Those protesting Muslim parents are in the right

It is the LGBT education programme that is the real authoritarian force.

Tim Black

Tim Black
Columnist

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It started in January at Parkfield Community School in Saltley, Birmingham. Mainly Muslim parents began staging weekly protests against ‘No Outsiders’, an educational programme designed by Parkfield’s very own MBE headmaster Andrew Moffatt to teach the Equalities Act to children aged four to 11. According to Moffat, speaking on the BBC One current-affairs show Panorama, the programme’s purpose is to teach that ‘you can be who you want to be; you can be yourself’. The protesting parents, however, see things in more explicitly moral terms – they think the programme teaches children how they ought to live, whether as lesbian, gay or bisexual, or as males, females or something fluid in between.

At other schools, religious parents – mainly but not only Muslim – also began to take issue with so-called LGBT teaching. What began at Parkfield spread across the UK. But Parkfield remains at the centre of what has been turned into and presented as a face-off between faithful, zealous parents and secular, tolerant authorities.

From the authorities’ standpoint – that is, the standpoint of schools, the Department for Education, and right-thinking educationalists and activists – the problem lies solely with the parents. At the very least they have misunderstood what the school is trying to do, as Labour councillor Tristan Chatfield put it. At worst, they constitute ‘a mob, chanting and shouting and engaging in intimidating and threatening behaviour’, to quote Sara Khan, a human-rights activist and, since January, the government’s lead commissioner for countering extremism. ‘I think we have to recognise that and call it out for what it is’, she told Panorama. ‘[What] we’re seeing in Birmingham can only be described as extremism. It’s whipping up tension, it’s whipping up fear, it’s whipping up hysteria’, she said.

These protesters are not just Muslims, they’re Christians and Jews, too, Khan continued. But above all, she said, they’re people from a ‘very conservative background’. Indeed, that seemed to be the point of view of Panorama and the punditsphere. The protesting parents, in Birmingham and elsewhere, were portrayed as throwbacks to the days of Section 28, Maggie Thatcher and the ban on the promotion of homosexuality in schools. They have been accused of standing against the tide of history, refusing to acknowledge the reality of modern, genderfluid Britain. They have been accused, in short, of the very thing No Outsiders was designed to combat – namely, intolerance.

And yet, throughout their statements, on their placards and in their interviews, the parents at Parkfield and beyond have come far closer to articulating the true meaning of tolerance than any of their supposedly tolerant critics. This was clear in the response of one protester to the Panorama presenter’s question of whether he was homophobic. ‘We have nothing against LGBT communities’, the protester said. ‘But I shouldn’t have to agree with the way that you’re living.’

In other words, he, as a Muslim, lives his life as his faith dictates, and he accepts that others are free to do likewise. That is what it is to be tolerant. It doesn’t mean that one has to respect or affirm, let alone agree with, other people’s moral choices, sexual or otherwise. Far from it. Being tolerant doesn’t and can’t affect the exclusive nature of one’s faith. But it does mean you accept that others’ moral choices, no matter what you think of them, are only for others to make. Or as a rabbi put it on Panorama: ‘The Bible forbids [being gay] for Jews. But it doesn’t tell you [as a non-Jew] what you should do.’

And this is why the conflict between an increasing number of primary schools and largely Muslim parents is not what it seems. For what the parents are insisting on is precisely this freedom to live one’s life as one’s conscience and especially faith dictates. Because that freedom also includes the freedom to bring up your children as your conscience and faith say you should. The freedom, that is, to bring them up according to what you, as a member of a faith or or other moral community, value. And, as difficult as it is for some to accept, this includes the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, or that homosexuality is an ‘abomination’, as the infamous passage in Leviticus has it.

It is the parents, therefore, who are experiencing the school as the intolerant force. For it is the school, through programmes like No Outsiders, that is refusing to accept that the moral choices of others, in this case parents of faith, are only for those others to make. Instead, it is attempting to make those choices in place of parents, to re-educate children morally, to force a particular set of values and beliefs on to children who, being of primary-school age, still ought to belong to the moral universe of their parents. As one parent put it on Panorama: ‘The key question is who is the primary educator. Should [children] be learning these things from possibly biased teaching material, or at home from the parents?’

The problem here is not the ‘mob’ of parents, whipping up fear and hysteria at the school gates. It is the school whipping up intolerance at home. Schools are overstepping their role. They are conflating education with indoctrination, as the Parkfield placards put it. It is a polemical but useful distinction. Learning to read and write, to add and subtract, teaches children how to think. But it doesn’t tell children what to think. And it certainly doesn’t tell them how they ought to live. This isn’t to say that teachers shouldn’t be telling kids off for being rude or mean to other kids. They should. But encouraging kids to be polite and kind to one another is very different to encouraging them to judge others guilty of some ism or phobia.

