Batley Grammar School has Demonstrated How Little the UK Understands the True Meaning of Islam

The teacher at Batley Grammar School was, and is, in the wrong. I completely support the school in suspending him. Not only from the school’s standpoint, but in terms of the damage this man has undoubtedly caused to the subject. I say this as an RE teacher of 12 years, a person with an ounce of common sense and a person who values human decency above all else.
I do not know what I am more ashamed of; the teacher who not only thought it was okay and has since claimed he’s expressing his ‘freedom of speech’ by presenting the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, or the flag flying Brits who have flocked to Twitter to insist Muslims leave the country, mirror the teacher’s sentiment of ‘freedom of speech, innit’ while also demonstrating that they fail to understand that this freedom voids their ‘they have no right to be offended’ rhetoric.

Muhammad (pbuh)

For those of you not in the know, it is an offence for any Prophet to be drawn within Islam. This includes Moses, Noah and Jesus. I must point out that very few Muslim students I’ve taught over the years have taken any issue with the presentation of the image of Jesus, being the most discussed Prophet who appears in many religions (including Hinduism). Why? They accept the culture of the UK and the fact that it is still a ‘Christian’ country which has displayed Jesus in many forms of art for centuries.
It is blasphemous to attempt to recreate the Prophets. Not having a law in place does not stop it being so, as some seem to claim. It just means that it is not a ‘crime’ here in the UK. Does it mean it’s okay to put young Muslims through distress because our country no longer frowns upon the use of ‘oh my God’ and ‘Jesus Christ’?!

The Intent of the Image

Since this news broke on Thursday, I have maintained that the biggest decider regarding the image is the intent by the artist. To a certain extent, is does not matter what the intent of the teacher was because if the image was intended to offend Muslims, you can give all the disclaimers you want; they will still be offended. It has been revealed that these students are in Year 9, that is a very hard age and year group to be presenting a controversial piece of artwork. I can only begin to image how distressful it could be..
It has been revealed that the image shown was the Charlie Hebdo one from January 2015. The one that caused extremists to kill many who worked at the office. They also recently came under fire for an appalling cartoon of the Royal Family. The intent of that image is clear; it is meant to cause hurt and distress.

The Teacher’s Intent

This is where I really find myself angry. I have thought long and hard about this over the last few days and I cannot imagine a rationale that would ever allow me to use that cartoon. Nor can I come up with a justifiable value that makes the hurt caused worth it. Any RE trained teacher, worth their weight in gold will tell you that it’s inconceivable to use an image of Muhammad (pbuh) in a lesson.
There is an online petition that is believed to have been set up by students. It is explained on there that the image was used to explain racism. Well, that proves that either the teacher is incompetent or that he failed in what he was really tying to teach because that image is not an example of racism. It is, however, an example of Islamophobia or, in a broader context, xenophobia.
Is it really a big deal?! Well, in my experience, yes, it is a big deal. Over the years I’ve lost count of how many times a child has wrongly shouted ‘That’s racist that’, so I do believe it is important to make a distinction between the different forms of discrimination and make sure it is understood that ‘Islam’ is not a race. While the religion has foundations in the middle east, your ethnicity does not exclude you from being Muslim.
I would also question the critical thinking skills of 13- and 14-year-olds and their ability to understand the image within the confines of its context. My professional opinion would be that even a high ability sixth former would struggle to understand and be able to detach personal belief to critically evaluate the image as the teacher wanted.

Robert Jenrick has weighed in and said “In a free society, we want religions to be taught to children and for children to be able to question and query them.”
Students don’t need to see an image created my someone who isn’t Muslim in order to question the faith. Once again, the views of those in charge of our education system prove they haven’t got a clue what we as professionals do.
He has also stated that issues should not be censored. What issue Jenrick? What issue was so important to discuss that no other resource could have been used? What issue could not be explored and questioned without breaching a student’s right to their religious expression?
Oh, and while we’re at it Jenrick (and Williamson), could you please show me where in any RE Agreed Syllabus is it stated a Year 9 class should discuss whether an image of Muhammad puts Charlie Hebdo at fault or Muslims? That’s the conclusion I’m coming to. At no point is it professional to attribute the actions of ISIS to Islam, nor is it appropriate to expect students to evaluate blame when it comes to terrorist actions.
With all due disrespect, Jenrick and Williamson, you have no place in commenting, you are a plague on our industry and the sooner you are out of every single teacher’s hair, the better.

