On a dare involving three of his friends, an autistic student at a British high school brought a copy of Quran into school last week. One of the four then inadvertently dropped the book, damaging it slightly, and the whole group was suspended as punishment. Two days later, the school’s principal, a police officer, a member of the municipal council, and a local imam gathered to address the incident at a local mosque—where the imam proceeded to proclaim, “We will never tolerate disrespect of the holy Quran, never! We will sacrifice our lives for it.” Tom Slater comments:
While rumors swirled that the book had been burnt and spat on—in truth, it was barely damaged—the autistic boy at the center of it all began to receive death threats. Yes, death threats—which, unlike disrespecting holy books, are actually (and legitimately) a criminal matter in the United Kingdom. But the students who issued these threats are off the hook. Akef Akbar, [the town council member], made this clear at the Friday meeting, while sitting next to the mother of the autistic student. “To her credit,” Akbar said, “she understands the situation and has advised the police that she does not want any of these children [who sent threats to her son] to be prosecuted, and she only asks that her son is not harmed.” “He’s absolutely petrified,” the mother, who is unnamed, told the meeting later on: “But I don’t want anybody to be prosecuted because of the stupidity of my son and his friends.”
This is chilling. This mother was effectively begging for her son’s safety, while the school and police were apparently more concerned about protecting religious bigots’ hurt feelings. Indeed, the response of the school and police runs the risk of contributing to the threat posed to these boys. By suspending those students and logging their behavior as a “hate incident,” the school and police are effectively saying that the mob has a point—that the boys should be punished for “disrespecting” Islam’s holy book.
Here’s the thing. The more we capitulate to religious bigotry the more we inflame it.
More about: European Islam, Freedom of Religion, Quran, United Kingdom