“Teachers ‘denied schoolboy, 10, water on the hottest day of the year to avoid upsetting Muslim pupils during Ramadan'” – that’s the headline to a report in yesterday’s Daily Mail. The story, which is of course just the latest episode in the “Islamisation of the West” narrative promoted by the right-wing press, was also taken up by the Daily Express (“Teachers deny water to schoolboy, 10, on the hottest day of the year”).
Coverage was not restricted to right-wing newspapers. The story appeared in the Daily Mirror (“Mum claims son was REFUSED water at school in heatwave as it was ‘unfair’ on fasting Muslim classmates”) and also featured in the National Secular Society‘s daily media round-up (“Schoolboy forced to observe Ramadan fast – even though he isn’t a Muslim”).
It provoked the usual frothing at the mouth from the likes of Pamela Geller (“This speaks to the supremacism of Islam”) and Robert Spencer (“Easy to see which group is in charge in Britain”), along with the British National Party (“What kind of loony left teacher can actually think it is right to deny a child a drink of water on one of the hottest days of the year. She can only face the sack”).
The story was fed to the Mail by one Kora Blagden, the mother of two non-Muslim pupils at Charles Dickens primary school in Portsmouth. According to her account:
“Luke said to me he was told he wasn’t allowed to drink in class by his teacher. The reason being, a child who is fasting had a headache and the teacher said it would be unfair if the other children drank in front of the pupil. They normally have their bottles on their table but they were kept in a tray by the teacher. He went along with it but he was thirsty and didn’t want to offend the other children. Alfie said he was allowed to drink in the morning but not in the afternoon.”
As a result, the “furious” mother claimed, one of her children was “dehydrated when he got home and drunk three glasses of water straight away”. The Mail quotes her as saying: “I don’t wish my sons to be told they can’t drink water.”
Even if the details of the story are accurate – and the sole source is the uncorroborated statements of two children, aged eight and ten, as relayed second-hand by their mother – all we’re talking about here is pupils not being allowed to have bottled water on their desks. Unless Michael Gove’s policies are having an even more disastrous impact than we realised, schools these days are still fully equipped with running water, and nobody could seriously believe that non-Muslim students at Charles Dickens school were denied access to that.
Both the Express and the Mirror quote a statement by Charles Dickens head teacher Craig Duncan (though it makes a nonsense of their own headlines): “We do everything that we can to ensure the welfare of all of our children and we would never prevent them from having access to water. In this case, water was available and pupils were just reminded to be respectful to their classmates who were unable to drink in this hot weather.”
Which puts a rather different slant on things doesn’t it?