In the conflict over LGBT lessons, the state, one hand gripping the Equality Act 2010 and the other dishing out accusations of homophobia, reveals its intolerant face. Hence, policymakers and pundits talk of tackling Islamophobia, which the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims defined as a ‘type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’. Yet when Muslims really do express their Muslimness, as they are doing in their disputes with various primary schools, it seems policymakers and government advisers are only too happy to target them – and, sadly, any others who aspire to live according to their conscience.

The state may preach tolerance, but it is betraying it in practice.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

Picture by: Getty Images.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

L Whiting

19th July 2019 at 7:45 pm

I think it is evangelical Christians who are giving steam to LBGT material on the internet. They object to the mildest youth heterosexual behavior and ban it leaving the Gay propagandists to show and tell young kids its normal to much around with your own sex and that they should experiment further. Then they trap them and label them as gay and they have succeeded. There is a need for more heterosexual petting as in film, so young people gain confidence that playing with your mates is a passing stage. It is the evangelical Mary Whitehouses who are giving free range to pedophiles and LGBT.

Garreth Byrne

18th July 2019 at 10:45 pm

Parents need to know that the content of school lessons is age-appropriate. They also need to know that what children learn from teachers is commonsense wisdom derived from the experience of the ages.

Samsundar Duvakemar

18th July 2019 at 10:36 pm

I believe that these parents are correct to protest such matters. It is not up to the State to decide personal relationships. Parents must be able to pass on their culture & traditions to their children. When the children are older they can decide for themselves what they prefer. In Pakistan this is very taboo, but in UK it is an option because the culture is more open here. Please don’t dictate to communities how they should think. Respect comes from listening not dictating. Thank you.

Martin Bishop

19th July 2019 at 8:10 am

Has the state been deciding personal relationships or have they been informing children that non-traditional relationships exist?

Martin Bishop

18th July 2019 at 9:28 pm

Isn’t the God of the larger religions authoritarian?

Steve Roberts

18th July 2019 at 7:01 pm

Lets not be naive here and think this is some small spat being blown out of proportion, this is the tip of an iceberg and we have predominantly Muslim parents to thank for making a stand here.
Under the guise of Duty of Care (Chatfield) and Equalities Law (Moffat) what we have here is indoctrination and attempted social engineering of very young, immature, impressionable children.
This is all deeply political and typical of these regressives they claim to be so unjudgemental, so diverse, understanding of others, civil and tolerant and at face value that seems true, the issue as always with these people is that they have already made the judgements, decided the parameters of tolerance and acceptability and we must all apparently accept all this and if not the rest of us magically become intolerant types, you can’t make it up.
This is authoritarianism writ large. Remember we are discussing 4 – 11 year old children here, the most vulnerable people, left in the hands – yes the duty of care – of these people for several hours everyday.
Well on this showing they are not fit for purpose, they are there as educators, not moral guardians on matters that these children cannot hardly conceptualise or consider and are an irrelevance in their young lives. This is disgraceful, it is also pitching indoctrination fed and embedded at school that is likely in contrast to the values inculcated by parents at home, this is creating huge social conflict at the most private level. It must stop, there needs to be a wide debate as to what values beyond the basic educational requirements of neutral moral value that schools can even broach with our kids.As someone else posted here, hands off our kids, the equalities act et al are for the adult world, leave our kids alone stop hiding behind legislation and using it as an excuse for indoctrination or get out of our schools, and it’s time other teachers took a stand against this nonsense too.

James Knight

18th July 2019 at 5:40 pm

We don’t need no thought control. Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!

Alex Ander

18th July 2019 at 4:51 pm

‘No outsiders’, much like the even more crooked ‘Mermaids’ programs are social-engineering – pure-and-simple.
Imagine a religious outfit (for example) insisting in a fairly dogmatic and with a ‘having the moral upper ground’ attitude along with an under current of guilt for good measure, imposing their religious beliefs on children from 4 years upwards in a manner that was basically “this is or should be part of the national curriculum”? Secular UK simply wouldn’t allow it!

But we are now post-secular UK, and the new religious fundamentalists are the identitarians – you must convert to the doctrine espoused by Mermaid, No Outsiders, Stonewall etc etc – if you don’t you are guilty of identity and intersectionality blasphemy – which is a mortal sin with no possible grounds for repentance or forgiveness.

Post-secular UK is more religious than ever. It just doesn’t involve a supernatural deity in it’s beliefs…

christopher barnard

18th July 2019 at 1:55 pm

We need better local democracy so local people can have the schools they want, not the ones which remote legislators and bureaucrats want them to have. We pay those people to serve us but too many of them think they are in authority over us and need take little or no notice of our views and opinions.

