Muslims' fury forces schools to shelve anti-homophobia storybooks for 5-year-olds
By LAURA CLARK -2nd April 2008
London Daily Mail Link to article on Daily Mail website
Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about same-sex relationships after objections from Muslim parents.
Up to 90 gathered at the schools to complain about the books which are aimed at pupils as young as five.
One story, titled King & King, is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before marrying one of their brothers.
Withdrawn: The fairytale King and King and Tango Makes Three
Another named And Tango Makes Three features two male penguins who fall in love at a New York zoo.
Bristol City Council said the two schools had been using the books to ensure they complied with gay rights laws which came into force last April.
They were intended to help prevent homophobic bullying, it said.
But the council has since removed the books from Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School, both in Bristol.
A book and DVD titled That's a Family!, which teaches children about different family set-ups including gay or lesbian parents, has also been withdrawn.
The decision was made to enable the schools to "operate safely" after parents voiced their concerns at meetings.
Around 40 are said to have gathered at Easton to speak to staff and another 50 at Bannerman Road.
Members of the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society said parents were upset at the lack of consultation over the use of the materials.
Farooq Siddique, community development officer for the society and a governor at Bannerman Road, said there were also concerns about whether the stories were appropriate for young children.
"The main issue was there was a total lack of consultation with parents," he said.
"The schools refused to deal with the parents, and were completely authoritarian.
"The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us 'our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven't even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet'.
"They don't do sex education until Year Six and at least there you have got the option of withdrawing the children.
"But here you don't have that option apparently. You can't withdraw because it is no particular lesson they are used in."
He added: "In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable, as they are not in Christianity and many other religions but the main issue is that they didn't bother to consult with parents.
"The issue should have been, how do we stop bullying in general, and teaching about homosexuality can be a part of that.
"This was completely one-sided.
"Homosexuality is not a priority to parents but academic achievement is. This just makes parents think 'What the heck is my child being taught at school?'."
He said the two schools were 60 to 70 per cent Muslim but pointed out that non-Muslim parents were among those who complained.
Traditional Islamic views condemn homosexuality but there are liberal movements, such as the Al-Fatiha Foundation, which is dedicated to gay Muslims.
The schools used materials promoted by the No Outsiders project, led by academics at Sunderland University.
A spokesman for Bristol City Council said: "All Bristol schools have a legal duty to report and deal with homophobic harassment as part of the curriculum since April 2007."
She said the council had "temporarily withdrawn" the use of the materials in question and was liaising with various groups to "ensure that the topic can be addressed in an inclusive manner in the curriculum".
Ben Summerskills of gay rights group Stonewall said: "The small number of parents who make a fuss will cause children to think there is something wrong."
48 people have commented on this story so far:
I wonder how much notice the council would have taken if Christian parents had objected to these books. Not a lot I imagine.
- Pat Sweeney, Lanark
On delicate matters like this, it perhaps takes a structured argument to raise our awareness of how our standards are being eroded.
- Fifthbridge, Nuneaton Warks
"The small number of parents who make a fuss will cause children to think there is something wrong."
There is something wrong - it is what you the 'teachers' are showing them. Why assume you are right all the time?
- Peter, Huddersfield
What a bind the P.C. brigade is thrown into when two of the groups they love to pander to are in direct opposition.
- R M, London, UK
Children of that age do not know what sexuality is, let alone homophobia. Aiming that kind of literature at children is completely wrong and the idiots behind it should be removed from their posts and told to get a proper job.
- Mark, Telford, Shropshire.
Children as young as 5 do not need to know anything about sexual matters at all. They should be free to play and learn until they are old enough to actually understand these things which they are unable to do at this tender age. It is time to stop making such a fuss about differences whether it refers to gender or race. The more we as adults keep on emphasising these differences the less integrated our society will become.
- Sue Van Der Veen, Swanley, Kent, UK
How come Muslim parants are listened to when Christian parents are ignored?
- Maggie, Portsmouth
I'm sick of gay rights being rammed into my face, and they have no right to introduce homosexuality to our children as just another "lifestyle choice" and without parental consultation.
My message to schools - leave the children alone and teach them academic subjects - end of story. Get homosexuality and all this other "equality" and "inclusion" nonsense out of the classroom.
