Since January in the English city of Birmingham, some parents have been protesting and boycotting their children’s schools. The conflict is over the award-winning LGBTQ acceptance lessons known as the ‘No Outsiders’ program. The parents, mostly from the Muslim community, argue that that the lessons are ‘not age appropriate,’ with some even going further to say that the lessons encourage their children that being queer is okay and that it goes against their religious teachings.
‘No Outsiders’ was created in 2014 by Andrew Moffat, the then-assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham at the center of the protests. He was awarded an MBE in 2017 by the Queen for his services to education and was shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation’s “best teacher” prize. He states the program aims to teach children about the Equality Act and the characteristics protected under it – such as sexual orientation and religion. It helps children understand that there are different familial dynamics and also teaches them respect and tolerance of others in a world with hatred for ‘different.’
Moffat has said that feedback by parents has always been positive and the protests a small minority who are using the situation to push forward their homophobic beliefs.
These parents have taken to pulling their children out of the school, protesting outside the school and spewing death threats to the teachers and other parents who refuse to stand up for what they believe is ‘discrimination against their religion.’ Staff at the schools are distraught, and the fear that runs through the country’s LGBTQ community has increased too.
Many of these parents argue it is not a case of ‘homophobia’ but more of ‘age-inappropriate’ teaching of subjects that are sensitive and controversial and that they are better taught in the home to reflect their religious beliefs.
And to that, I say, poppycock!
Islam is a religion that is greatly misunderstood. Our community is adamant on telling the world that we are peaceful, tolerant and accepting of all. We tell everyone that we are not here to change your way of life but to live freely with you for a better life for ourselves in cohesion with yours. We would never change your traditions, cultures or anything that is associated with you – we respect you, and we hope you can do the same for us.
But when you have narrow-minded parents like the ones boycotting and protesting lessons on LGBTQ tolerance, the eye rolls from the masses and ignorance starts to make sense.
How can Muslims be demanding respect and tolerance when they are not willing to do the same for others?
Teaching your children about equality for all, including different familial dynamics which could be two mothers, two fathers, etc, does not make your children queer. And even if they are, that is who they are, and if you were a decent parent, your child’s sexuality wouldn’t matter.
If these parents are boycotting the school and threatening staff because the lessons go against ‘Islamic principles’ then they are not actually practicing the Islamic teachings themselves. Islam promotes equality, respect, and tolerance for all, regardless of orientation, race or religion so using ‘Islamic teachings’ as a reason for bigotry is; 1. wrong and not even Islamic in its own right and; 2. plays into the hands of the bigots who want to find any reason to condemn and criticize Islam further.
As the lessons begin in Reception classes (four and five years old), parents are arguing that the lessons are not ‘age appropriate,’ which is also ridiculous. If sexual relationships of any kind were deemed not ‘age appropriate’ for four and five-year-old, adults should not be asking children, if their friends of the opposite sex are their ‘boyfriends’ or ‘girlfriends,’ regardless of whether it is in a teasing manner. If children can understand heterosexual relationships such as ‘mummy and daddy love each other,’ then why are they too young to understand queer relationships? Relationships are relationships – regardless of gender. Using a child’s age to protest against these lessons is masking the homophobia clearly at play.
Muslims and the LGBTQ community are no different from each other – we are both enemies in the eyes of bigots and criticized for our ways of life, so why are the Muslims joining the side of the same bigots that wouldn’t think twice to verbally and physically abuse them too?
Children are the most loving, understanding and accepting humans on the planet. The innocence of children is not threatened by learning about the LGBTQ community – a community still considered criminal in many parts of the world. What will destroy that innocence is teaching young children to hate. Hatred grows as time goes by and when things go wrong, fingers will be pointed at the same parents who will argue that they had nothing to do with it. Families socialize children from a very young age – if you are teaching your children to hate others, you cannot be surprised if they react with that hatred in the future. Maybe it will do good for these parents themselves to attend these classes?
These lessons are essential for the future of the next generation. There is already too much hatred in the world for what is seen as ‘different,’ and we should be embracing and supporting the minority, not turning our backs on them. Generations before and those currently present have failed at this – let’s not fail the future too.