14-year-old autistic boy's naive prank and a scuffed copy of the Koran

A 14-year-old autistic boy’s naive prank. A scuffed copy of the Koran. His mother’s pitiful public apology. And a story that speaks volumes about modern policing

  • Read more: Boy who ‘dropped copy of the Koran receives ‘death threats’

Last week, a 14-year-old British boy was forced to flee his home and go into hiding, fearing for his life. Not because he swindled a county lines drugs crook, say, or was the sole witness of a heinous murder. Nothing so dramatic. Rather, his is a story of our times – the latest example, some would argue, of what happens when zealotry trumps common sense.

It all started when, as a forfeit for losing a video game, the boy was asked by his friends to buy a copy of the Koran and bring it to school, Kettlethorpe High in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. To what end, remains unclear. There was no malicious intent involved, but even for an impulsive adolescent it was obviously foolhardy, particularly given that the holy book, once inside school, became accidentally damaged, though only ‘slightly’ and not by the boy’s hands.

In his defence, he is autistic and, says his mother, ‘doesn’t always realise what is appropriate and what is not appropriate’.

Nobody, certainly not the boy, could have foreseen what would happen next. He was suspended along with three other pupils; police began investigating and recorded a ‘hate’ incident; a Labour councillor stoked tensions by falsely claiming on social media that the book was desecrated; and his mother found herself pleading for forgiveness at the local mosque after his life was threatened.

The matter reached the desk of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who yesterday declared herself ‘deeply concerned’ by the case and the way it has been handled. ‘The education sector and police have a duty to prioritise the physical safety of children over the hurt feelings of adults,’ she said.

Last week, a 14-year-old British boy was forced to flee his home and go into hiding, fearing for his life/ Pictured is his mother speaking about the incident

The police began investigating and recorded a ‘hate’ incident. Pictured: Chief Inspector Thornton

The Mail on Sunday has learned that at the height of the intimidation the family received an arson threat to their home and the boy –described as ‘absolutely petrified’ – was forced to move to a secret location. After initially contacting West Yorkshire Constabulary, his mother later urged officers not to prosecute to avoid further inflaming the situation. Instead the police said they would ‘work with the school moving forward’.

One parent, herself a teacher, said it ‘feels like a medieval witch-hunt’. The charity Humanists UK called the situation ‘horrendous’ and claimed the school ‘acted in rash haste’, adding that it should not have allowed itself ‘to be pressured – whether directly or indirectly – into excessive disciplinary action in deference to religious groups’.

Yasmine Mohammed, the author of Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam, said: ‘This is more than what would happen in Pakistan or Iran. This is an insane level of capitulation to irrational bullies.’

The school stands at the bottom of a hill in a quiet residential area, less than ten miles from Batley Grammar School where parents protested in 2021 after a teacher, later suspended, showed pupils an image of the prophet Mohammed.

In Batley, Muslims make up more than 33 per cent of the population. In Wakefield, a cathedral city famous for its coal-mining heritage, they account for only three per cent. Religious tensions that occasionally surface in Batley and elsewhere in West Yorkshire are far less noticeable here.

Ten days ago the 14-year-old bought a copy of the Bible and was teased after mentioning his purchase to his friends. They were playing the Call Of Duty video game and when the boy lost, it was agreed he should buy a copy of the Koran and bring it to school as a dare.

He bought it on Amazon and handed it over to one of his friends the next day. There his involvement ended. His friends, though, began reading aloud from the book in the playground. Later it was knocked out of somebody’s hands and fell to the ground where it sustained slight damage.

When the incident came to light, the school examined CCTV footage and conducted more than 30 one-on-one interviews before deciding to suspend the 14-year-old and three others for a week. Yet the head teacher, Tudor Griffiths, said there was ‘no ill intent’ on the part of the pupils. By all accounts it was just an extremely silly prank.

Even so, within hours rumours had spread with lightning speed on social media that the book was variously spat on, torn apart, burned. None of this was true as everyone, including the local imam, who has urged calm, now accepts.

