The rugby-playing teacher was taken into hiding after an Islamic charity named him online. The Purpose of Life group, which has received tens of thousands of pounds in public handouts, demanded that Batley Grammar School sack him. Its founder Mohammad Hussain wrote of the cartoon’s use in an RE lesson: “This to me is terrorism to Islam and Muslims around the world.” He claimed he wanted only “peaceful protest” but added: “His resignation should be forthcoming immediately. He has insulted two billion Muslims. We cannot stand for that.”
West Yorkshire Police took the teacher, in his 20s, and his girlfriend from their home as a mob visited the school on Thursday.
Gary Kibble, the head teacher, apologised and said that the man had been suspended.
Fifty protesters yesterday found the school closed with its 980 students being taught online.
The pupils’ petition was being signed once a second at times.
Supporters called the teacher a “good man” who is “respectful of all religions” and some urged the school not to let him be “bullied out by radicals”.
One said: “He is really popular among the children and it would be a tragedy if he lost his job.”
A Muslim parent who signed the petition, identified as Mohammed J, wrote: “He has taught my daughter and she speaks very highly of him. I am confident the teacher did not mean any offence.”
One backer said: “He is loved by many students, Muslim and non-Muslim. Batley Grammar stand up for one of your own.” Protesters yesterday travelled from Dewsbury, Bradford and Leeds after being encouraged by social media messages.
Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, condemned the protests and said schools must be free to show “challenging or controversial” materials.
Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary, said it was “very disturbing” that the teacher had been forced into hiding, adding: “We shouldn’t have teachers feeling intimidated”.
Baroness Warsi, ex-chairwoman of the Tory party, said she had spoken to pupils and parents and said: “It’s obvious that many pupils were left distressed because of what happened.”
The Department for Education said that the protest, which broke coronavirus restrictions, was “completely unacceptable.”
Last October teacher Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by an Islamist terrorist after a pupil lied that he had shown the same cartoon to a class in a Paris suburb.