The Xenophobic British and the Myths They Believe

“Blasphemy isn’t illegal here.”
“Your rules don’t apply here.”
“Go back home if you don’t like it.”
“We’ll never be an Islamic State for your voodoo cult.”
That is just some of the outrage from the Twitter-verse I encountered on Thursday. Every stereotype and mistruth I have tried to challenge over the years spat out by those who believe ISIS represent all of Islam.
I am not saying any religion is perfect, I’m agnostic for that very reason. All have a past that is embroiled in violence, corruption and behaviour they would rather forget, but they are not condemned for them in the way Islam is.
Isis (and any other ‘Islamic’ extremists) is to Islam what the KKK are to Christianity. After the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, the hashtag #NotInMyName trended, and it is worth remembering now.
Extremists use extensive censoring and cherry picking to come to the violent conclusions they do. They practice selective interpretations of their Holy Texts to justify the horrific acts and autrocities we are all familiar with. And despite the voices to the contrary, the British public believe extremism to be the status quo.
When the Qu’ran instructs

“That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.”

Verse 5:32

,an instruction many extremists choose to ignore, you must begin to question the true purpose of Islam and the information you’ve been missold.
I know many Muslims, I’ve taught many Muslims. I also accept that what I teach of Islam is far removed from what the living religion is (and that is down to the sanitation of the religion through the exam specifications. Some things we teach are in direct contradiction of what some students believe.) however, it is not a faith or community to fear. Islam is derived from the Arabic word “sal’m” which. literally means peace. Muslims know this. So should you.
One thing that has certainly come out of this, is that there is still work to be done to develop our multicultural country and foster a culture of acceptance. Between this, Brexit and the hatred focused on Meghan Markle it is becoming harder to be proud. It’s hard to not acknowledge how much like America we are when it comes to all forms of xenophobia.

When the Xenophobes Miss the Point

“It is only a F@@@ing Cartoon”


“Cartoons don’t do any harm”


You need to read what I say here carefully.
I am certain they said it was only a cartoon when the Nazis started printing cartoons of the Jews in papers. That is all they were after all, and cartoons don’t do any harm, right?
Yes, teachers use the Jewish cartoons today, but it is in a very controlled way in order to teach how those images were wrong, hurtful and damaging.
My argument still stands; the Charlie Hebdo cartoon has the same impact the Nazi Propaganda images had AT THE TIME.
This one of Muhammad (pbuh) will never have that expiry. The crux of the issue is not going away any time soon. So if you have a Muslim demographic, it really is cruel to expect them to engage in a debate about a forbidden artwork inciting violence in France.

Finally, I think the best way to simplify this. The teacher was an adult and pausing for thirty seconds could have resolved this. Not showing the image will not decrease the value of the lesson and, most importantly, will not cause harm, or do I show an extremely offensive image that will cause harm and distress to even one of the members of my class due to background while not adding much in terms of value to the lesson?!

Book Review: The Infinity Files

Author S. M. Wilson
Length  416 pages
Release 4.3.2021
Ash Yang dreamed of being a starfighter pilot. But when she crashes out of her final test – literally – she somehow lands the most powerful job in the universe. As Guardian of the Infinity Files she must secretly planet-hop through the galaxies, stealing or returning treasures that have the power to stop wars…or start them.

But when her home planet is the one at war, can she get the job done?


Ash and Orius are two very different characters that dominate the pages. Ash is our protagonist, our eyes into this world and don’t be too alarmed if you feel very invested in her from the outset. There’s something about those first few chapters that will allow Ash to trigger all of your emotions. There’ll be so much about her that you will see in yourself. I certainly found that empowering and I’ll be surprised if others don’t either.

Orius on the other hand is all mystery and something that I loved and hated in equal measure. Orius is someone I do not think you’re meant to figure out and I love that we’re never get anything more than what Ash knows.


This universe is awesome. As a child of Star Trek, Stargate, Doctor Who and Quantum Leap this story is all the best bits of the franchises and so much more. For a first outing of a series, it’s sometimes difficult to create a full story that doesn’t feel like world building or exposition. At no point does this feel like that. You are thrown into the adventure, with a thread of mystery running alongside. Its perfect.


