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Muslim teacher wins unfair dismissal case over 9/11 video

24th Nov 2017

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim woman who was fired from a teaching job for protesting about 11-year-olds being shown graphic footage of September 9, 2001, terror attacks, has won an unfair dismissal case against her former school on October 31.

Suriyah Bi, 25, who is studying for a PhD in human geography at UCL, represented herself at the tribunal after failing to qualify for legal aid.

Suriyah Bi was dismissed as a teaching assistant from the Heartlands Academy in Birmingham two years ago after raising concerns about a Year 7 class with special needs being played a video that showed people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York on September 9, 2001.

Suriyah Bi, who has degrees from Oxford University and SOAS, claims that the teacher taking the lesson had to log into her personal YouTube account to override a warning that the video was unsuitable for children and under-18s.

She said that when a warning message appeared on the screen, children asked if they should be watching it, but were told to be quiet by the teacher. Suriyah Bi raised the issue the following day, on September 23, 2015, and was dismissed just over an hour later, less than a fortnight after she started the job.

A safeguarding checklist written three days after her dismissal, mentions that Suriyah Bi was the head girl at Saltley School, which was implicated in the Trojan Horse affair [which has been shown to be a hoax] five years after she left, and that she had completed a dissertation looking at the effect of the scandal on pupils. It said she raised concerns about the footage of 9/11 video because it offended her as a Muslim.

The note obtained by The Guardian read: “We suspect that this girl has done it before, she was the head girl of one of the Trojan Horse schools.” The Trojan Horse scandal occurred in 2013 when an anonymous letter sent to Birmingham city council claimed that “Islamic extremists” had planned to take over state-run schools. The letter was later discredited as a fake.

Suiyah Bi said, “Damage caused by the Trojan Horse affair to students who went to those schools, other students in the area, and the Muslim community of Birmingham, will be felt for generations to come.”

She adds, “Considering that it was chucked out of the courts and proven to be a hoax, it has affected thousands and thousands of lives. Just because I went to a Trojan Horse affair school, which [was involved in the scandal] five years after I left … I was implicated as being an extremist.”

The school offered Suriyah Bi £11,000 in compensation for loss of earnings a year after she was first dismissed. But she rejected the offer and instead took the case to an employment tribunal.

In March, Suriyah Bi was successful in a claim of unfair dismissal due to whistleblowing, though the judge rejected a claim that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her religion.

In the latest hearing last month, a judge ruled that Suriyah Bi had also been victimised under the 2010 Equality Act.

Suriyah Bi has applied to have her discrimination claim reconsidered, insisting that she would not have been fired if she hadn’t been a Muslim, but said she is open to reaching a settlement with the school. A remedy hearing is expected to take place next year.

In a statement, a spokesman for E-ACT, the multi-academy trust which runs Heartlands Academy, said: “Although we are disappointed by the judgment, we respect the tribunal’s decision and we continue to further strengthen our processes to ensure that there can be no repeat of the errors highlighted to us during this case.”

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