In Defence of Equality in Birmingham Schools
Southall Black Sisters joins Feminist Dissent in a show of solidarity with schools in Birmingham and elsewhere that are struggling courageously against religious fundamentalist led mobilisations. These protests have nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with undermining the equality principle and capturing education for political power.
Please show your support by attending the public meeting and /or signing the statement by SBS and Feminist Dissent.
Public Meeting 27th June 7 pm Birmingham
Since the beginning of April 2019, abusive and intimidating protests have taken place outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham.
About This Event
Since the beginning of April 2019, abusive and intimidating protests have taken place outside Anderton Park Primary school in Sparkhill, Birmingham. The focus of the protest is the work the school has done to incorporate the 2010 Equalities Act into the life of the school, particularly the way it has positively addressed issues of LGBT equality. The spotlight was turned on Anderton Park after similar protests about the ‘No Outsiders’ programme at Parkfield School in Alum Rock were brought to a halt.
While the work at Anderton Park has sought to teach equality, challenge stereotypes, reduce discrimination and prejudice, protest leaders claim that LGBT inclusive lessons mean that children are being ‘sexualised’, a deliberate falsehood which characterises the misinformation on which their campaign is based.
While some Muslim parents have joined the protest, the protest leaders appear to be part of a Fundamentalist Muslim movement, with the clear intention of seeking to impose their ultra-conservative political agenda on the curriculum within Muslim communities, and within schools in Muslim majority areas. As well as misinforming parents about what is taking place at local schools, they have sought to intimidate anyone who disagrees with them and to garner the support of fundamentalists in other religions, as well as racists like the journalist Katie Hopkins. Despite months of this aggressive campaign, Anderton Park School has refused to bow to this patriarchal and homophobic pressure.
This public meeting has been called by ‘Feminist Dissent’ and the South Asian LGBT group ‘Finding A Voice’ to show solidarity with the brave stand taken by the school, and to call on all schools to continue in their duty to teach about all equalities and encourage a non-discriminatory and inclusive school environment. We must not allow these narrow, divisive and bigoted voices to define the education our children receive.
Chair: Pragna Patel Speakers: Jess Philips MP, Khakan Qureshi, Saima Razzaq, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson and Stephen Cowden.
Jess Phillips is a Labour MP who was elected to Parliament to represent Birmingham Yardley in 2015 and re-elected in 2017. Before being elected Jess worked for Women’s Aid, supporting female victims of domestic abuse.
Khakan Qureshi is the founder of Birmingham South Asians LGBT – Finding A Voice – Birmingham’s first independent non-funded social/support group for South Asians who identify as LGBTQI+ regardless of faith and culture. He is also Co-administrator for British Asians LGBTI and Gay Muslims United and serves on the multi-faith advisory panel for the National “Impact on Faith and Sexuality”. He is also a speaker writer and activist and was shortlisted for the British LGBT Awards 2019 and listed in the Top 100 LGBT on The Independent Rainbow List 2015.
Saima Razzaq is the co-founder of SEEDS (Supporting the Education of Equality and Diversity in Schools) a campaigning group set-up in the light of recent protests outside schools. Saima is also the founder of Birmingham’s only floating hotel. She is also involved in filmmaking and volunteers for Hidayah, a support and social welfare organisation for LGBTQI+ Muslims.
Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson is the Headteacher of Anderton Park School in Sparkhill, Birmingham. She is a passionate Brummie, mother, Shakespeare fan and a warrior for equality. She provides training to many schools and other organisations on Equality of the Sexes and the importance of dismantling stereotypes. She studied Philosophy at university in the late 80s. She loves a good quote. ‘Lord, we know what we are but not what we may be ‘.
Stephen Cowden is a member of the Feminist Dissent Collective. He works at Coventry University where he researches the impact of religious fundamentalism on social policy.
Pragna Patel is a founding member and director of Southall Black Sisters’ advocacy and campaigning centre. She has been centrally involved in some of SBS’ most important cases and campaigns around domestic violence, immigration and religious fundamentalism. She is also a member of Feminist Dissent and has written extensively on race, gender and religion.
This event is generously supported by the Warwick Impact Fund
Please show your support by signing the statement by SBS and Feminist Dissent
‘In defence of equality in Birmingham schools’
As a group of individuals and organisations, we express our solidarity with the head teachers, staff and parents of children at Parkfield and Anderton primary schools in Birmingham and those elsewhere that are struggling against the onslaught of religious fundamentalist forces. In the face of a fierce and well-orchestrated campaign mounted by Islamists (and supported by other fundamentalist and right-wing forces), we defend their courageous struggle to deliver an inclusive education curriculum based on the principles of acceptance, equality and humanity.
The protestors claim that aspects of the schools’ curriculums are incompatible with their religious beliefs. They have used misinformation, intimidation, harassment and abuse to generate fear and to impose their bigoted and homophobic world views on others. We reject their tactics and we reject their claim to speak on behalf of minorities or represent ‘community values’. Many parents from minority communities do not subscribe to their fundamentalist vision, they struggle on a daily basis to give their children – boys and girls – educational opportunities that they never had. They struggle to protect their children from a range of inequalities – racism, sexism, and homophobia – and they believe, as do we that equality and freedom depend on access to education and knowledge.
