Four high school students in England have been suspended after a Quran was damaged at a West Yorkshire school, reports the BBC.
The incident occurred last week at Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield, Yorkshire where a copy of the religious text had been brought to school by a Grade 10 student. The principal of the school, Tudor Griffiths said there was “no malicious intent” and that the book remained intact, but that didn’t stop the school from suspending those involved.
Akef Akbar, the independent councillor for Wakefield East, called a meeting with Griffiths Friday to discuss the incident after been contacted by several community members.
Akbar laid to rest rumours that the holy book had been burned or destroyed, informing community members that he had personally inspected the book during the meeting.
According to Akbar, the book had been taken to school as a dare by a pupil who had lost a game of the Call of Duty video game, and while it was on the school premises, its cover got slightly torn and there were smudges of dirt on some of the pages.
Akbar believed the book had been kicked around, but the school denies this claim.
“We would like to reassure all our community that the holy book remains fully intact and that our initial enquires indicate there was no malicious intent by those involved,” said Griffiths in a statement.
“However, we have made it very clear that their actions did not treat the Quran 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.”
“This morning, we met with our local Muslim community leaders, local councillors and police to share all the information we currently know, the action taken and the immediate steps we have taken to reinforce the values and behaviour we expect from every member of this school community to ensure that all religions are respected,” Griffiths concluded.
According to the BBC, West Yorkshire Police said they were liaising with the school.
“Initial enquiries have confirmed minor damage was caused to the text and officers are continuing to work closely with the school,” said the police spokesperson.
According to journalist Martin Daubney, the child at the center of the uproar is a “highly autistic” 14-year-old boy, who has been receiving death threats since the incident hit the news. The boy’s mother was brought into the local mosque where Akbar brushed off the threats, saying “passions do flare.”
Akbar applauded the mother for not wanting to prosecute those threatening to kill her autistic son.
At a press conference earlier this week, a local Imam said the issue would never be “let go.”
“We will never tolerate disrespect of the holy Quran, never! We will sacrifice our lives for it…We don’t let this go!” Daubney drew attention to the fact that Inspector Andy Thornton of West Yorkshire Police, sat beside the Imam, nodded along.
Thornton then said the actions of the boy had been recorded as a “hate incident,” and promised to work with the school and the wider community to education and raise awareness. He acknowledged the boy’s autism, but did not condemn the death threats the child has been receiving.
The boys’ suspension prompted TalkTV presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer to ask, “Are we living in Iran in the 12th century or are we living in Britain in the 21st century?”
“Given the reported facts, it beggars belief that any pupils were suspended at all. There is no blasphemy law in the UK: there is no compulsion to revere or ‘respect’ any book at all, and I have no idea why the police and ‘community leaders’ are involved,” tweeted political philosophy lecturer Adrian Hilton.