Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 15:52 UK

Anti-gay bullying books withdrawn

A council has withdrawn books for an anti-homophobia programme at two primary schools following an outcry from predominantly Muslim parents.

Bristol City Council said it temporarily removed books and teaching materials at Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School.

This was so they can "meet their legal responsibilities and operate safely".

Members of Bristol Muslim Cultural Society said parents were outraged by the lack of consultation.

The materials are mostly storybooks aimed at five to 10-year-olds.

Farooq Siddique, community development officer for Bristol Muslim Cultural Society and a governor at Bannerman Road, said many schoolchildren, 70% of whom are Muslim, were too young to define heterosexuality and homosexuality.

'Not a priority'

He said: "The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying, and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us 'Our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven't even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet.'

"In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable, as they are not in Christianity and many other religions, but the main issue is that they didn't bother to consult with parents. There was no option to withdraw the child."

He added: "Homosexuality is not a priority to parents, but academic achievement is. This just makes parents think 'What the heck is my child being taught at school?'."

A spokeswoman for the council said: "All Bristol schools have a legal duty to report and deal with homophobic harassment as part of the curriculum since April 2007.

"As part of this, schools can choose to seek specialist advice and training on topics such as homophobia.

"We are now liaising with community forums in the city, local clerics, teachers' unions, the Institute of Community Cohesion and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that the topic can be addressed in an inclusive manner in the curriculum."

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