Islamist extremists exploited LGBT school protests to fuel hate and division, official probe finds

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Protestors outside Parkfield Community School on March 21, 2019 in Birmingham. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Islamist extremists took advantage of LGBT+ school protests to “entrench social division” and “amplify hate” towards the LGBT+ community, an official probe has found.

Protests against LGBT-inclusive education centred on two Birmingham primary schools. Demonstrations are still ongoing, despite a government ruling to make the teaching mandatory in all UK schools.

A year-long probe by the Commission for Countering Extremism found evidence that the school protests were stoked by Hizb ut-Tahir and other pro-Islamist organisations in order to foster division.

Lead commissioner Sara Khan described several examples of “hateful extremism” on the part of some protestors which went beyond lawful limits.

This includes a “deeply hate-filled” PowerPoint presentation circulated by Hizb ut-Tahir that compared LGBT+ people to animals, paedophiles and zoophiles, and implied they should be subject to similar restrictions as those who commit incest.

Parents, children and protesters demonstrate against the 'No Outsiders' programme, which teaches children about LGBT rights, at Parkfield Community School on March 21, 2019 in Birmingham, England.
Inclusive relationships and sex education will be statutory in all schools from September 2020, despite parents’ protests (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Hizb ut-Tahir also published an article describing the school protests as one front in a battle, with Muslims resisting the “neutralising” effects of a liberal order that “hollows” religions and forces conformity.

The article references the No Outsiders programme as part of a wider “assault on [conservative Muslim] society” by the “liberal agenda”, playing up tensions by mistakenly attributing the programme to the government.

And the news site, 5Pillars, published a lecture by an Islamic scholar who claimed: “Any Muslim who promotes such haraam as being permissible cannot call themselves a Muslim as they take themselves outside of the religion.”

Khan was told about false rumours spread on WhatsApp about the programme, alleging that children were being made to watch pornography.

Other examples of extremism included “entirely baseless” allegations of paedophilia, aggressive shouting, abusive online messages and “extremely intimidating” body language towards teaching staff.

Parents, children and protesters demonstrate against the 'No Outsiders' programme, which teaches children about LGBT rights, at Parkfield Community School on March 21, 2019 in Birmingham, England.
Parkfield Community School n Birmingham was one of two schools at the centre of protests (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Some parents were prevented from speaking to Ofsted inspectors and told they could “burn in hell” for not supporting the protests. Those who disagreed with the protests or supported the teaching of LGBT+ content were often “intimidated into silence”.

The report judged that the underlying purpose of the anti-LGBT+ rhetoric was to “promote [the extremists’] belief that Western liberalism was a threat to Islam”.

It concluded: “Elements of the protesting appear to be underpinned by a hatred of LGBT+ people and a conviction that it is not possible to reconcile Islam (and other faiths) with support for LGBT+ people.”

The Commission is now calling for an “urgent response” from the government, and “a total overhaul” of its strategy on extremism.

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