A Tory MP blocked a vote to make LGBT+ lessons a compulsory part of Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) last Wednesday.
Tory Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom had said parents should “choose the moment at which their children become exposed to that information”.
And Tory education secretary Damian Hinds has said that whilst RSE will be made compulsory, it will not necessarily include the teaching of LGBT+ relationships.
Birmingham’s Parkfield Community School last month axed the No Outsiders programme, which includes teaching about LGBT+ relationships. The decision followed weeks of protests by mainly Muslim parents—culminating in up to 600 children being kept home from school.
Agitation against LGBT+ education has now spread to other Birmingham schools and to Manchester.
And a Christian parent in Croydon, south London, has formally complained to the Department for Education that her child was subject to “systematic proselytism” over LGBT+ issues.
There should be no retreat over LGBT+ teaching.
Ezra is from Hidayah, an organisation that provides support and welfare for LGBT+ Muslims. She told Socialist Worker, “Parkfield was the spark, but more people don’t want the lessons to become mandatory.
“We wouldn’t allow children to be withdrawn from numeracy and giving parents a veto means an end to compulsory education.”
Khakan Qureshi is an LGBT+ Muslim from Birmingham who is part of Birmingham South Asians LGBT/Finding a Voice. “This is a crying shame,” he told Socialist Worker. “Stopping these kind of lessons is putting development at risk.
“It’s good to have open discussion that there are different types of people and relationships.”
It is possible to defend LGBT+ education and begin to win the argument.
One Muslim parent, who drops her children off early to avoid the protests, was interviewed by Channel 4 News. “Because I didn’t take the leaflet I got verbally abused,” she said, adding, “I think they should be taught” that there are same sex relationships.
Ezra said it was important to “get voices from Muslims who aren’t on the protests”. “They normally bring on a homophobic imam and a white gay person, but there are plenty of Muslims who are LGBT+ or liberal,” she said.
And she called on people to “take the argument on” over opposition to LGBT+ education.
Homophobia lies behind the battle at the Parkfield Community School
The organisers of the parent protests at Parkfield Community School have said they object to the lessons being linked to the Prevent programme.
The Prevent programme forces public sector bodies, such as schools, to spy on Muslims for signs of radicalisation. A PowerPoint presentation by the headteacher linked the No Outsiders programme to the deeply Islamophobic policy.
LGBT+ education should not be linked to Prevent. But this is not what is at stake in the present agitation.
Khakan Qureshi said, “I have met some of the core protesters.
“And initially they said it was about the link to Prevent and ‘deradicalisation’.
“But as time’s gone on, I think it’s homosexuality more than anything that they have a problem with.”
He added, “I met protest organiser Amir Ahmed, we shook hands, he seemed affable and friendly, and he said that the protesters were not homophobic.
“But then see what he says.”
The Parkfield protest organisers, such as Ahmed, flaunt their homophobic bigotry whenever they are interviewed. “We do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have,” he said.
“This is about proselytising homosexuality to young children.”
The protests have been joined by conservative Christian and Jewish figures who oppose sex education.
Ahmed always claims that he isn’t homophobic and organisers say they don’t oppose teaching under the Equality Act.
But the Equality Act is weak. It calls only for the curriculum to be “designed to encourage respect for other people” and it does not apply to independent schools, including faith schools.
The Parkfield protesters stress that they call for “dialogue” and “consultation”, but for them that means getting rid of the No Outsiders programme for good.
At best it means watering down the lessons—to teach tolerance of LGBT+ people, but not that it’s possible to be both LGBT+ and Muslim.
Ezra from LGBT+ Muslim organisation Hidayah said, “The protesters at Parkfield talk about consultation. But I don’t think any consultation would make the parents have the lessons.
“There is no way that they would be happy with it because they view any teaching about different relationships or homosexuality as promoting it.”
The lessons should be reinstated.