Last week, a 14-year-old British boy had to flee his home and go into hiding, fearing for his life. Not because he defrauded a provincial drug kingpin, for example, or because he was the only witness to a gruesome murder. Nothing so dramatic. Rather, it is a story of our times – the latest example, some would argue, of what happens when diligence trumps common sense.
It all started when, as a forfeit for losing a video game, the boy was asked by his friends to buy a copy of the Quran and take it to school, Kettlethorpe High in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. For what purpose remains unclear. There was no malicious intent involved, but even for an impulsive adolescent it was clearly reckless, especially considering that once inside the school the holy book was accidentally damaged, albeit only ‘slightly’ and not by the hands of the boy.
In his defense, he is autistic and, says his mother, “doesn’t always realize what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.”
No one, least of all the boy, could have foreseen what would happen next. He was suspended along with three other students; the police launched an investigation and recorded a ‘hate’ incident; a Labor councilor fueled tensions by falsely claiming on social media that the book had been breached; and his mother begged for forgiveness at the local mosque after his life was threatened.
The matter reached the desk of Interior Secretary Suella Braverman, who yesterday expressed “deep concern” about the case and the way it has been handled. “The education sector and the police have a duty to prioritize the physical safety of children over the hurt feelings of adults,” she said.
Last week, a 14-year-old British boy was forced to flee his home and go into hiding, fearing for his life. In the photo, his mother talks about the incident
The police launched an investigation and registered a ‘hate’ incident. In the photo: Superintendent Thornton
The Mail on Sunday has learned that at the height of the harassment, the family was threatened with arson at their home and the boy – described as ‘absolutely petrified’ – was forced to move to an undisclosed location. After initially contacting the West Yorkshire Constabulary, his mother later urged officers not to prosecute to prevent the situation from flaring up further. Instead, police said they would “work to move the school forward.”
One parent, a teacher herself, said it “feels like a medieval witch hunt.” The charity organization Humanists UK called the situation “appalling” and claimed the school “acted hastily”, adding that it should not have allowed itself to be “directly or indirectly pressured into excessive disciplinary action out of deference to religious groups”.
Yasmine Mohammed, the author of Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam, said, “This is more than what would happen in Pakistan or Iran. This is an insane level of capitulation to irrational bullies.”
The school sits at the bottom of a hill in a quiet residential area less than ten miles from Batley Grammar School where parents protested in 2021 after a teacher, later suspended, showed students an image of the Prophet Muhammad.
In Batley, Muslims make up more than 33 percent of the population. In Wakefield, a cathedral city known for its mining heritage, they represent just three per cent. Religious tensions that occasionally crop up in Batley and elsewhere in West Yorkshire are much less noticeable here.
Ten days ago, the 14-year-old bought a copy of the Bible and was bullied after telling his friends about his purchase. They played the Call Of Duty video game and when the boy lost, it was agreed that he should buy a copy of the Quran and take it to school as a challenge.
He bought it on Amazon and gave it to one of his friends the next day. That’s where his involvement ended. However, his friends started reading from the book on the playground. It was later knocked out of someone’s hands and fell to the ground where it suffered minor damage.
When the incident came to light, the school examined CCTV footage and conducted more than 30 one-on-one interviews before deciding to suspend the 14-year-old and three others for a week. Still, the headmaster, Tudor Griffiths, said there was “no malicious intent” on the part of the students. By all accounts, it was just an extremely silly joke.
Yet, within hours, rumors quickly spread on social media that the book had been spat on, torn up, burned in various ways. None of this was true, as everyone, including the local imam, who has been urging calm now accepts.
But at a time when cool reason and hard evidence were scarce, a local Labor councilor, Usman Ali, stepped in and falsely claimed on Twitter that the Quran had been ‘desecrated’, saying that this ‘serious provocative action’ was urgently needed. had to be addressed. by the police, the school and the municipality.
He ended his now-deleted tweet, demanding that people “work together to ensure that this terrible provocation does not hinder community relations for years to come.”
The next day, the students were suspended and for reasons that remain unclear, the school decided to call the police, a move that met with widespread disbelief from parents.
The copy of the Quran that the boy dropped shows a page that is a bit smudged
A slight tear can also be seen on the cover of the book after it has been brought into the school
Later that week, the Imam of Jamia Masjid Swafia Mosque in Wakefield, Hafiz Muhammad Mateen Anwar, along with a mediator, Independent Councilor Akef Akbar, attended a meeting at the school. They were invited to inspect the Quran to see if it had not been violated. Chief Inspector Andy Thornton was also at the meeting. To his credit, the imam called for calm, for example urging Muslims not to protest outside the school.
Another meeting was called, at the mosque on a Friday, when the boy’s mother – sitting before an all-male crowd – begged for forgiveness. Mr. Griffiths, the principal of the school, also told the audience – repeatedly – about his grief. “Rest assured, this is a very serious matter… if more consequences are to follow, there will be,” he added. Superintendent Thornton, meanwhile, criticized the boys for the ‘lack of understanding’ of their actions before turning to the Imam and saying: ‘Truly, very many thanks from me in regards to the tolerance and understanding shown.’
However, no one mentioned the death threats. Thornton said: ‘There is an element of awareness and education that needs to be embedded in the school and wider community of Wakefield.’
He continued, “We recorded a hate incident. That means we will look to support the school at this time. It’s in our system.’
It was then left to the mother, sitting with her hands clasped together, to talk about the threats.
She did so almost by way of apology. What followed – filmed and posted to social media – effectively turned into an exercise in public humiliation akin to something out of Maoist China.
The mother began by saying, “Thank you so much for letting me come here today to talk to you. I know what my son did is disrespectful. He had no malicious intent, but he’s a very, very silly 14-year-old boy…
“He hasn’t eaten since Wednesday afternoon when this happened because his autism…has raised his anxiety to the point where he’s beside himself. He’s very sorry.’
She continued, “We had to call the police. He has received death threats, he has received threats that he will be beaten up when he goes back to school. He is absolutely terrified. But I don’t want anyone prosecuted for the stupidity of my son and his friends, so it was more about keeping him safe.”
However, the boy himself and the other three suspended students face a possible black mark against them for life. The Free Speech Union said unless they are removed by police, all four students’ records could appear on criminal histories later in life.
It also questioned why West Yorkshire Police had included the episode as a ‘non-criminal hate incident’. It said the move contradicted national guidelines because it seemed like a trivial matter.
It all started when, as a forfeit for losing a video game, the boy was asked by his friends to buy a copy of the Quran and take it to school, Kettlethorpe High in Wakefield, West Yorkshire (pictured)
Councilor Akbar, who visited the boy at his home, told the meeting: “His mother is facing a huge predicament… and there is a huge upheaval among the Muslim community. When I attended her child, he said he was sorry and sent a message to all the (Muslim) students he knows to apologize.
“He wrote a letter to the school explaining his actions and, in my opinion, he did his very best. He has researched the Quran on the internet and now has a decent level of knowledge of our holy book. To the mother’s credit she understands the situation and has advised the police and she does not want any of these children to be prosecuted. She only asks that her son be not harmed.”
None of the many parents The Mail on Sunday spoke to last week believed the police or the school were acting fairly, and there were reports that some had kept their children home in protest.
The school declined to answer questions from the MoS about the matter, which the Home Secretary is determined must never be repeated.
“Schools respond to students and parents,” she said. “They don’t have to answer to self-proclaimed community activists.”