobia can be given as pass as long as you belong to the right religion.
The stench of hypocrisy is unmissable. The vitriolic hate espoused by these parents has somehow managed to disguise itself as victimhood. Their claim is that the promotion of LGBT awareness is “exploiting children’s innocence”. But what about the fundamentalist Muslim agenda that aggressively pushes the notion that homosexuality is sinful? What about its repercussions on gay Muslim kids who will be forced to repress their identities forever if they wish to remain part of their communities?
As much as some sections of the Muslim community may try to ignore it, the fact is that gay Muslims exist. They have always existed and they will always continue to exist. The choice we now face is whether we care enough about them to provide them with the education and support they need to be able to enjoy free and content lives among the diverse communities in which they live. The alternative is to alienate an entire section of our country that will forever believe that their existence is a “shame”. And to what end? To appease a few religious fundamentalists because homosexuality makes them uncomfortable?
While challenging this angry mob waving the religion card as an excuse to freely air their homophobia may seem like a daunting task, those of us who hold true to the promise of a fair and equal society, and especially those individuals that hold public office, must remain unflinching and unafraid of standing up for our shared liberal and democratic British values.