Justin Welby defends free speech in Prophet Muhammad school row

Justin Welby said people needed to be open to hearing things they dislike.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has waded into a row over a teacher's suspension after he allegedly showed his class a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The claims sparked protests by parents for several days outside Batley Grammar School, in West Yorkshire.

The father of the teacher, who has not been named, told the Daily Mail his son fears he and his family "are going to be killed". 

He has been suspended pending a full investigation after Batley head teacher Gary Kibble apologised over the "inappropriate" image, but over 67,000 people have signed a petition calling for the teacher to be allowed to return to work. 

Commenting on the row, the Archbishop of Canterbury defended the right to free speech. 

He told Italian newspaper La Repubblica: "In some parts of the world, you have to be very careful what you say because people feel very, very strongly. But in this country, I think, we have to hold on to freedom of speech."

He continued: "We have very good relationships with Muslim leaders across the country. Many of them are very upset by the cartoons that were shown but also many of them have said make it clear that you disagree strongly, but no violence, no threats.

"In other words, exercise your freedom of speech, but don't prevent other people exercising their freedom of speech.

He added: "I think we have to be open to hearing things we really dislike."

The Archbishop also spoke of the threat of cancel culture.

"We can't erase the past, it's impossible," he said. "We have to learn from it sometimes, often always. We have to repent of it quite often."