Wilson’s writing makes her reads a comfort. I feel like I am reading a book made of Doctor Who’s Psychic Paper whenever I fall into her worlds. The way characters, action and reveals are dealt with reminds me of Michael Crichton’s work. It reads to me like it would be a dream to translate into film.

Final Thoughts

Its an amazing read and I cannot wait for more.

Infinity Files Blog Tour Q&A with S. M. Wilson

As we meet Ash, she is faced with ‘failing’ at the academy. It’s not something readers will be used to and is a big fear for those who tend to read YA fiction. Why was it important to have the protagonist experience failure so early on?

Failing was the whole motivation for the start of the story.  Ash had strived for this for so long, she’d thought that once she’d achieved her goal, she it would solve her problems and help how she felt.  As a young woman she was determined to wreak revenge on those who’d stolen her family from her.  But once she didn’t achieve her goal?  Well, it put her in exactly the position I needed her to be in for this story.  The reason she failed was important too.  She acted on her instincts.  And Ash’s instincts were good. That’s why she was chosen for the next role in the book!

Being a massive sci-fi geek myself, I loved how much this book read like a love-letter to those shows many of us will have grown up with. Which shows inspired you the most?

Where do you want me to start?  I’m a huge Star Wars fan (except the first three – they don’t count).  I also love Star Trek. Next Generation is my favourite.  I also loved Battlestar Galactica, the original series and the 2004 series alongside Stargate, the film and SG1 and Stargate Atlantis, and The Mandalorian.  As a kid I even loved Buck Rogers, and the Flash Gordon film, V (which was terrifying).  Finally, there’s ET.  I have a son called Elliott, enough said really!

The theme of isolation perhaps hit harder than it may have any other year. Was that struggle something you felt was important to thread through the story and were there any benefits of it not being about current events?

Ash’s aloneness was a key part of her character development, along with concept of ‘found family’.  It carries on into the second book too.  As a nurse, I’ve been at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic since the start, so for me, an escape is very welcome.  Space was definitely my escape, though there will always be elements of real life that bleed into anything that I write. 

If you had to create your own team of five Guardians from any Sci-fi franchise (you can mix and match), who would you choose and why?

You are literally asking me to choose between my children and that is exceptionally mean.  First and foremost, Captain Picard will always in my team.  I love how he always pretended to obey the Prime Directive but never actually did.  First Contact will always be my favourite film with the emotional damage the borg did to him revived.  With him in my team, I also need the character of Hugh from the borg collective.  I adored that character and loved they brought his fully formed version back in the Picard series.  Next, is my Star Wars favourites. Since Yoda has sneaked into both Extinction Trials and The Infinity Files it really should be him.  But instead, I’m picking Obi-wan Kenobi.  (The Alec Guinness version and not the Ewan McGregor version), alongside kickass Princess Leia.  Carrie Fisher brought such fire to the character and I loved the spark that was there. I suspect Picard and Obi-Wan might get a bit snotty with each other, but Princess Leia will kick them both to the kerb and keep them inline.  Whilst my childhood heart still hankers after Dirk Benedict as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, or fabulous Q from the Next Generation, I have to pick ET as my final team member.  Sure, he may not be very mobile, but I can carry him.  And he has a magic finger.  What more do I need?

Moxie (2021): Review and a Rant

Rating 12
Length 1h 51
Release 3.3.2021
Director Amy Poehler
About Inspired by her mom’s rebellious past and a confident new friend, a shy teenager publishes an anonymous zine calling out sexism at her school.

First Things First

I’m pissed. Not at the fillm, the film is an excellent adaptation. I watched it and I did what I never do; I checked the reviews. The first one on the list had the headline “Moxie, review: the only joke here is Amy Poehler’s idea of ‘inclusivity’”
I knew before clicking the link, this was going to be some white-assed dude taking issue with a film that wasn’t meant for him. Damn, I hate being right. Mr Robbie Collin, Film Critic, writing for the white middle-to-upper-class ‘The Telegraph’.
I actually took to twitter to admonish him; high on Moxie confidence. This is not a comedy. To boil it, and Amy Poehler, down to comedic elements and then slate it for its lack… it made my blood boil. Even worse, his response was to screenshot and circle the genre listings.
I’m a woman, I’ve read the book and I’ve spent the last ten years teaching the film’s demographic. Oh, and I have a film degree. Seeing it on a list, currated by white men, does not make it true. He watched the god damn film; events are triggered when a jock spits in a black girl’s coke and culminates with another classmate admitting she was raped.
How has this dude not paused, thought ‘it doesn’t really fit into comedy, so I’m not going to review it as if was misold as a comedy and failed to hit the mark.’ The irony, of course, is that Mr Robbie Collin completely missed the point of the story and, as a result, became the exact thing Moxie was fighting against.