‘Parent power’ has become a key tool used by conservative and fundamentalist forces to curtail what is taught within schools and to withdraw children from those aspects of the curriculum that do not align with their views. Rather than challenge their anti-equality agenda and fight for children and young people’s right to a full and comprehensive education, some local councillors and MPs are ready to extinguish their rights in order to bolster and appease their own vote banks. The leaders of all the main political parties have also been completely silent. But silence is impunity.
We will not allow fundamentalists of any hue to hijack the education system. This is not about liberal values versus religious values but about those who support equality for all and those who do not. This is not about religious freedom but about the politics of hatred, division and violence. This is not about minority rights but about fundamentalist bids for power and control over people and resources.
We urge all those who care about education to speak up and defend the teaching of equality in schools everywhere. We call upon the government to defend without reservation the right of schools to teach an inclusive school curriculum; to promote equality and age-appropriate sex and relationships education for all children and young people; and to properly fund and support state schools to deliver a secular, egalitarian and accessible education for all.
Khakan Qureshi, Founder, Finding A Voice
Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Feminist Dissent Editorial Collective
Dr Stephen Cowden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Coventry University
Pragna Patel, Director Southall Black Sisters
Aisha K Gill, Professor of Criminology, University of Roehampton
Brenna Bhandar, SOAS, University of London
Sundari Anitha, Reader, University of Lincoln
Yasmin Gunaratnam, Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths, London
Raggi Kotak, Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers
Charlie Peat, Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers
Yasmin Rehman, Human Rights Activist
Georgie Wemyss, Feminist Dissent Editorial Collective
Angela Saini, Author and Journalist
Angelina Nicolaou, Barrister, 1 Pump Court
Julie Begum, Swadhinata Trust
Gurpreet Bhatti, Writer and Playwright
Karen Ingala Smith, CEO The Nia Project
Beatrix Campbell, Writer and Activist
Halaleh Taheri, Executive Director of Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation-MEWSo
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Fariborz Pooya, Producer of Bread and Roses TV
Mary Adossides, Chair, Brent Trades Council
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
Prof Alison Assiter, Philosophy, UWE, Bristol
Prof. Em. Nira Yuval-Davis, Centre for research on Migratiin, Refugees and Belonging, the University of East London
Stephen Evans, CEO, National Secular Society
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Jimmy Bangash, CEMB spokesperson
Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-Presidents, Freedom From Religion Foundation, U.S.A
Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, M.A.L.I. – Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties, Morocco
Sandhya Sharma, Safety4Sisters
Rebecca Durand, Feminist Dissent Editorial Collective
Nahla Mahmoud, Sudanese Human Rights Campaigner
Jocelyn Watson, Writer
Mili Acharya, Southall Black Sisters
Samia Allalou, Algerian Feminist
Yasmine Mohammed, Free Hearts Free Minds
Marieme Hélie Lucas, Algerian Feminist, Sociologist, Founder and former International Coordinator of WLUML and Founder and Coordinator of SIAWI,
Fatou Sow: Academic, Senegal, Director Wluml
Ahlam Akram, Basira
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens
Shakila Taranum Maan, Film Maker, Artist, Writer
Liz Kelly, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit
Manjeet Singh, Digital Marketing Consultant
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director, Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre (Pakistan)
Sultana Kamal, Founder President, Foundation for Human Rights Culture, Bangladesh
Lalia Ducos, Algerian feminist, President WICUR ( Women’s Initiative for Universal Rights)
Sayeed Ahmad, HRD, Bangladesh
Rahila Gupta, Writer and member of Southall Black Sisters
Professor Lynn Freedman, Columbia University, USA
Florence Binard, Université de Paris
Anjum Mouj, Imaan Muslim LGBTQI
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation
Meena Patel, Southall Black Sisters
Somak Biswas, Convener, Queer History Reading Group, University of Warwick
Hannah Ayres, Convener, Queer History Reading group, University of Warwick
Francesca Favia, Southall Black Sisters
Joanna Foster, Fabtic
Sadia Hameed, Council of Ex Muslims of Britain
Karamat Ali, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Karachi, Pakistan
Madiha Latif, Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre
Javed Anand, National convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD)
Sara Bonfanti, University of Trento
Rebecca Habberley,Children’s services
Dr. Rosemary Snelgar
Claire Birkenshaw, Leeds Beckett University
Jude Watson, London Older Lesbian Cohousing
Alison Brown, Gleadless Valley Branch Labour Party
Professor Virinder Kalra, Sociology, University of Warwick
Jane Gabriel, Fifty Fifty Publishing Ltd
Diana Nammi, Executive Director, Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Pete Firmin, Labour Representation Committee
Susie Denton, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors
Dr Alex Colas
Katharine Bligh, Chairwoman, Hampstead & Kilburn Constituency Labour Party
Mike Phipps, Brent Central CLP
Sue Katz, Women Against Fundamentalism
Shaheen Haq, Queer, Muslim Feminist
Aklima Ferdows Lisa, Bangladesh
Mandy Sanghera, Human Rights Activist
Moshé Machover, Labour Party