Wakefield ‘Qur’an desecration’ claim will test the government

3 March 2023

Policy Researcher, Carys Moseley, comments on the recent school suspension of a boy in Wakefield for damaging a Qur’an.

Just weeks after Sir William Shawcross’ review of Prevent called for a strong pro-free speech narrative in the face of Islamic blasphemy controversies, another such controversy has been stirred up in Wakefield in West Yorkshire. This time a spurious allegation of desecration of the Qur’an has been made. What is known of this incident points to Islamists attempting to put the government to the test.

Wakefield schoolboys suspended for ‘Qur’an desecration’

Last week four teenage boys were suspended from Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield after an English copy of the Qur’an was allegedly damaged. One of the boys, who was autistic, was dared to buy a copy and bring it into the school after losing a game of Call of Duty. This happened on Wednesday 22 February.

The boys were alleged to have read out loud from the Qur’an in the school tennis courts. Then the book was carried around, but fell to the floor after another pupil collided with the boy carrying it. The photo first published by the BBC and then used by the Times show very little damage: “a slight tear to the cover and smears of dirt on some of the pages.”

Fake controversy orchestrated by Muslim politicians

Then Usman Ali, a Labour councillor on Wakefield council, tweeted announcing that the Qur’an had been ‘desecrated’, and that this could undo all the “good progress made in Wakefield to highlight and tackle Islamophobia.” It is interesting that he has since deleted his tweet, though screenshots are available.

Akef Akbar, an ex-Conservative councillor, now an independent, then purported to be a mediator, calling for Muslims to ‘calm down’ about the whole thing. His claim that the copy of the Qur’an translation had been “kicked around the school” was contradicted by the school. The headteacher Tudor Griffiths said ‘the holy book’ was intact.

Ex-Conservative councillor enforces de facto Islamic blasphemy law

The BBC reported that Councillor Akbar then said this:

“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.”

This is clearly a case of some Muslims attempting to enforce Islamic supremacism onto a secular state school. They are operating as if the country has an Islamic blasphemy law, and they have been allowed to get away with this by the supine local council and the police.

Autistic boy and his mother intimidated into submission

Councillor Akbar shared a video clip on Facebook of a meeting he called at the local mosque with ‘community leaders’ and the boy’s mother. Worryingly, she is wearing a veil even though there is no indication that she is a Muslim. Had she been pressured into wearing one as a sign of the ‘remorse’ she was alleged to have shown on behalf of her son? Or was it a condition of her being permitted to enter the mosque as a non-Muslim? (Normally, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter mosques. If they are, it has to be for the benefit of Muslims.)

Equally troubling is Councillor Akbar’s claim that the boy had also shown ‘remorse’ and researched Islam and the Qur’an on the internet. Akbar recounts with glee how the boy had learnt about the duty to place copies of the Qur’an in the highest place, “to wash our hands,” and so on. What is going on here is that a non-Muslim child is being pressured into accepting Islamic norms about how to treat a copy of the Qur’an as if they must apply to him. They do not apply legally to him, as the UK is not an Islamic state. In light of this, one wonders whether the boy’s ‘internet searches’ were entirely voluntary. This does sound suspiciously like guided ‘re-education’.

Unjustified Islamic claim over boy’s private property

A key problem in all this is that this copy of the Qur’an is legally the boy’s private property, as he had bought it himself on Amazon. Legally therefore what happens to the book is none of the business of this councillor or local Muslim leaders. In passing we should note that Councillor Akbar’s photo of the copy showed that it was an English translation of the Qur’an. This matters because Islam considers that the Qur’an cannot truly be translated into languages other than Arabic. This begs the question as to whether non-Arabic copies of the Qur’an are now to be treated according to the same rules as Arabic copies.

This deliberate extension of Islamic claims to control others’ movements isn’t new. A significant instance of this was the Iranian government’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, even though he lived in the UK, not in Iran.

Domination by an unrepresentative minority

Wakefield has 353,371 inhabitants according to the 2021 Census. There are seven mosques in the city, and only 3.2% of Wakefield’s population is Muslim, which comes to 11,279 people. The combined capacity of these mosques is just under 2500 or so worshippers. This in itself suggests that most Muslims in the city are non-practising.

The Madina mosque, where this meeting took place, is known to have hosted Islamist extremist speakers. With a capacity of 150, it is one of the smaller mosques. This further begs the question as to how representative this mosque’s leaders and these councillors are of the Muslim population of Wakefield.

