British Hindu groups are on a drive to ensure a school workbook with an offensive section that makes a reference to terrorism in relation to Hinduism is removed from use across all schools in the country.
Langley School in Solihull issued an apology this week and removed the document, ‘GCSE Religious Studies: Religion Peace and Conflict Workbook’, from circulation after it emerged that it had been purchased several years ago.
“We have taken swift and decisive action to remove the document from our webpage and we can assure you that it is not a teaching resource used in class. It was posted on the website as further reference material some years ago and is not currently in use. It should have been removed previously,” Mrs C. Thorpe, the Headteacher of the school in the West Midlands region of England, said in a statement.
“We have alerted our schools' network to the issue in order for them to check their records… we are devastated that this oversight in our administration has occurred,” she said.
The workbook, which falls under the Religious Studies module for GCSE Year 10-11 stage pupils, had a stamp that reflected an official clearance by AQA – the examinations’ authority for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
An AQA spokesperson said: “We didn’t produce the workbook that’s been shared on social media and our logo was used on it without our permission.
“Some of the material in it seems to have come from a textbook – we’ve spoken to the publisher, which has withdrawn the book from sale while it addresses the issue.”
Langley School said it remains in close contact with AQA and are working with them to ensure that the content of the document, which featured in an AQA textbook which is not in use at the school, is removed widely.
“AQA are working on this at a national level,” added Mrs Thorpe.
Angry parents and groups took to social media and highlighted segments of the text, which made dubious references to the ‘Mahabharata’ and war being justified in order to “preserve dharma”.
The segment which caused widespread anger read: "If the cause is just, Hindus will take up arms. Self-defence is justifiable; hence India has nuclear weapons to protect from aggressors. Some Hindus have turned to terrorism to protect Hindu beliefs."
Hindu Council UK (HCUK) said it had received a complaint from a father, who sent screenshots from a book his son was using in Cumbria in north-west England, and has since led a campaign by writing to schools, governors and the Department of Education as well as highlighting the issue via social media.
Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary and Director of HCUK, said the group’s Education Director, Krishna Bhan, has taken up the “serious matter” and also sought to highlight that , one of the oldest religions in the world and third-largest religion in the world as well as in England, is a religion of peace and its principles promote harmony and love among human beings.
“AQA has informed us that they have spoken to the publisher, which has withdrawn the book from sale while the issue is being addressed. However, sadly this textbook is currently being used by many schools in England and the image of Hinduism portrayed in this textbook will create a false narrative of Hinduism in young minds,” he said.
Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), another umbrella organisation, issued a letter to AQA and called for immediate action.
“The statement regarding Hinduism in the section on ‘Religious beliefs, teachings, and attitudes about the meaning and significance of justice’ on page 4 is completely misrepresented, vexatious, inaccurate and meant to teach wrong beliefs about Hindus to impressionable children,” reads the letter by HFB Chair of Religious Education Dr Ramesh Pattni, addressed to the AQA Board.
“We suspect that there may be a political agenda behind how Hindu beliefs and practices have been portrayed in your workbook, especially in relation to another religion,” the letter added.
The organisations say they are determined to keep up the campaign until the issue is fully addressed. They received the backing of Conservative Party MP , who has also called on AQA to look into how many schools may still possess or use copies of the books.
“Stopping their sale stops further damage but all the copies need to be withdrawn and pulped,” said the MP for Harrow East in London.