Glowing verdict on teacher in Charlie Hebdo cartoon storm – by his Muslim next-door neighbour

The teacher at the centre of the Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy was yesterday praised by his Muslim next-door neighbour for always showing ‘great respect’ towards Islam.

Described as a rugby-loving, ‘burly Yorkshire lad’, the religious education teacher received death threats after showing images of the prophet – which first appeared in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – to Year 9 pupils at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire. He is now in hiding with his wife and young children.

But married father-of-three Jamal Al-Terk, who has lived next door to the teacher for eight years, said: ‘He is not Islamophobic at all. This has to be a misunderstanding. I doubt he has shown these pictures deliberately to offend.

Scores of parents protested outside Batley Grammar School last week

Scores of parents protested outside Batley Grammar School last week

Scores of parents protested outside Batley Grammar School last week

‘He and his family, they knock on our door and give us Eid cards when it’s Eid. His children have also drawn pictures of a beautiful mosque with lights around it and given them to my kids.

‘They also gave us halal sweets for Eid, and we have exchanged food during Ramadan. His children play with my children.’

The airport worker, who moved to Britain with his family to escape the civil war in Syria, added: ‘You can ask any Muslims in the local community, he is a really nice person. He would never offend Muslims deliberately. This is why I think it’s a misunderstanding.

‘I hope things calm down and people realise he is a nice person.’

Mr Al-Terk, 42, said the teacher and his family fled their home three days ago and he has not been able to contact him.

The furore erupted when scores of angry Muslim parents protested outside the school last week and called for the teacher to be sacked.

Angry Muslim parents have called for the teacher to be sacked

Angry Muslim parents have called for the teacher to be sacked

Angry Muslim parents have called for the teacher to be sacked

It was later announced that he had been suspended and headteacher Gary Kibble issued an ‘unequivocal’ apology, adding: ‘It is important for children to learn about faiths and beliefs, but this must be done in a respectful, sensitive way.’

The demonstrations triggered a national outcry, with Ministers and celebrities among those condemning the protesters. A petition demanding that the teacher is allowed to stay in his job has been signed by more than 48,000 people. But the threats to the teacher’s life continued throughout the week, particularly after his name was leaked on social media.

Hours after Mr Al-Terk spoke to The Mail on Sunday, neighbours spotted three Asian youths going to the teacher’s house and knocking on the door several times. They peered through his window and left after about ten minutes.

A local pensioner, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: ‘It was dark, but the area is well lit with street lighting and I had a clear view from my window.

‘One was on a bike and two were walking. One was wearing a hoodie. I watched them until they left. They knocked on the door a few times and they also tried the handle a couple of times.’

The teacher has suspended and headteacher Gary Kibble issued an ¿unequivocal¿ apology

The teacher has suspended and headteacher Gary Kibble issued an ¿unequivocal¿ apology

The teacher has suspended and headteacher Gary Kibble issued an ‘unequivocal’ apology 

There were frequent police patrols in the area yesterday.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the teacher ‘defended his right to freedom of speech’ during a heated conversation with the father of a Muslim pupil. He phoned back after the angry parent left a message for him at the school.

Last October, a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded outside his school near Paris after showing the same images to his pupils.

In January 2015, Islamic terrorists killed 12 people and injured 11 at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris after the magazine published the cartoons.

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