Ricky Gervais today mocked the protests being held outside a Yorkshire school following an incident, in which a religious studies teacher allegedly showed children a cartoon featuring the Prophet Mohammed.
Gervais, an outspoken atheist and comedian, 59, ridiculed those who gathered around Batley Grammar School and called for the unnamed teacher to be sacked for blasphemy, in typical sarcastic Ricky fashion.
The teacher is believed to have shown students the satirical drawing from French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
And the school was forced to close at the last minute yesterday, as scores of men protested outside.
Responding to the outrage, Ricky wrote on Twitter, “Blasphemy? F***ing Blasphemy? It’s 2021 for f***’s sake.”
“What next? People being punished for insulting unicorns?”
Mr Gervais is an avid believer and defender of free speech, and is well known for his outrageous and often seemingly offensive jokes.
And he does not shy away from making any comical remarks about religion.
The actor previously said, “Imagine if you carried on believing in Santa and the tooth fairy into adulthood. And even killed & started wars over it. Haha. Imagine that.”
On another occasion he was quoted saying, “Everyone has the right to believe anything they want. And everyone else has the right to find it f***ing ridiculous.”
Following his latest remarks, The Office star was backed in his statement by now BBC broadcaster Nicky Campbell, who said Mr Gervais’ tweet was about the ‘lunacy of blasphemy’, claiming it was a ‘victimless crime’.
But another person commented and said the tweet was “An insult to the Islamic community worldwide”.
It’s understood the teacher, who is an amateur rugby player, often described as a “good, burly Yorkshire lad” by local neighbours, had to be rushed into hiding by police late last night.
He is reportedly under protection, along with his wife and their four young children.
Mohammed Hussain, CEO of local charity Purpose of Life, called for the teacher to immediately resign and claimed he had “insulted two billion Muslims”.
“We cannot stand for that. We have to make our voices heard on it,” he said.
A protester speaking “on behalf of the Muslim community” read a statement outside of the school this morning and called for the teacher to face further action under criminal prosecution.
“Use of these materials was done in a deliberate, threatening and provocative manner, leaving children concerned for their safety and wellbeing,” he said.
“This incident must also be investigated from a criminal perspective given it was clear attempt to stir up religious hatred.”
And he said protesters are calling on the entire British Muslim community to review materials taught in their children’s schools, especially if they contain or relate to “offensive content, inappropriate relationships and sexual education”.
Another protester added, “We’re not inciting any hatred, we don’t want people to get injured or harmed, but, at the same time, you should learn from what’s happened and know these kinds of things will bring about people getting very emotional.”
But political leaders have instead backed the teacher, one minister calling the row “disturbing” today.
Police liaison officers and private security guards are controlling the school gates this morning, but school chiefs have made the late decision to close for a second day in light of the heavy protests.
The officers are said to have been trained to deal with protests and community relations.
Dozens of people from the community are believed to have returned to school today, following the teacher’s suspension and a public apology from the school’s head.
Parents at Batley Grammar School have stated that pupils were shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, as part of the school’s curriculum.
One parent told said that their teenage daughter was shown the same controversial images in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation during a Religious Education lesson less than two years ago by another teacher in the school.
And students at the school have launched a petition to try and save their most recent teacher’s job, which has been signed by more than 12,800 people so far.
One student wrote, “We’ve watched our RS teacher defend the integrity of all religions and do not and will not believe he is racist in any way!”
It is not yet known if all of the protestors outside of the school gates, are actually parents of pupils at the school, with some likely to be from local mosques.
It started out with just a few people stood alongside the walls of the school, early on Friday morning, but numbers have swollen since then in what is clearly boiling.
Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said he was ‘disturbed’ to hear that the teacher had been forced into hiding.
“It’s very disturbing,” he said.
“That’s not a road we want to go down in this country, so I’d strongly urge people who are concerned about this issue not to do that.”
Current Conservative Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has called the “threats and intimidation” aimed towards the teacher “completely unacceptable” and said schools must be allowed to expose pupils to “challenging or controversial” issues.
“It is never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers,” he said.
“We encourage dialogue between parents and schools when issues emerge”
“However, the nature of protest we have seen, including issuing threats and in violation of coronavirus restrictions are completely unacceptable and must be brought to an end.”
But campaigners have since accused the Department for Education of amplifying divisions.
Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Manchester-based Ramadhan Foundation, said the community rejected any violence or threat of violence, and stated the incident “will not be hijacked by those who have an interest in perpetuating an image of Muslims”.
“It’s alarming that the Department for Education chose to amplify those divisions by attacking the parents and pupils, rather than looking how we can come together to have a respectful discussion,” he said.
“There is still time for calmer heads among the department.”
Sajid Javid, former Chancellor, is amongst the political figures to have spoken out against the protests.
He said, “In this country we are free to peacefully follow, preach or query any religion or none.”
“These are hard-won freedoms that must be upheld by all public institutions.”
“Reports of intimidation in Batley set a deeply unsettling and potentially dangerous precedent.”
Teacher Samuel Paty, was beheaded last October by an Islamist terrorist in France, after showing his pupils a cartoon of the prophet in a similar manner.
In a letter to parents, Batley headmaster Gary Kibble, offered a “sincere and full apology” adding the picture shown was “completely inappropriate”.
School bosses had held a meeting with a local Imam, before suspending the teacher further an investigation into his alleged actions.
A senior source within the police, said that the teacher was receiving police protection in the wake of his suspension, according to the Telegraph.
The source said, that there had been a “series of meetings” inside West Yorkshire Police on how to police the demonstration and how to handle the fall out, with the primary goal of keeping the teacher safe.
“Officers have been especially assigned to him” said the source.
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