We’re 15 years old we make mistakes, but giving death threats for damaging a religious book is illogical?

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London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) A shocked teenager has joined many voices in condemning the recent death threats to 4 school boys suspended from a West Yorkshire school, for allegedly desecrating the Koran.

The boys faced death threats and in a video shared by the Daily Express a mother can be seen apologizing for her son, who she describes as a ‘very, very, silly 14 year old’ and ‘has some challenges he suffers from high functioning Autism.’ the public meeting was held in a mosque.

Local police interviewed the 4 boys and recorded the incident as a non-criminal hate incident. They also gave words of advice to another  pupil that had sent malicious communications in the form of death threats.  Read more (here)

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, has raised  “deep concern” over the incident.  She said it raises broader issues of free speech.

Mrs Braverman has  promised to work with education officials on new guidance for schools to make clear that teachers “do not have to answer to self-appointment community activists”

She condemned the  “disturbing video” which showed a meeting about the alleged damage to the Koran “which looked more like a sharia law trial”. Railing against the need for a mother to account for her child’s behaviour before an all-male crowd.

On Thursday 22nd February 2023, 4 students were suspended from their school after horseplay that resulted in damage to a copy of the Koran, causing offence to Muslim students.

The case gained international attention after outrage from the local Muslim community offer a small tear and some scuff marks on the religious book on a few pages led to death threats.

Naomi Chowdhry, a year 10 student at a Christian School, said:

“I can’t believe that desecration of a religious book in the UK could lead to death threats.

“This is something that occurs in the Middle-East and Asia not England.

“Of course I would be upset if someone damaged a Bible, because I believe the book contains the Word of God.

“But it is only God’s Word in print, if one is ruined many more can be printed.

“The true power of the Gospel is when it penetrates hearts and changes lives.”

Naomi is also a year 10 student and will be taking her Religious Studies (RS) GCSE this year. RS is one of her favourite subjects and one she is considering taking at A level.

She added:

“I am a year 10 student and can’t imagine what it would be like to face death threats.

“When I talk to peers we are all shocked at what has happened – the children and their families must have been extremely frightened.

“Some of us watched the mother plead for her son and found her to be brave and resilient, but why did she have to attend a public meeting?

“I just can’t understand why some  people have such desire to kill, especially when it seems that whatever happened at the school was not meant to offend.

“But we live in a world where people place more value in the pages of a book, than a human life.

“Studying RS reveals how most religions describe God as a divine being, who loves His creation and cherishes life.

“The content of religious books are meant to help with salvation and guide readers to eternal life, not lead to their demise.”

The incident took place at Kettlethorpe High School, in Wakefield on Wednesday 18th February after a year 10 student bought a Koran from Amazon and brought it to school. The student had to purchase the religious book  as forfeit for a bet after losing a video game named ‘Call of Duty’.

While at school the boys involved in the bet were involved in some horseplay, during which the cover of the Koran suffered a small tear and some dirt marks appeared on a few pages. This resulted in outrage amongst the local Muslim community, when news spread.

Initial rumours claimed that the boys had spat on the Koran, kicked it around and even burned it.  A fabrication that was later found to be untrue by teachers who investigated the incident at the school and reinforced by a local Councillor named Akef Akbar.

Despite swift action by the school, which is said to have been influenced by pressure from Muslim community activists and politicians.  Head Teacher Mr Tudor Griffiths was at the same public meeting held at Jamia Masjid Swafia Mosque, that a pupils mother spoke, he said:

“We would like to reassure all our community that the holy book remains fully intact and that our initial enquiries indicate there was no malicious intent by those involved.

“However, we have made it very clear that their actions did not treat the Koran with the respect it should have, so those involved have been suspended and we will be working with them to ensure they understand why their actions were unacceptable.”

A Wakefield Council spokesperson said the copy of the Koran had suffered “slight damage”.

Mrs Suella Braverman, Home Office secretary, said that she is “not happy with the way non-crime hate incidents are recorded.” She promised to announce new guidance for police soon.

The home secretary also said that “the education sector and police have a duty to prioritise the physical safety of children over the hurt feelings of adults”.

Mrs Braverman described the understandable alarm across the country and said she shares it.

“We do not have blasphemy laws in Great Britain and must not be complicit in the attempts to impose them on this country.

“There is no right not to be offended.

“There is no legal obligation to be reverent towards any religion.”

Warning that respect for freedom of speech was “going in the wrong direction”, she said Islam should not expect a “special status” to protect the religion from disrespect.

“There is a long, ignoble history of that, which goes back at least as far as the furore over The Satanic Verses.

“It is rooted in a view – actually a bigoted one – that Muslims are uniquely incapable of controlling themselves if they feel provoked. And it has excused agitators using fear to force people to bend to their demands.” 

Naomi Chowdhry, learnt about the incident from Nissar Hussain an ex-Muslim who was visiting her family.  Mr Hussain was rescued from 17 years of persecution in Bradford and an impending attack, that police in the locality felt they could not protect him from (click here).

Mr Hussain, said:

“I could not agree anymore with the words of Suella Braverman.

“Her brave discourse gives a chance for the realities of this situation to be discussed on much wider platforms.

“The fact remains that the reaction of the Muslim community to the actions of young teenagers is far beyond acceptable.

“The Koran does not set any blasphemy laws, nor death sentences for desecrating a Koran.

“If these boys had been in Pakistan or many other Islamic nations they would be dead already – is this the radical behaviour we want to see in the UK?

“Though our laws in Britain protect us from fundamentalism, we see in the action taken by police and the school in Wakefield, that mob rule effects logical reasoning.

“If Mr Griffiths had said that the four students had been suspended because they were inciting hatred, I would have backed him 100%.

“However, both he and Wakefield Council have asserted that the desecration was not done with malicious intent.

“Though it would be wonderful if every person was respectful of other religions and their books, this is not something enshrined in law, nor should it be expected.

“Of course, you will hurt religious sentiments by desecrating a sacred book, but God can protect himself, he does not need executioners.

The focus of  local police to resolve the hurting of religious sentiments by four 14/15 year old’s in year 10, despite the incident having been on school grounds, and dealt with by the school seems awkwardly disproportionate.  Rather peculiarly, the same level of police assistance was not given when Christian sentiments were hurt after an Islamist threatened to urinate on a Bible at a public location the UK. This may be because the threat was not met with the riposte of a death threat. Christians were more worried about the potential display of public nudity and the embarrassment the man would endure revealing his small private parts. Read more (here).

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:

“As a mother when I watch the video of the mother in Jamia Masjid Swafia Mosque, I’m flabbergasted that school officials and the police failed to protect her or the child.

“It makes no sense for the mother to have to appear before a room full of men in their full rage and explain the behaviour of her son, particularly when the nature of the incident is pedantic at best.

“I’m a Christian woman from Pakistan, I have experienced religious bigotry first hand, there are numerous examples on the internet for those who are unaware.

“When I came to the UK, I truly believed I had escaped Islamist ideology and had entered a country where religious freedom  and personal liberty was enshrined.

“But more often than not examples like this remove the veil off tolerance.

“This most recent debacle sheds light on concealed social polarity instigated by warped doctrinal teachings.

Local police are continuing to patrol around the school and homes in the area to provide reassurance and safety.

British Asian Christian Association is a charity that provides advocacy and aid to Christians in South Asia. We write articles that inform on political and social matters that affect Christians and other groups globally.  We are involved in outreach ministry in South Asia and print Bibles.  We also provide disaster recovery assistance to people of all diversities across the globe, where we can. 

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"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

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