Erdington Academy in Birmingham has provoked outrage amongst Muslim staff, pupils and parents by inviting a “gay Muslim” who said the Quran does not prohibit same-sex relations to address pupils aged 11-13.
On Tuesday Erdington Academy invited a “gay Muslim” called Ash to do an online power point presentation and speech during an “enrichment day” session with Year 7 and 8 pupils.
Parents have told 5Pillars that Ash, who said he was a Bengali Muslim from Birmingham, announced that he was a Muslim and gay and said he had read the Quran and hadiths and it is “ok to be gay.”
There is nothing in the Quran that says you can’t be gay, he said, adding that it’s up to interpretation and you have old Muslims and new modern Muslims who interpret it differently.
But when questioned by students about how he could be Muslim and gay given Islam’s strict prohibition on same-sex sexual relations, Ash replied that he lost his faith years ago but still knows lots of “gay Muslims.”
Sources told 5Pillars that the online session took place without Muslim pupils or staff knowing that a “gay Muslim” would address the students.
The presentation included images of two men kissing and other images and captions promoting homosexuality, which, if acted upon, is considered a major sin by a consensus of Islamic scholars.
One parent told us: “Whoever organised this knew what he or she was doing and they were trying to provoke Muslims. Kids and Muslim staff were really angry. Children were telling staff to switch the presentation off because he was lying and misquoting the Quran. A lot of people were distressed.
“Basically, a guy was invited in knowing full well that he was gay and Muslim and that he was going to make a speech to majority Muslim kids and Muslim staff, and he has misquoted the Quran to say that it’s allowed to be gay and that the Quran says it’s ok. That’s unacceptable. Parents need to know what’s going on and the school need to understand what they’ve done is wrong.”
5Pillars approached Erdington Academy about the incident and asked them why they decided to go ahead with the session on such a controversial topic without consulting Muslim parents, staff and children. We also asked if they considered it appropriate to try to expose Muslim children to teachings which are clearly contrary to their Islamic faith.
The school did not respond directly to our questions but released the following statement:
“We are aware of an issue in a session delivered by an external third party to students on Tuesday. As a result of communications with staff after the session, an investigation to ascertain the facts was commissioned that evening and will be conducted with appropriate actions taken.
“The Principal met with concerned staff before school on Wednesday to listen, reassure and ensure the scope of the investigation covers the specific concerns raised. From the outcome of this investigation appropriate actions and communications will then be taken. A communication has also been sent to parents keeping them informed.”
Meanwhile, educator Yusuf Patel, of SRE Islamic, told 5Pillars that the Muslim community and parents need to push back when LGBTQ identities are being imposed by schools on Muslim children.
He said: “This kind of thing is happening more and more. Schools are jumping over themselves to prove that they are pro-diversity but that diversity seems to emphasise LGBTQ identities and doesn’t take into account that there are Muslim pupils who also have a protected characteristic and should be treated with respect. Schools are forcing a hierarchy of equality where sexual orientation and gender is at the top and faith and belief is at the bottom.
“But one of our biggest problems is that Muslim parents do not push back often enough. If they did then schools would re-think or think twice about what they do in these sessions. There is a profound difference between someone coming in and saying ‘these are my experiences,’ and someone coming in who has no expertise on Islamic theology and saying ‘there is nothing wrong with being gay and Muslim or that there is nothing in the Quran which precludes these types of relationships.’
“They are speaking about things with no authority, a school would not allow a Covid conspiracy theorist to speak about the pandemic and be given a platform to speak untruths. But in this instance schools are allowing anybody to claim they have some authority to speak about Islamic texts which run country to 1,400 years of normative Islamic values.”
He added: “I would advise parents and the local Muslim community to get organised and involved and liaise with the school, like happened at Wood Green Academy in Wednesbury, and this could yield a positive result.”