5Pillars understands that over 50 Muslim students did not attend Wood Green Academy in Wednesbury yesterday after pupils were disciplined following a visit to the school by “gay Muslim” activist Khakan Qureshi.
At a meeting at the Madina Education Trust on Sunday, attended by 160 people, Muslim parents and community members said that their children felt fearful about going back to school after their normative Islamic beliefs on LGBTQ issues were challenged by Mr Qureshi, who said it was okay to be gay and Muslim and that the Quran does not consider homosexuality to be a sin.
Mufti Abdul Muhid told parents at the meeting that the community is “angry and emotional” at their treatment by the school and is now concerned about safeguarding issues, but needs to complain about the incident in a respectful and determined way.
He said that the whole community was proud of the sixth formers who “understood their deen” and questioned Mr Qureshi’s assertions; and that a community group has been set up to support Muslim parents and their children.
Mufti Muhid added that some pupils “had been treated differently” by the school after the incident and had been put in isolation and suspended.
Other speakers at the meeting said that Muslim children had been treated “with no respect by the school,” and that complaints must go into the school, education watchdog Ofsted and an Islamophobia response unit.
“If we don’t speak up now we will be treated as second class citizens in the future,” one speaker said.
A relative of a pupil who was part of the school debate said the school “had let Muslim pupils down” and “silenced them.”
And a parent of a pupil who took part in the debate said the school had “discriminated against pupils who were just standing up for their Islamic beliefs.”
Parents wishing to complain can do so here:
Wood Green Academy
5Pillars contacted Wood Green Academy asking them about the parents and children’s’ concerns, as well as what the school intends to do to rebuild lost trust and confidence in the leadership, but we were referred to the following statement:
“We want to prepare our students for life in modern Britain. We develop their understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. We promote equality of opportunity and diversity effectively. We expect our students to understand, appreciate and respect difference in the world and its people, celebrating the things we share in common across cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic communities.
“We encourage our students to engage with views, beliefs and opinions that are different from their own in considered ways. We want them to show respect for the different protected characteristics as defined in law and understand that no forms of discrimination are tolerated. As a school, we aim to provide students with meaningful opportunities to understand how to be responsible, respectful, active citizens who contribute positively to society. Students should know how to discuss and debate issues and ideas in a considered way.
“Last week an external speaker attended the school to present to sixth-form students as part of our PSHE programme. He had spoken to students on a range of issues three years ago and his talk then was well-received, positive and thought-provoking. On this occasion, a number of comments made have created a lot of upset and subsequently a number of videos of some of the talk are currently being circulated on social media. Our whole school community is very saddened by this matter.
“We have initiated an external and independent investigation into this incident and appropriate bodies have been informed. We are not able to say more at this stage as a result but we apologise for any upset or distress that has been caused by this incident. We are doing all we can to ensure that students feel safe and supported in light of current events. Our priority now is to support our students and staff and to restore our relationships with the local community, and we are working with the community, the local authority and the police to ensure this.
“If you wish to make a complaint about this matter in the meantime, please click on the link below:
UPDATE: Wood Green Academy has told 5Pillars that they have not referred any students to Prevent (as stated in an earlier version of this story) so we have made this correction.