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 2:50 pm

Thanks Chris. You speak so much sense.

BJ AndTheBear

18th July 2019 at 1:16 pm

“the reality of modern, genderfluid Britain”
When did this happen? Did I miss the time when Britain became a “genderfluid” nation?

I have never met any “genderfluid” people. I don’t know anyone who knows any “genderfluid” people. I know several who identify as Jedi, but none who say they are “genderfluid”. If Britain is really a “genderfluid” nation then surely “genderfluid” people are everywhere.
Or are we really talking about a very tiny minority of people who wish to inflict their strange beliefs and way of life on the majority of British people?

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for your perception….the only people that speak like that are perverts.

Danny Rees

18th July 2019 at 12:11 pm

Funniest thing was seeing Katie Hopkins who is always screaming about how the LGBT agenda is being foisted upon kids screaming at leftists and gay rights activists about why they won’t condemn and slate Muslims for protesting against LGBT lessons for kids and how they are too scared to for fear of being branded racist.

Then she went and said she backs the Muslim parents and then went to the home of one of the Muslims protesting and made out she was on their side.

Utterly laughable.

Jerry Owen

18th July 2019 at 12:49 pm

Danny Rees
The really hilarious thing is you seeing this through a prism of ‘race / religion.
KH doesn’t like Islam, it doesn’t mean she can’t support a Muslim community in opposing LGBT indoctrination.
If i were there I would support them. However if they were there protesting Sharia law I would oppose them.
You have a rather large plank in your eye!

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 2:12 pm

Trolling Danny Rees and Jon Hen is your level. Who are you trying to impress?

Claire D

18th July 2019 at 11:07 am

Moral guidance for primary school age children does not need to be specific. Learning kindliness and consideration for your neighbours does not necessitate examples from today’s sexual and identity politics groups; that is imposing too much on little children, it is indoctrination.
It is also an affront to Christians, Muslims, Jews and others. The politicians are either being deliberately authoritarian or stupid.
You cannot force people to be tolerant you have to coax them in that direction, the softly softly approach would be better. Otherwise, in the same way that there is more hatred today post Hate Crime and Protected Characteristics legislation, there will be more intolerance not less as a result of this ill-thought out programme.
The UK does not take kindly to rules at the best of times, if they make sense Yes, otherwise No.

Willie Penwright

18th July 2019 at 10:09 am

“…freedom also includes the freedom to bring up your children as your conscience and faith say you should.”
That would be fine if people only lived in a country without others who do not share their values. The model of society sought by the Muslim parents is a ‘federal’ society made up of ‘communities’, many of whom have conflicting views on what other ‘communities’ should be allowed to do. The common denominator for a country, a society, a state is to make sure all children are taught that others have different but equal values.

Jerry Owen

18th July 2019 at 12:58 pm

‘The common denominator for a country a society, a state, is to make sure that all children are taught that others have different but equal values’.
Unfortunately this is not taught.
Children are taught the orthodoxy that AGW is real, immigration/multiculturalism is good, you can be any ‘gender’, masculinity is bad, we are all equal.. the list goes on.
If children don’t subscribe to these views they are alienated, the last thing a young child wants.

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 2:14 pm

It won’t matter what you say from here on in…you’ve spurned your chances.

James Knight

18th July 2019 at 5:30 pm

The “common denominator” is tolerance. But as the article says, tolerance is not the same as respect. Nobody has to respect religious people who believe being gay is an “abomination”, and nobody.

There is no virtue in tolerating things you agree with. Tolerating muslims so long as they don’t express their beliefs or want to bring up their children in a different way is not tolerance.

John Millson

18th July 2019 at 9:52 am

( From what I have seen, the worst, most profoundly damaging homophobia/self-hate takes place when sanctioned by ‘Holy Scripture’.)
Religious parents have the right to guide and protect their own children. They don’t have the right to interfere, directly or indirectly, with the education/guidance of other children who may not have the same secure backgrounds.
The spirit of No Outsiders is spot on. Maybe some details need to be adjusted or nuanced.

Jerry Owen

18th July 2019 at 11:06 am

I think you will find the parents are pretty united on this.

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 11:46 am

This is why WE need to united Jerry Oven-Kraut, and that includes Linda, Wattie and Jon.

Dude is obviously a troll.

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 1:49 pm

* to be

Jerry Owen

18th July 2019 at 8:42 am

In practical terms how many LGBT classes are there , how many hours a week or indeed hours a month ? Clearly this must diminish the length of other classes.
Which other classes are cut in time ?
Maths , science , English, sports, geography ?
I agree with the Muslims on this one.