- John, Manchester, UK
It is wrong of the council to succumb to pressure from followers of a faith well renowned for persecuting, indeed murdering people, who are of different orientation... it is not propaganda since homosexuality is a fact of modern life well out of the closet.
- Kevin, Lincoln, UK
Had Christians complained, no action would have been taken.
- Beauty, Derby
Would the books have been removed if Christian parents had complained? I seem to recall foster parents being sacked because they refused to condone homosexuality to children in their care because it was against their Christian beliefs. We obviously have a heirachy in terms of belief and culture in the UK and Christianity is close to bottom.
- Mick, Middlesbrough
Do I assume correctly that those objecting were Muslims? If so, and Christian families failed to do so, doesn't it suggest - contrary to what individuals are saying - that the issue is not about education but religious beliefs after all?
- Barrie Redfern, Krsko, Slovenia
Pity they pay no attention to what Christians feel. Perhaps they should try a little violence, too. It seems to work.
- Ben Hall, Dubai UAE
If Christians had made same protest they would have been ignored or had a police visit!
- Josephine, Welington Shrops
Can you imagine any council doing that if a Christian group complained?
- Fred Long, Guildford, Surrey
Of course they should be withdrawn, from all schools - permanently.
- Sue, Epsom, UK
So because Muslim parents complained the books were removed.
I wonder what would have happened if Christian parents had complained... ignored I would have imagined.
Well it's at least one subject that I think we Christian and Muslim parents agree upon.
- Mickey V, Manchester UK
The trendy do-gooders don't know which way to turn! They love to ram the gay movement down everyone's throat, but don't want to offend Muslims.
- John, Falmouth, UK
Let's get this right when we complain nothing happens but when the Muslims complain it gets done seems upside down to me.
- Baz, UK
A country's laws should be put BEFORE religion. Christianity, Islam or other. The law says not to discriminate against gay people, and children should learn that. There's a difference between discrimination and acceptance of gay people.
- E, UK
Are you sure this is a Church of England school?
- Roly, Corfu Greece
The politically correct nasties will listen to Muslims, but ignore the majority who complained.
- N. Simon, London
Congratulations to these parents, for speaking out. Let's hope it will encourage more parents to take a bigger interest in what their children are being taught in school.
- Valerie, Hastings East Sussex
Would they have been removed if Christian parents complained? Sadly, I think not. I say 'sadly' purely because this is again making a divide between Muslims and Christians. I am not in least homophobic (or a Christian).
- Jan, Colchester UK
Common sense shown by Muslim parents is acted on but if it had been Christian parents that complained then it would have been judged homophobic. What sick and twisted values we have.
- Pete, Lincoln, England
I recently complained about such books in my child's school and guess what...they are still on the shelves now.
- Jane, London
E, from the UK, I find your comments disturbing. My children are 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 and they most certainly won't be learning about this stuff at five years old. My children will learn about it when I feel that they are ready and not when somebody else decides to tell them.
Just another point though, the law says you can't discriminate against anybody, not just gays.
- Phil, Oxford, United Kingdom
All fairy tale love stories involve ramming heterosexual relationships down our children's throats (thanks for that image!). Our children have 'straight sex' presented as the norm all the time; why not present an alternative that is also about romance and life-long love?
- Helen, Liverpool, England
Every time I read something like this I feel glad our kids are in private education. Big load financially, but worth every penny.
- Frank Gardiner, Colchester UK
Here we go again! More concessions to Islam. What next? Stonings, beheadings, amputations? Whatever happened to knowledge, or are we going back to the dark ages?
- Ron, Hove, UK
I'm always amused that people seem to suggest that kids of certain age do not know their sexuality... Mark, Telford - presumably you knew that you liked girls from that age?? I knew I was gay at about 8 - and used to go to my school library desperately trying to find any book that also mentioned a story that was between two people of the same sex - I felt trapped.
I cannot believe how self-righteous and 'higher than thou' some heterosexual people are.
- John Martins, Manchester
I think it is ridiculous that these books should be banned on the whim of parents that should know better.
These books are not to 'promote' homosexuality but to help combat homophobia and should be welcomed.
