Screaming at five-year-olds

The ongoing protests against inclusive education in Birmingham continue after the latest talks broke down. With some irony, it seems the anger against “no outsiders” is being whipped up by outsiders. Those outsiders are spreading lies and deliberately stirring up hatred.

Nafir Afzal is the person with the unenviable job of mediator.

“I’ve looked at the curriculum, there is nothing in the curriculum that is LGBT specific. There is nothing about gay sex.

“I’ve seen people walking around outside of that school with stuff that they have downloaded from the internet suggesting this is on the curriculum.

“This is what’s being taught to their children. It’s a lie. And this is what I’m dealing with.”

These aggressive protests, which have left teachers and children in tears, follow a pattern we’ve seen many times: religious zealots, mainly men, spreading hatred.

“What the hell are they doing outside screaming at five year olds? What are they doing?

The people doing the screaming in this particular case are mainly Muslim. The ones doing identical screaming in America and Canada, where hundreds of parents have also protested inclusive education in increasingly angry ways, are Christian.

What both groups have in common is religious zealotry. They don’t represent other people of their communities, let alone of their faiths; they’re hijacking faith, using it as a vehicle to try and force their regressive, bigoted ideologies on the wider population. Where there is doubt or division, they amplify it. Where there is misunderstanding, they add to it. Where there’s a fire, they pour petrol on it.

This is not a local issue. It’s a global one. All over the world, religious extremists are pushing to turn back the clock in secular societies. Those societies keep the church and the state separate for good reasons, and extremists want to change that. And politicians aren’t responding quickly enough, or clearly enough.

Some of the bigots are white, some brown, some Muslim, some Christian. All should be resisted.

Faith is for churches. Schools are for facts.