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Students investigated by police and Prevent after Qur’an is desecrated at Fulwood Academy

16th Jul 2021

Nadine Osman

Two high school students are being investigated by police and were referred to the Government’s counter-extremism programme Prevent after the Qur’an was desecrated at a high school in Preston, Lancashire, on June 10.

Fulwood Academy says copies of the Qur’an were ‘ripped up’ twice in separate incidents at the school when two pupils from different year groups abused the holy book in front of other children.

Fulwood Academy say both pupils have since been suspended and the offensive acts have been reported to police and Prevent (part of the Government’s counter-terrorism programme).

Lancashire Police attended the school on June 11 and two students were taken to Preston Police Station the following day where they were interviewed by officers.

The force has confirmed it is investigating the provocative acts as potential hate crimes, and the matter is being treated as a ‘critical incident’.

Both the school and the police have not detailed how the religious text was ‘desecrated’, but the acts have been described as ‘abhorrent and ‘appalling’.

In a statement to The Muslim News, a spokesman for Lancashire police said, “We are aware of the impact this incident has had within the community, and for that reason we are treating it as a Critical Incident.

Our enquiries are very much ongoing, and we are working closely with the school to address these matters.

“Everyone in our country should be allowed to live their lives free from harassment and the fear of hate crime. Hate crime causes great distress to its victims, and we are committed to investigating all crimes and incidents motivated by hate, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.”

The high school in Black Bull Lane has condemned the actions of the two pupils as “abhorrent” and “appalling”. It is reported that the Qur’an was ripped by a boy who had been making offensive comments about Islam in front of his classmates.

In a letter to parents on June 13, Fulwood Academy said it has acted quickly in identifying those involved, and the matter is now in the hands of police. Principal Dave Lancaster said the school intends to “heal the hurt” that has been caused and said it is reaching out to local imams for their support.

The school said it was also seeking to understand what led to these “abhorrent” acts, which it says it has “never seen in our school before”.
“We immediately notified the Police and Prevent, and we have been working closely with them over the last few days.

They have started their own processes of looking into these appalling incidents. While we do not know what the outcome of that process will be, as we understand it, charging decisions for issues like this lie with the Crown Prosecution Service rather than the Police. This means it is likely to take longer to conclude.”

He added, “We can also confirm that both students have been suspended while these investigations are underway. Sanctions from the school will be reviewed and determined once the police have concluded their work.

“In addition, immediately after the acts, we spoke to the students who witnessed these actions, and also their families, to explain what had happened and offer our support.”

Twenty mosques, Islamic organisations and Muslim leaders in Preston have described the “sadness and fear” felt by the community following the incident.

In an open letter signed by Preston’s biggest mosques, said that such acts “can quickly turn into violence and hatred against Muslims.”

They also offered support to Preston’s schools, saying they are eager to work with teachers “to help create dialogue and educate pupils” about Islam and tackle any misconceptions that might lead to further anti-Muslim acts.

“Naturally, the desecration of the Qur’an results in sadness and fear amongst the Muslim community. We understand that this type of Islamophobia and hate which has led to desecration of the Qur’an can quickly turn into violence and hatred against Muslims.

“We hope that the students who tore up the Qur’an can come to understand why this type of action is wrong.

“We support the current action taken by the school and welcome the open and honest way the principal has dealt with these incidents. We would like to better understand what leads to young minds to be filled with anti-Muslim rhetoric and what can be done to challenge this in the future.

“We would like to offer our practical support to help create dialogue and educate pupils at schools across Preston to help spread the message that Islam is and has always been a religion of peace.

We are proud of the interfaith relationships we have developed and continue to maintain in Preston, and we look forward to continuing to work with people of all faiths and none, to have common respect and understanding for each other.

“We will continue to pray for the well-being of all the staff and students who attend the school, and all the people of Preston.”

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