Religious values should not be used to promote bigotry and ignorance and well informed children one day hopefully will grow into well informed adults, not to mention bring what was once considered a sordid and shameful subject into the realms of normality. Just ask any gay or lesbian person that suffered homophobia at school whether this is a good idea.
We should all seek as a society to eradicate phobias of any kind, whether that be religious, racial, sexual or otherwise and it it simply not acceptable to allow one phobia to exist in order not to 'upset' another. After all, many GLBT people were born Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu etc..
- Mark Goddard, London
Why is it in British society if you are in a majority group you cannot claim racial discrimination, yet minority groups can?
- Ray Borge, Leominster
Neither book is in any way "sexual" so cannot be banned on the grounds of teaching young children about sexual matters. They're both books about love - something which many commentators seem to think only applies to heterosexuals apparently.
- Kate, Exeter
Muslim Fundamentalism strikes again within the UK!
Brown is always spouting on at us that the UK is such a 'tolerant' nation.
It's a pity that - clearly - the Muslim population of the UK aren’t as 'tolerant' as the rest of us!
So, we have to be 'tolerant' of the 'Muslims' - but they do not have to be 'tolerant' of everyone else?
What does that tell you about 'cohesion' today in this great country of ours!
- Roj Blake, Welshpool, Powys, Mid-Wales.
I agree these books should never be in schools... nothing to do with Muslims either... these are offensive to a lot of religions, not only Muslims.
- Carol, Wales
Well, I had long been wondering which belief system would prevail when Islam and gay Rights clashed.
- Liz Ward, Huddersfield UK
Bit desperate we have to rely on Muslims to do the necessary. Funny to see the authorities trying the placate the Muslims and the homosexuals. They just don't know which way to turn, do they? What a country.
- Alan Routledge, Chester England
This is my local school where my kids attend and as I white Christian I fully support this move as do the majority of other parents. Please this is a very established and happy multi racial community, don't turn this into a race issue, is is about decency and values that are common to all God fearing people.
- Angus, Bristol
I am neither Christian, Muslim or gay but think that nothing could be better for our children than to learn about all aspects of life - including different religions and lifestyles. It's not as if gay relationships are not played out around these kids every single day.
In our supposedly 'inclusive' societies why should one minority dictate what the majority of children can learn about another.
And that's exactly what it is - dictatorship and control.
Maybe the gays should demand all Muslim stories are removed!
- Sarah, London, UK
Why shouldn't literature reflect the diversity in our society, Muslim parents would expect their children's religious beliefs to be respected so why shouldn't the lifestyles of gay and lesbian families be respected, should a child with two parents be excluded from literature reflective of their lifestyle just because people with other beliefs thing it is wrong. What if there is a child in that school who has that family set up, wont they be excluded. Of course there is no need to discuss sexuality with 5 year olds but no one says that when reading books with a mother and father in. If you raise children with these influences around them from a young age they don't see it as anything unusual or different. I am sure that probably there was the same outrage when single parents were reflected in books! Obviously there are still a lot of intolerant people around.
- Emma, London
Why should anyone care if Islam and Christianity don't like homosexuality? We live in a secular society. Keep your religion at home. Kids reading those books will think nothing of it - they're just stories. And if they grow up thinking homosexuality is no big deal - good! That's as it should be.
- John, London
"Would the books have been removed if Christian parents had complained?"
The answer most probably is "no" and what's more the police might well have come knocking on the door as this would have been another excuse to collect DNA.
- Yetta, UK
What's wrong with these stories?
- Manuel, London UK
What an utter mess this country has got itself in. Try to pacify one group and upset another. Political correctness gone completely bonkers.
- Tony, Lancaster
It seems that the "Authorities" are afraid to say "Boo!" to Muslims, but , unfortunately Christians are afraid to say "Boo!" to the Authorities!
- W J B, Wolverhampton, England
I am a homosexual by nature and do not feel discriminated against because these books have been removed. Very young children should be allowed their childhood before being loaded down with sexual matters they need not have to 'understand' until they're ready.
- Mike V Uk, Street UK
Does it matter who complained? Muslim, Christian; it could have been a Martian for all I care! The fact remains that this subject should not be introduced to children of this age and we should be thankful to anyone who cares enough to say so. Don't turn this into a race story when it clearly isn't.
- Pauline, Portsmouth