Tuesday, March 04, 2003
By way of Andrew Sullivan comes this bizarre story of a British nursery school that banned stories about pigs. (Sullivan quips about Animal Farm, but given the age of the students, I'd say we're more in Three Little Pigs or Charlotte's Web territory).
A West Yorkshire head teacher has banned books containing stories about pigs from the classroom in case they offend Muslim children...

Head Barbara Harris said the books would remain in the school library for children to read...

Mrs Harris said in a statement: "Recently I have been aware of an occasion where young Muslim children in class were read stories about pigs.

"We try to be sensitive to the fact that for Muslims talk of pigs is offensive."
What I want to know is, did parents of Muslim children actually request this, or did Mrs. Harris "show initiative"? This sounds exactly like the kind of thing a halfway-educated well-intentioned "liberal" do-gooder might do, unprompted. (Why the scare quotes around "liberal"? Ponder this: how liberal is it to ban books from a classroom, under any circumstances?) It seems silly to me: are Muslims really offended at the mere mention of pigs? I've known a good number of Muslims, and pigs and pork have come up in conversation, and no one has ever complained. But maybe I missed something?

If someone tries to claim that talking about pigs is offensive to Muslims, could they please explain the constant "pigs and monkeys" references that looney Middle Eastern imams make when talking about Jews? (In mosques!) Do the monkeys negate the offensiveness of the pigs? Or does one get special dispensation for offensive comments about Jews?

Update: Sure enough, the teacher pulled this out of... someplace. James Taranto has a link to the details:

Last night Yorkshire Muslims condemned the move as "nonsense", as their holy book, the Koran, permits followers of Islam to talk or read about pigs as long as they do not eat their meat.
Bradford magistrate Bary Malik, an Ahmadiyya Muslim, said: "Every day Muslims recite passages from the Koran.
"As the Koran mentions pig, Muslims must say that word. All the Koran says you should not do is eat pork, but there is no harm in using the word or reading it.
"This school has gone too far – what will they do next, ban the word cow because Hindus believe the cow is sacred?
"In this world there are many extremists who do not like Jews or Muslims – does that mean that we should ban the words Jews or Muslim out of respect for their views?
"Really it shows a lack of religious understanding. It's nonsense."
Seems pretty clear. Still, Mrs. Harris will not be deterred:
But yesterday Mrs Harris defended the policy saying she was merely trying to ensure respect for pupils' religious sensitivities, although she did concede it might be time to review it.
She said: "Approximately 60 per cent of the children attending are Pakistani or Indian origin and 99 per cent of these are of the Muslim faith. The remaining 40 per cent of children are mostly from the white community with some Bosnian Muslim, some mixed-race and some Sikh children.
"The school considers itself fortunate to have such a wonderful variety of children. Pupils here celebrate their differences and on the whole are sensitive to each others' needs."
Well, there's sensitive, and then there's comically hypersensitive.
"I very much regret that anyone should find this controversial as all we are doing is trying hard and reasonably successfully to ensure all of our children are awarded the respect that all human beings deserve."
She could start awarding respect to the children in her care (and their parents) by not breezily insulting their intelligence.

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