Some teachers in the UK are too scared to discuss 9/11 with their pupils as they fear a backlash from Muslim parents, a leading expert in counter-extremism education has warned.
Kamal Hanif OBE, who was appointed by the Government to turn around three schools at the heart of the “Trojan Horse” scandal, said that some teachers have a “misplaced” concern that they will cause offence if they raise 9/11 in the classroom.
He said that some teachers - particularly those who work in schools with a high proportion of Muslim students - see it as a contentious topic and shy away from teaching it.
“Teachers sometimes have a fear that this might be controversial,” he said.
“[They think] if we teach about this we might get Muslim parents objecting.”
Mr Hanif, who is executive principal of Waverley Education Foundation and has advised the Department for Education (DfE) on combating counter-extremism in schools, said that such views are misguided.
“There is a fear [among teachers] but it is not really grounded in anything,” he said.
“It is based on their stereotypical view of a community as opposed to the reality. It is very misplaced. It is an assumption.”
His comments come ahead of the 16th anniversary of 9/11, which saw 2,997 killed when Al-Qaeda launched a series of coordinated terrorist attacks after hijacking planes and crashing them into the World Trade Centre complex and the Pentagon.
Mr Hanif is a trustee for the educational charity Since 9/11, which provides free teaching resources about the attacks and their aftermath.
The resources, which are endorsed by the Department for Education and the Home Office, are aimed at secondary school children, but the charity is now developing a new set of materials for primary schools.
Sir Steve Lancashire, the chief executive of a multi academy trust which which is piloting the materials in its 55 primary schools, said a lot of teachers feel “uncomfortable” about the legacy of 9/11.
"We need to address the nervousness of teachers to teach this kind of subject. Teacher don’t feel well equipped on facts – there are a lot of conspiracy theories, a lot of misinformation," he said.
The superhead said teachers are scared that they will be accused by their students of being Islamophobic if they try to teach about 9/11 and its legacy.
"It’s children saying 'you are attacking Muslims, you are attacking our faith', that kind of thing,” he said.
Lord Nash, the schools minister, said that teaching about 9/11 and its aftermath at school is crucial for efforts to prevent children being groomed by extremists.
He said it is "very important that schools do this "because otherwise children may get frustrated" and look elsewhere for explanations.
“Our job is to ensure that our children are educated in school so that they are less likely to be radicalised outside of school,” Lord Nash said.
"Teachers are pretty experienced at teaching pupils to have critical thinking skills to distinguish truth and there is an awful lot out there that is dangerous."
He said that while some teachers are keen to have an "open discussion" about it, but others "don’t want to go there".
"I can understand why it is not easy but we do need to go there," he said. "A friend of mine’s firm was on one of the top floors [of the World Trade Centre] and and they lost just under half their employees."
Peter Rosengard, the founder and chair of Since 9/11, said: "Whilst anecdotal feedback was that a small number of teachers, especially in large cities, might regard teaching the events causes and consequences of 9/11 as 'controversial', the overwhelming majority of teachers in secondary schools were interested in teaching it to their students."
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and > College Leaders, said he does not believe teachers are “squeamish” about 9/11.
“I think more likely is they will want to be very cautious about doing anything that sensationalizes terrorism,” he said. “My experience is that teachers in ethnically diverse areas take their responsibility more seriously to ensure they teach about these things.”