Last month a 14 year-old non-Muslim pupil in Wakefield with ‘high functioning’ autism is alleged by the Muslim community to have treated the Quran with insufficient respect. He had lost in a game with friends, and his ‘forfeit’ had been to buy a Quran. He bought an English translation on Amazon and brought it to Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield, where he and some friends had dared to handle and read it without first washing their hands. The boy left the book with his friends and by the end of the day it has become slightly soiled on page 2, apparently after falling onto the floor. After an investigation of 30 pupils, he and three other pupils were suspended by the school, and had records of a ‘hate incident’ registered against them by the police. Threats of death and arson were made against the autistic boy and his family home, and his mother has publicly testified that he is ‘absolutely petrified’ because local Muslims have threatened to harm him if he returns to school.

On February 24 Imam Hafiz Muhammad Mateen Anwar of the local Jamia Masjid Swafia mosque re-iterated a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards any non-Muslim whom the Muslim community perceived as being disrespectful:

The slightest bit of disrespect is not accepted and is not going to be tolerated at any point, in any city, in any country by any Muslim and that’s the fact of the matter.

Following that meeting the boy was moved to a secret location for his own safety.

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, subsequently wrote a piece in The Times on March 4, in which she stated

Everyone who lives here has to accept this country’s pluralism and freedom of speech and belief. One person’s freedom to, for example, convert from Islam to Christianity is the same freedom that allows a Muslim to say that Jesus was a prophet but not God Incarnate.

This freedom is absolute. It doesn’t vary case by case. It can’t be disapplied at a local level. And no one living in this country can legitimately claim that this doesn’t apply to them because they belong to a different tradition.

The Charity Commission has opened an inquiry into Jamia Masjid Swafia following a complaint on March 9, which inter alia stated

Given that the charity operates, according to your records, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan – where blasphemy is or has been severely punished, through judicial murder, terrorism or mob violence – the threat inherent in these words could not be more explicit.

Stating that criticism of Islam is “not going to be tolerated at any point” – even if it falls well within the law – is manifestly an expression of an extreme religious ideology.