Parents and far-right campaigners held a demonstration outside of an elementary school in the United Kingdom to protest the teaching of a lesson on Islam.
Several protesters holding flags representing the North East EDL Angels -- a far-right group that focuses on opposition to what it sees as a spread of Islamism -- gathered outside the East Stanley Primary School in Stanley, County Durham on Feb. 10, according to Daily Mail. They were joined by parents of children who attended the elementary school.
The protest appeared to be a response to the presence of a visitor from the Islamic Diversity Centre in Newcastle, who was invited to teach students about Islam and to increase tolerance among the student body.
“The school [is] forcing our children to learn about Islam against the wishes of the parents, and someone from Newcastle Islamic Centre is coming in to preach,” one parent told Daily Mail.
Joanne Williams, head teacher at East Stanley Primary School, explained that the lesson was meant to foster inclusion and teach students about other viewpoints.
“As a school we feel it is important that in our modern secular society children are given a wide range of opportunities to learn about, interact with and learn tolerance and respect for other cultures, religions and communities,” Williams told Daily Mail. “We let parents know that this visit was taking place as well as organizing a session for families, and we are pleased that we have seen support from the majority of our moms and dads.”
The lesson on Islam was proposed partially in response to an incident that occurred on Dec. 16 at the same elementary school, in which several parents called the police on a group of Muslims seen praying outside the school, according to Mirror. The parents’ actions were criticized as “small-minded” and Islamophobic, and led to the lesson on Islam from the school.
“After the incident in December the school wanted to do some work with the Muslim community so people could be educated,” said Inspector Kelly Martin of the Stanley Police. “While people are entitled to their opinions and to register their objections within the law, our objective is to bring the community together to understand each other and be tolerant of other views and not alienate or isolate people.”