Muslim councillor Majid Mahmood has teamed up with a pro-equality campaign group in an effort to end the 'megaphone diplomacy' taking place outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham’s Balsall Heath district.
Demonstrations have been taking place outside the school gates for weeks, with parents and protesters unhappy about the school’s teaching of lessons about same-sex relationships.
Birmingham City Council last week took out an injunction to stop demonstrations from taking place outside the school. The injunction ends on Monday 10 June, when the parents will be able to put forward their views at a court hearing. Angry protesters are calling on parents to keep their children away from school on that day.
A protest outside the injunction exclusion zone was rained off this afternoon.
Birmingham Live reports that Councillor Mahmood (Labour, Bromford & Hodge Hill ward) said of the demonstrations: "There is no place for this in Birmingham. We are better than this."
He continued: "i would say to parents at Anderton Park to look at Parkfield, where parents disassociated themselves from individuals and campaign groups and entered into direct dialogue with the school and Department for Education.”
“I am aware many Muslims share my concerns about how this is going and the potential impact and divisions in our community but may be fearful of speaking up. We should not fear speaking our minds.”
Councillor Mahmood has also joined with Muslim LGBT campaigners Khakan Qureshi and Saima Razzaq in signing an open letter in the name of campaign group SEEDS (Supporting Education of Equality and Diversity in Schools).
The letter calls on Birmingham City Council and parents of children at Anderton Park School to take further steps to engage in a dialogue about the issues: “We urge parents to continue one-to-one meetings with their school and call upon Birmingham City Council to provide additional resources both to the school and the community to promote community cohesion.”
Commenting on the situation, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who is himself gay, told the BBC: “If you look at the literature and the banners, the first reaction is disbelief actually... [that] it could be said in this day and age.
“You look at what's being said and it's really upsetting, but it is actually ultimately homophobic and it is illegal and it has to stop now.”
He continued: “One of the issues here has of course been that a lot of the demonstrators are not parents in that school.
“Of course I respect the right of parents to be deeply, deeply concerned about what happens in their children's school, but this protest has been somewhat moved away from that.
“I honestly believe if the school and the parents could sit down and look at what genuinely is happening - as has been the case for many years before now remember - this is not new material, this is not a new situation - I genuinely believe accommodation can be found.”
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