But at the time when cool reason and hard evidence were in short supply, a local Labour councillor, Usman Ali, intervened and wrongly claimed on Twitter that the Koran was ‘desecrated’, saying this ‘serious provocative action’ needed to be dealt with urgently by the police, the school and the local authority.

Ending his now-deleted tweet, he demanded people ‘work together to make sure that this terrible provocation does not set back community relations for years to come’.

The next day the pupils were suspended and, for reasons that are still unclear, the school decided to call the police, an action met with widespread disbelief from parents.

The copy of the Koran dropped by the boy, showing a page that has been smudged slightly

A slight tear can also be seen on the cover of the book after it was taken into the school

READ MORE HERE: Boy who ‘accidentally dropped a copy of the Koran at Wakefield school’ receives ‘death threats’: Teenager is left ‘absolutely petrified’ by messages, says mother 


Later that week the imam of Wakefield’s Jamia Masjid Swafia mosque, Hafiz Muhammad Mateen Anwar – along with a mediator, independent councillor Akef Akbar – attended a meeting at the school. They were invited to inspect the Koran to see that it had not been desecrated. Also at the meeting was Chief Inspector Andy Thornton. To his credit, the imam appealed for calm, urging Muslims, for instance, not to protest outside the school.

Another meeting was arranged, at the mosque on a Friday, when the boy’s mother – sitting before an all-male crowd – pleaded for forgiveness. Mr Griffiths, the school’s head, also told the audience – repeatedly – of his sorrow. ‘Rest assured this is a very serious matter… if more consequences have to follow that will be the case,’ he added. Chief Inspector Thornton, meanwhile, criticised the boys for the ‘lack of understanding’ of their actions before turning to the imam and saying: ‘Really, really deep-hearted thanks from me in regards to the tolerance and understanding shown.’

No one mentioned the death threats, however. Thornton said: ‘There is an element of awareness and education that needs to be embedded within the school and the wider community of Wakefield.’

He continued: ‘We recorded a hate incident. That means we will look to support the school at this moment in time. It is recorded on our system.’

It was left, then, to the mother, sitting with her hands grasped together, to talk about the threats.

She did so almost by way of an apology. In fact what followed – filmed and put on social media – turned into an exercise in public humiliation resembling something from Maoist China.

The mother began by saying: ‘Thank you so much for letting me come here today to speak to you. I know that what my son has done is disrespectful. He didn’t have any malicious intent but he is a very, very silly 14-year-old boy…

‘He hasn’t eaten since Wednesday afternoon when this occurred because with his autism… it put his anxiety to a level where he is beside himself. He is very, very sorry.’

She went on: ‘We have had to call the police. He has received death threats, he has received threats that he will be beaten up if he goes back to school. He is absolutely petrified. But I don’t want anyone to be prosecuted because of the stupidity of my son and his friends so it was more about making sure he is safe.’

However, the boy himself and the other three suspended pupils, face a potential black mark against them for life. The Free Speech Union said that unless deleted by police, the records of all four pupils could show up on criminal history checks later in their lives.

It also questioned why West Yorkshire police had recorded the episode as a ‘non-crime hate incident’. It said the move contradicted national guidance because it appeared to be a trivial matter.

It all started when, as a forfeit for losing a video game, the boy was asked by his friends to buy a copy of the Koran and bring it to school, Kettlethorpe High in Wakefield, West Yorkshire (pictured)

Councillor Akbar, who visited the boy at his home, told the meeting: ‘His mother faces a huge predicament… and there’s a huge uproar amongst the Muslim community. When I attended her child he said how sorry he was and sent a message to all the [Muslim] students he knows apologising.

‘He wrote a letter to the school explaining his actions and he has in my opinion gone above and beyond. He has carried out research on the internet on the Koran and now has a decent level of knowledge of our holy book. To the mother’s credit, she understands the situation and has advised the police and she doesn’t want any of these children prosecuted. She only asks that her son is not harmed.’

None of the many parents The Mail on Sunday spoke to last week believed the police or the school acted fairly, and there were reports that some had kept their children at home in protest.

The school declined to answer questions from the MoS about the case, which the Home Secretary is determined should never be repeated.

‘Schools answer to pupils and parents,’ she said. ‘They do not have to answer to self-appointed community activists.’

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