13th March 2023
Home Secretary to Issue Blasphemy Guidance for Schools Following Death Threats in West Yorkshire
Suella Braverman will work with the DfE to draft new guidance regarding children’s protection from punishment over actions perceived to be blasphemous
The Home Secretary said she was “deeply concerned” by the way an incident at Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield, was handled. A student received death threats from fellow pupils after damaging a copy of the Quran. Braverman said that it raised “a number of broader issues” with the treatment of religion in schools across Britain.
The student who received the death threats is a 14-year-old autistic boy. He brought the Islamic text to school on 23 February, reportedly as a forfeit for losing against friends while playing Call of Duty. The student is understood to have dropped the copy of the Quran, causing damage and scuffing to the pages. A video shared on social media showed the boy’s mother later apologising for the incident and saying what he did was “completely disrespectful”. She also revealed her son had received death threats and was “petrified” because he would be “beaten up if he goes back to school”.
Home Secretary Comments
The Home Secretary compared the meeting in which the student’s mother was forced to apologise as “a sharia law trial, inappropriately held at a mosque instead of a neutral setting. There is no right not to be offended [in the UK]. There is no legal obligation to be reverent towards any religion. The lodestar of our democracy is freedom of speech,” she said.
She added; "We do not have blasphemy laws in Great Britain, and must not be complicit in the attempts to impose them on this country. Schools answer to pupils and parents. They do not have to answer to self-appointed community activists. I will work with the Department for Education to issue new guidance spelling this out.” “Nobody can demand respect for their belief system, even if it is a religion. People are legally entitled to reject — and to leave — any religion. There is no apostasy law in this country. The act of accusing someone of apostasy or blasphemy is effectively inciting violence upon that person.” Ms Braverman added that she was “not happy” with the way non-criminal hate incidents are recorded, and announced that she would soon be issuing new guidance for police. A spokesman for Humanists UK, which has been campaigning for Government intervention over blasphemy cases in schools, said: “We strongly welcome these comments and the announced action to prevent incidents like the one in Kettlethorpe from reoccurring. This country repealed its blasphemy laws in 2008, and has a strong tradition of free speech and expression. Freedom of religion or belief is just as important a right, but like all others that right does not extend to interfering with others’ rights and freedoms. It also focuses on protecting people and not religions themselves.”