A “COMPLETELY inappropriate” letter warning parents that a meeting was “more serious than death” has been sent out by an Islamic group with links to a free school which has been given the initial go-ahead by the Government.
The document was sent to homes in Halifax by the Sunniyy School which is run by a group with connections to the proposed Northern Lights Primary Free School being planned in the town.
It came to light after parents and staff at state schools gave it to Calderdale Council and MPs to raise concerns about the possible link between the free school group and the Sunniyy School.
Now the town’s MP Linda Riordan is demanding the Government launches an inquiry.
The letter said: “If it was said to us ‘If you do not attend this meeting your child will die’ I am certain we would all make sure that we attend the meeting. What I am about to address (in Islam) is even more serious than death and that is for us and our children to be safe on the Day of Judgement. There have been several incidents recently where children in various settings have been forced to do things against Islam.”
The Northern Lights Educational Trust – the company behind the plan for the free school in Halifax – said the letter was not “issued, endorsed or supported” by them.
The Sunniyy School’s director Akeel Ayub said it took sole responsibility for the letter which it has since apologised for. He said his organisation has no formal connection with the Northern Lights free school and said the letter and meeting were not connected to it.
A link between the two organisations has, however, been confirmed by the Department for Education (DfE) which was sent the letter by Calderdale Council.
A DfE spokesman said: “The leaflet was issued by a supplementary school run by a charity with connections to the proposed Northern Lights Free School.
The leaflet was completely inappropriate. We raised our concerns with the Northern Lights Free School group as soon as we saw it. The supplementary school was right to issue an apology.”
Mrs Riordan, the Labour MP for Halifax, said: “I will be asking a question of the Education Secretary Michael Gove. When did he find out about this letter? What has his department done about it and can he ensure that an enquiry is launched so that we can get to the bottom of this?”
A Calderdale Council spokeswoman said: “The letter was sent to us from parents and some school governors and staff concerned about a possible link between the schools.”
The authority sent it to the DfE as part of the consultation process for the Northern Lights Free School proposal but stressed it had been sent by the Sunniyy School and not Northern Lights Free School.
Mr Ayub said: “After I was made aware of the letter that was issued by a junior member of staff and about some concerns that had been raised about the rhetoric used within it, I acted to reprimand the staff member and put into place measures to ensure that such a matter does not recur.
“The initial letter that caused some concerns was not signed by anyone and was not sanctioned by me, but nevertheless the Sunniyy School takes sole responsibility for it. The letter was not for public distribution, but for the reference of parents connected to the Sunniyy School.”
He added: “The letter nor the meeting was connected to the Northern Lights Free School.”
The second letter from Mr Ayub apologises for “any anxiety caused by a letter that was in parts poorly expressed and indelicate”. The original Sunniyy School letter was dated November 16 last year.
The Northern Lights Educational Trust said the free school has been “operating completely independently since 2011”, and aimed to raise academic standards while encouraging tolerance and promoting values of good British citizenship.
It added: “We would like to reiterate our position with regards to the Sunniyy School letter/meeting in question: This was not issued, endorsed or supported by the Northern Lights Primary School/Trust. All meetings and events the trust has held, supported or endorsed are advertised on our website (www.northernlightsprimary.co.uk/index.php/news) and there has never been any reference made to the meeting in question.”