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CAGE to challenge Education Minister’s guidance to schools on Palestine – CAGE

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London – CAGE has today initiated a legal challenge against the Education Minister Gavin Williamson’s discriminatory guidance to schools leaders on Palestine [1] [2]. The letter issued on the 28th of May 2021, amounted to censorship of political dissent in schools and discriminated against students by infringing their right to freedom of expression. The Minister’s advice also leads schools to violate their legal duty for impartiality. 

The letter by the Education Minister followed hundreds of cases of mainly Muslim students being reprimanded in their schools, including exclusions and referrals to PREVENT, for expressing solidarity with Palestinians. [3]

The Minister’s intervention, although cloaked in concerns around anti-semitism, had the impact of censoring views in schools that challenge the state-sponsored narrative on Israel. The aim was to set a fixed template within which pupils’ discussion on Israel-Palestine should be conducted. This was further accentuated by his suggestion that schools interact with specific named openly pro-Israel organisations to deliver a ‘balanced’ presentation of the issue.

Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE said: 

“Muslims and others across the globe have expressed their solidarity with the people of Al-Aqsa, those facing forced dispossession of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and the besieged Gaza strip. In response the government has sought to censor discussions in classrooms and exert control over any political activity in schools. This is, fundamentally, a matter of freedom of expression.” 

“This case will seek to establish that it is not the function of the executive to choreograph political discussions within schools in the manner of autocratic regimes. This violates the tradition and legal requirement of impartiality that has been the bulwark against state propaganda. We should respect the experience and judgment of school leaders and not politicians seeking to foment “culture wars”.”  

Fahad Ansari, Solicitor and Director of Riverway Law leading on this Judicial Review said:

“The instruction issued by the Secretary of State has had the effect of not only stifling the legitimate political views of Muslim students in schools across the country, but also justifying their securitisation for simply demonstrating solidarity with the victims of Israeli apartheid.”

[END]

[1] Letter before action can be provided to press upon request to: press@cage.ngo

[2] See letter sent by Education Minister Gavin Williamson to schools here: https://twitter.com/GavinWilliamson/status/1398374786871537664  

 [3] See reports by CAGE and Mend highlighting over 200 cases of such heavy handed responses from schools: https://www.cage.ngo/repression-of-palestine-solidarity-in-schools-report and https://www.mend.org.uk/mend-press-release-schools-punishing-students-for-supporting-palestine-including-exclusions-and-calling-police/ and https://twitter.com/mendcommunity/status/1408756945092321283 

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash 

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)

This content was originally published here.

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