'Islam is a puppet religion'
By Aéysha Kassiem
Alleged derogatory remarks about Islam during an assembly at a Cape Town school have infuriated Muslim pupils and parents who allege a Christian preacher made statements such as "Jesus is alive, unlike that thing Allah" and "Islam is a puppet religion".
They demanded that speakers be rigorously screened before being invited to address pupils after the preacher was asked to address Groote Schuur High School on Monday.
The education department is investigating.
One of the parents, who declined to be named for fear her child would be victimised, said her daughter had called her after some of the Muslim pupils had staged a walk-out in response to the remarks.
"But the teachers prevented them from leaving. None of the educators at the school or the principal stopped the preacher from addressing the pupils. The kids were very upset.
"When I spoke to the principal, he said he had not heard what was said because the microphone was not working properly and the sound was not right, but the children heard it," she said.
The parent added that after the incident, one of the teachers had told the pupils to simply "get over it".
"But I feel it is wrong that the school did not do something. It left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth."
She said that, according to her daughter, the preacher had later apologised to the pupils.
The parent said the address should have been done in a "general way, rather than trying to convert the children to Christianity".
Education department officials requested a formal, written complaint from her when she complained to them.
Another parent, who also declined to be named, said his son instigated the walk-out.
"For the duration of the speech, the speaker was allowed to continue, although he made remarks that were damaging, hateful and inciting," the parent said. "None of the management at the school saw fit to stop the speaker."
An urgent meeting with the school governing body is to be held on Tuesday night.
Lennie van der Rede, education circuit team manager for Newlands, Claremont and Rondebosch, said the department was "concerned" and would investigate.
"I have been informed by the principal and am awaiting his report. I have also been contacted by parents and I have referred them to the school governing body."
Asked how schools selected speakers, Van der Rede said: "Who a school invites is decided by the school management. In terms of addressing religious matters, they can call (religious speakers) but that person should not be pushing a particular religious line. It should be a generic speech, respecting other religions.
"Schools should approach people of good standing who are role models."
The Muslim Judicial Council would look into the matter, said Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie. "It is a serious matter. In our society, (people) need to be tolerant, especially coming from our background. Schools are made up of different denominations and (we) need to be cautious about people's ideologies."