King Fahad Row Escalates
School fears for pupil safety after former teacher's allegations
The Acton school at the centre of a row over allegations made by a former teacher concerning 'racist and divisive' teaching materials has issued a statement making a strong commitment to inter-faith relations and furiously condemning Colin Cook for putting children at the school at risk.
The row has led to the school being featured on Newsnight and the Sun and there is concern at the school that, what they see is an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of the school, could lead to reprisals against pupils.
Dr. Sumaya Alyusuf, Director of the school said, "The allegations, made by a disgruntled ex employee, are grossly offensive, highly inflammatory and entirely false and without foundation. Not only that, these allegations have mischaracterized the students of being subjected to extremist education, an allegation that we categorically deny but fear may subject our students and teachers to risk . To this end, we hold Mr Cook responsible for any harm caused to our students or teachers as a result of his false allegations. "
The school is upset that they were never given the opportunity to respond to the allegations which originally appeared in an Evening Standard article written by Tim Stewart.
She added, "The Academy denies all the allegations and wishes to stress in particular that it is not a racist institution, does not provide books describing Jews or Christians (or any religious group) in a derogatory manner whatsoever, does not promote anti-western views and actively condemns extremism, intolerance and discrimination."
The school points out that teachers come from many nationalities and faiths, for instance the newly appointed head of the boys’ school is American and they say that all teachers are expected to encourage interfaith understanding. The Academy does not ask prospective employees what their faith is as part of the recruitment process. They also dismiss Mr. Cook's assertion that the school provides an inferior education for girls pointing out that one of Mr. Cook's own daughters recently was successful in gaining entrance to a medical school after being taught at the Academy.
Dr. Alyusuf says that she has recently been a speaker at two inter-faith conferences; the objective at both conferences was to bring about a change in pupils’ attitudes to conflict resolution and to teach pupils from different religious backgrounds how to focus on shared human values. She says academy students are exposed to all religions, not just Islam: for example a year 5 class assembly on 2 February dealt with the story of the Virgin Mary as seen from both Islamic and Christian perspectives. Recently the local vicar visited the school to talk to the children.
Dr. Alyusuf told the BBC that the passages quoted by Mr. Cook in his submission to the tribunal were quoted out of context and were, in any case, not used as teaching material by the school.
The school did not comment directly on Mr. Cook's dismissal as the appeal hearing is this Thursday but they are considering taking legal advice over what they consider to be false and misleading allegations.
February 7, 2007