‘Blasphemy’ in Schools

Nov 21, 2023 by

from Policy Exchange:

Self-Censorship and Security Fears Amongst British Teachers.

Exclusive polling published by Policy Exchange – conducted by YouGov – exposes that a de facto blasphemy code is being introduced to our schools.

In Britain, no one has the right not to be offended. Words or actions that are taken by some as offensive – whether they relate to one’s religion, sexuality or race – are not criminal as long as they are not intentionally hostile and meant, or likely, to incite hatred. Yet, this does not seem to be fully acknowledged in Britain’s schools – as our polling shows.

Key findings include:

  • A worrying proportion of teachers believe that – regardless of a teacher’s intentions – images of the prophet Muhammad should never be used in classrooms, even in the teaching of Islamic art or ethics. As many as 55% of teachers said they would not use an image of Muhammad anyway – higher for teachers of art (64%) and citizenship (60%) – and a further 9% would not do so as a result of the Batley Grammar School protests. The case of the teacher at Batley Grammar who went into hiding after death threats thus appears to have had a significant impact on teachers’ confidence and willingness to use materials that fall within the scope of the law.
  • Alarmingly, half of British teachers believe that if blasphemy-related protests led by activist and advocacy groups occur outside their schools, there would be a risk to their physical safety. The vast majority of teachers – three quarters (75%) – thought that if protests break out, they would be “damaging” to the teacher involved, with around four in ten (39%) indicating that they would be “very damaging”.
  • Significantly, more teachers expressed the view that images of Muhammad were generally unacceptable in formal displays in classrooms or assembly halls (51%) than other settings, such as in lessons in religious studies (35%), art history (32%), and ethics and freedom of speech (31%).
  • Only 36% of teachers said that their schools have guidance to avoid causing offence from teaching materials or lesson content. As many as four in ten teachers (40%) indicated that their schools do not have any such guidance.

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