The religious studies teacher who sparked a blasphemy protest by allegedly showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed is a ‘burly Yorkshire lad’ who loved teaching, ‘always had a smile’, and is now the recipient of police protection, reports say.
The amateur rugby player, who is in his late 20s, had trained to teach in the mid-2010s after going to university in the north of England, and now lives a short distance from his Batley school with his partner.
He had spoken of his experiences as a trainee teacher, saying how it was a ‘fantastic’ profession that he ‘could not wait’ to begin, The Telegraph reports.
One neighbour called him a ‘nice man’, while another called him a ‘good, honest, burly Yorkshire lad’ who ‘always had a smile for us’.
Furious protesters outside the historic Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire yesterday chanted ‘shame on you’ as they called for the teacher’s removal, following allegations he showed a graphic depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson about blasphemy.
Angry parents gather to protest outside Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire following the incident in an RE lesson
It is not yet known what exact image was shown to the children, but parents had claimed they were ‘French’ caricatures.
This could be a reference to those published by Charlie Hebdo in 2012, which had been used as a justification for the heinous murder of 12 people at the magazine’s Paris office.
The teacher is now the subject of great controversy, finding himself in the middle of a row over freedom of speech and offensive material.
There was no sign of him at his home and the car was missing yesterday, following the outbreak of the row.
He is understood to be receiving police protection, after posts on social media named him.
Mufti Mohammed Amin Pandor, a local Muslim scholar, told the crowd in Batley that the teacher has been suspended
The backlash over his alleged actions come five months after history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded on the street near his school in a Paris suburb by an Islamic extremist for showing Prophet Muhammad cartoons to his students.
The killing shocked the country and led to a fresh debate about freedom of speech and the integration of France’s large Muslim population.
It also brought back memories of a wave of Islamist violence that started with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, sparked by the same cartoons in the satirical magazine in 2015 when gunmen killed 12 people.
A police source says the Batley teacher is now receiving protection. They added that there were ‘meetings’ within West Yorkshire Police about the demonstration, and how best to manage the fallout – including keeping teachers safe.
‘Officers have been especially assigned to him,’ the source said. ‘This is obviously very sensitive. Local Muslims are up in arms and the teacher has not apologised. There is obviously significant risk around the individual.’
Messages had been issued on social media on Wednesday urging Muslims to ‘defend the honour of our Prophet Mohammed’ by protesting by the school.
Muslim community leaders urged calm. The Ramadhan Foundation’s Mohammed Shafiq said: ‘We are proud to exercise our civic rights in regards to freedom of speech by standing up against such depictions.
‘We do so in peace and reject any violence or threat of violence. We urge all who love the Prophet Muhammad PBUH within the British Muslim community to remember our responsibilities to reject violence and never give in to the narrative that some want to paint us as.’