Danny Rees

18th July 2019 at 12:12 pm

That is not the issue for them.

James Knight

18th July 2019 at 5:38 pm

Actually it is. We are continually told there is huge pressure on teachers and on the curriculum with limited time available. Parents are fined at the drop of a hat if they take a term time holiday. Yet there is ALWAYS space on the curricula for endless PC clap-trap and fear-mongering. Whether it be LGBT lessons or PSHE or teaching primary school kids about sexual consent.

Stephen J

18th July 2019 at 7:44 am

The thing about the organised great religions, is that at one time they were merely political parties. Of course they went on to become all pervasive lawmakers, and then were slowly replaced by newer political parties…

… The older ones now being re-purposed as religions.

So this particular clash is between one of the old religions (Islam) and one of the new ones (communitarianism).

Neither is as wholesome as the extended family and tribe, doing what works.

Simon Bronstein

18th July 2019 at 6:04 am

A contemptible article, defending the indefensible. But it’s not the first time Spiked has published such doggerel.

Some of these mask-wearing protestors have been holding up signs bearing classic homophobic slogans, such as ‘Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’.

The protestors are not motivated by high ideals about ‘tolerance’, they’re just unthinking, hateful bigots, driven to insanity by religious supremacism.

Winston Stanley

18th July 2019 at 4:31 am

How many school days (and working days) were lost to the XR protests? Far more than from the protest of the parents. But that is OK when the state wants to mobilise school children to justify and to force through a “green austerity” agenda against the wishes and without any democratic mandate from actual adults. 1984 much?

XR smashed up and spray painted property with their slogans, and disrupted hundreds of thousands of commuters and workers, with chanting throng aplenty, but there was no attempt to demonise and to discredit XR protests and their cause as “extremist”.

Yet parents express their opinions, and maybe take up a chant as all protests tend to, and suddenly they, and they alone, are “a mob, chanting and shouting and engaging in intimidating and threatening behaviour”. It is one rule for some, even for most, and quite another for these parents.

I call BS on the state and on its Extremism Tsar. It is slander, open hypocrisy, and anti-democratic to condemn the parents as “extremist” for exercising the same democratic right to protest as anyone else.

It is obvious that the state does not wish to recognise or to honour its supposed commitment to freedom of speech, protest and assembly – for all alike. They want to force through a PC agenda on parents and communities without their consent, and to shut down any dissent by the use of hypocritical slander. 1984 much? That is not democracy, it is extremism.

Tim Hare

18th July 2019 at 4:16 am

Both sides are equally guilty of emotionally manipulating children. None of them should have the ‘right’ to do that.

If homosexuality was a reasonable option then the educators would wait until the children are capable of reasoning and at an age when it is relevant to them. Intellectually burdening children with what is essentially an adult agenda is child abuse pure and simple.

Religious behavior is equally unreasonable and forcing children to adhere to such behavior without giving adequate reasons to do so is just as abusive. It is the adults trying to convince themselves of the reasonableness of their own behaviour that drives this argument on both sides.

Winston Stanley

18th July 2019 at 1:20 am

“they constitute ‘a mob, chanting and shouting and engaging in intimidating and threatening behaviour’, to quote Sara Khan, a human-rights activist and, since January, the government’s lead commissioner for countering extremism.”

Oh dear, it sounds like the state has got itself a new Extremism Tsar, who is not so much concerned with “countering extremism” as with casting and labelling anything and anyone that the state does not like as “extremist”.

The state should try to remember that this is supposed to be a free, liberal democracy and that neither parents, nor anyone else, has to agree with the state on any matter. They are quite entitled to protest and to voice their opinions on any matter, just as much as XR, and it is not the place of the state to denigrate people who protest against policies that they do not like.

Otherwise it is the state that is acting as an “extremist”, trying to stifle and to clamp down, not the parents or others who exercise their democratic right to protest without being demonised and curtailed by the state. Is “counter-extremism” a front for the state’s own extremism and intolerance of other opinions? Who exactly is the extremist in that situation?

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 1:18 am

The identitarians have their oppression Olympics, but surely it’s about who’s out-weirding who. I have the diversity-communists ahead of the muslims following this head-to-head battle.

Alex Ander

18th July 2019 at 4:41 pm

I wouldn’t describe it as ‘out-weirding’ but Yes, I do agree that the diversity communists are the fundamental problem here, and finding that the Islamic community (albeit parts thereof) are a forceful opposition, much more so than other religious groups…

Hana Jinks

18th July 2019 at 5:19 pm

Yep…It’s prety embarrassing. Utterly shameful actually.

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