As for Seth (Nico Hiraga), Vivian’s hunky male classmate, here is a figure with a valuable lesson for any teenage boys watching at home: if you’re an “ally”, girls will want to sleep with you, even if fealty to the cause comes at zero personal cost.

Robbie Collin. The Independant

Over the course of his 650 word review, 245 of those were simply retelling the plot (and the only place you’ll find any positive words), 325 were given to his lambasting of a film based upon its diversity, apparent stereotyping and expressing one of the most dangerous misinterpretations of a character i’ve ever seen.
Those last hundred and odd? Oh, he bitches about how Poehler and Tina Fey drew hearts and stars on their hands, as if political statements on the Red Carpet haven’t been a thing for years. From Emma Stone and Dakota Fanning wearing planned Parenthood pins to the Times Up movement that was commonplace at any carpet walk in 2018 and beyond.
Yes, to Collin, it seems a little less important and more fickle. However, as someone who watched it become a ‘thing’ in the school I taught at when the book was publish; its not a gimmick or publicity. There is sincerity when you get off your high horse.

The Good

  • The casting was incredible. Hadley Robinson had a hard job of being able to show this complex development of character; the introvert being pushed out of her comfort zone. It’s all there; a young woman frustrated at the sexism around her, the strength that comes from anonymity and the fallout from growing beyond what was there before.
  • Anjelika Washington has most recently been seen in DC show Star Girl. It was most excellent to see her in another role and, hopefully, an insight of things to come with her character in the show.
  • The film does well to cover all the bases from the book. the viewer will get an empowering narrative if they’re the demographic for the film. If you’re not a 14 year old girl, its not that this film isn’t for you. It’s more that its a lesson for you; should you be open minded enough.
  • The music and punk rock asthetic is such a wonderful sight. Yes, the book does have that element, but film is where it was always going to have its biggest impact.

The Bad

  • I want more. The one thing the aforementioned review got right? Outside of Vivian, there isn’t much development of the other characters. That’s not, for me anyway, a slight on the film. It’s the nature of the medium. Some things have to go for storytelling purposes. This probably would have worked much better, in terms of characters, as a tv series; limited or otherwise (but not tell this story in one season and make shit up for another 3 like 13 Reasons Why did). However, in terms of the story and the message, it did well for its 1h 50 runtime.

The Ugly

  • Be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions. Frustration at the Principle, sadness at the environment young women are still faced with, heartbreak for so many reasons. I think any woman will identify with a lot of what happens during the course of the movie and if you’re a parent I think it will have an even deeper meaning to you.

Final Thoughts

I want more Punk! Please tell me this will lead to more punkish films!
Its a film I will most defintely watch again. It’ll be something I’d show my children (if I ever have them); male or female as I think there is a lesson for all in here.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Rating PG
Length 1h 26
Director Stephen Herek
About High School best mates are on track to fail their History class, sending one of them to Military school and potentially changing the course of the future. That is until they meet a time traveller who offers to help.

The Good

  • The music is awesome. All the way through, the story is complimented with a most excellent rock soundtrack.
  • Considering how dumb our two protagonists are, this film is very clever. However, I never once feel like I’m laughing at them and I most definitely do root for them all the way through.
  • It takes the fish-out-of-water trope and puts it on acid. That scene in the mall is just epic. It’s my favourite part of the movie outside of Bill & Ted freeing all of their historical figures from jail.
  • The very thing that makes this movie, outside of Reeves and Winter, is George Carlin. He doesn’t have much screen time, but boy that man has presence and charm. I truly couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role and you do feel his loss in the third instalment.

The Bad

  • I’ve never liked the Napoleon B-plot. I think it’s more that he’s kind of a dick, but without him I’m aware the story would be very different.
  • Did they really have to ruin that hug with calling each other ‘fag’?!

The Ugly

  • Bill & Ted’s actual musical ability. However, I trust Rufus when he breaks the fourth wall and informs us that they do get better.

Final Thoughts

A favourite of mine for a long time. I can’t imagine that changing any time soon.