Mosque speaker praised assassination of politician who defended Asia Bibi

To be precise, last year this particular mosque hosted Mohammed Owais Raza Qadri, an extremist who called Mumtaz Qadri a ‘hero’ for assassinating Pakistani politician Salman Taseer. Taseer was the governor of Punjab province, and criticised Pakistan’s Islamic blasphemy law as conducive of extremism.

Salman Taseer had visited Asia Bibi, the Christian woman imprisoned for ‘blasphemy’, and supported her. For this, Taseer was murdered by his own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri as an ‘apostate’. Qadri was hanged for this in October 2011, amid massive protests in his favour. There have been numerous instances of mosque speakers in the UK supporting him. For a mosque that welcomed such extremism to now treat a vulnerable teenager and his mother in the way that it has is nothing short of reprehensible. It should raise alarm bells in Whitehall.

Opposing Islamism smeared as ‘far right’

The problems don’t stop there. Councillor Akef Akbar claims many people who are from ‘far right, anti-Islamist groups’ wrote to him on Twitter to attack him. This says everything we need to know: in his mindset, to oppose Islamism is to be ‘far right’.

This is exactly the mentality of Islamist groups such as MEND and CAGE, who cast the government and the state as inherently ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, ‘far right’ and ‘Islamophobic’. Unsurprisingly Akbar is also a supporter of MEND, which was part of the campaign against Prevent.

Wakefield council adopted the Islamophobia definition

The fact that two Muslim councillors from different parties have effectively held an entire school and community hostage to their ideology is totally unsurprising. This is because Wakefield council adopted the definition of Islamophobia as ‘rooted in racism’ just over a year ago. We have repeatedly warned about the dangers of adopting this definition of ‘Islamophobia’.

Wakefield’s councillors reaped what they sowed – de facto Islamisation. This is what has led to recent reports that West Yorkshire Police recorded this whole event as a ‘hate incident’. Shockingly, the Times reported Inspector Andy Thornton as saying that pupils lacked “an appreciation and understanding…of their actions and a wider impacts and upset that will cause.” The Times also reports that the College of Policing recently changed its guidance on ‘non-crime hate incidents’ to stop recording ‘trivial instances’. The problem, obviously, is that Wakefield’s Islamists along with the local police do not consider this a ‘trivial instance’!

Testing the limits of Prevent

The Shawcross review called for local Prevent teams to promote strong free speech counter-narratives when Islamic blasphemy controversies flare up. This was said because Kirklees Prevent was silent about the Batley Grammar School fiasco. The problem, however, is that Wakefield, unlike Kirklees, is not on record as being a Prevent Priority Area. This means it receives no Home Office funding for tackling extremism.

This is known because the People’s Review of Prevent (run by the anti-Prevent campaign Prevent Watch), obtained a list of Prevent Priority Areas from the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act in January 2022. Wakefield is not on the list. Shawcross recommended that Prevent be extended to cover all regions of Britain. This is because his review found that extremists move out of Priority Areas to hide in other local authorities where there is no real support from the Home Office to tackle them. The Islamist ringleaders of this controversy will of course know this and have undoubtedly exploited this power vacuum.

The government is being tested

There are numerous questions that need to be asked of this whole incident. It isn’t known who told Councillor Usman Ali that the boy had accidentally dropped the English copy of the Qur’an. The fact that he was dared to buy a Qur’an strongly suggests the entire incident was orchestrated for reasons that are not yet known. The school has a policy on persistent and vexatious complaints, aimed at dealing with members of the public. This should really have been used to confront these two councillors from the outset.

It is some relief that Nick Gibb, the Minister for Schools in England, finally condemned the death threats against the boy on Thursday 1 March. It should not have taken a week for him to do that. He should have responded on the day the news broke. Nevertheless, it is very troubling that the Department of Education also told the Express that the school had followed standard disciplinary procedure in suspending the boys after a Qur’an was slightly damaged.

There is a massive inconsistency here. Treating accidental damage to a Qur’an as worthy of suspension is completely unacceptable; it is a clear case of caving into Islamist demands. It is too late then to worry about death threats – the crocodile has been fed. This whole incident now serves as a test of how seriously the government takes not only the Shawcross review of Prevent, but the very task of upholding basic freedoms.

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