The Muslim ‘takeover’ of Birmingham schools investigation moves to Bradford
An anonymous leaked document last month claimed an alleged plot to oust twelve Birmingham head teachers to make their schools more suitable to accommodate Islamic principles.
The investigation into ‘hard-line Islamist takeover’ of schools has widened to Bradford, with a total of some 25 schools now under the spotlight.
At the centre of the controversy was Tahir Alam, the chair of Governors for Park View High School, blamed for instigating ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ which claimed that Muslim extremists would takeover certain organisations.
The document, whose author is unknown and whose claims are unattested, allegedly argued that schools were “corrupting children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their (Muslim) children say Christian prayers and mixed swimming and sports."
The story hit headlines in national newspapers leading Birmingham Council and even Education Secretary Michael Gove to call for further inquiry and investigations into the allegations.
Birmingham City Council said it had received more than 200 reports in relation to its inquiry. The reports to the council include emails and calls from staff, parents and governors.
Tahir Alam was shocked to hear about the claims and believes that he has been the victim of a malicious attack.
“The document is the basis of the many sensationalised and Islamophobic articles in the media which seek to defame and vilify respectable individuals and institutions. Any reference to me is a malicious fabrication and completely untrue," said Tahir Alam.
Park View High School was one of twelve schools to be investigated, all of whom pre-dominantly have a high percentage of Muslim student intake.
The school gained ‘outstanding’ in its Ofsted review last year for its high standards and huge turn around in achievements over the years. In 2013 75% of pupils gained 5 A*-C grades at GCSE including English and Maths.
Tahir Alam questioned then why someone would advocate a ‘takeover’ when the school is doing perfectly well?
“This is an absurd idea. These schools are graded as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. It is preposterous to suggest that Park View is somehow seeking to ‘take over these schools via the Academies programme"
The allegations were further fuelled by a former teacher, who was dismissed in 2003 from Park View School,
Michael White said its board of governors was ‘taken over by a Muslim sect’ in 1993 and that he was ‘forced out’ after he challenged governors' attempts to ban sex education and stop the teaching of non-Islamic faiths in religious education classes.
Dave Hughes, a Park View Trustee and Governor at Park View School for over 15 years, challenged these allegations.
“Unfortunately some of those former staff members who are now sharing fictitious allegations with the media are the very same staff whose performance and expectations of pupils proved that they weren’t along for the journey”.
Over 48% of Birmingham School students come from Ethnic minority backgrounds, 38% of which are Muslim by faith. Despite a large majority only 10% of the 100 schools run in Birmingham have head teachers who are Muslim.
Tahir Alam has been surprised by the heavy handedness shown in the inspections carried out in schools, citing it as unprecedented on how such action can be taken on the grounds of an un-verified report.
“I have worked voluntarily as a school governor since 1997 for nothing other than the improvement of children’s education"
Trustee and Governor Dave Hughes of Park View School said: “When I started as a governor there was no Halal food served, no arrangements for student prayer, for those who wanted it and girls who wanted to wear headscarves were not allowed to. All these things are now in place.
“In all my time as a Governor we have not received a single complaint about ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalism’. If we had we would have investigated it openly and thoroughly.”
The leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore said the city council had spoken to local authorities in both Manchester and Bradford.
"There are certainly issues in Bradford which have similarities with the issues being spoken about in Birmingham," he said.
Sir Albert claimed he was frustrated with the two-tier schools system in which academies operate outside the local authority's control and report directly to the DfE.
"We do not have the relationship with academies as we do with the community schools," he said.
Amjad Pervez, CEO of Seafresh
“I agree to an extent that schools and religious organisations need to be regulated in some manner, however, to single out the Muslim communities is not acceptable.
“In my view, elections are coming up and this would make for good fodder for parties to rally in certain types of votes and for mainstream media and their sensational headlines.
“The truth is that some religious classes and centres are unorganised and they make for an easy target when scruitinised. People are only too willing to jump onto a bandwagon so as to be seen supporting a majority (not necessarily correct) vote.”
Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation
“The allegations of alleged extremist takeover of schools in Birmingham are very serious however there is a wider concern that this is a witch-hunt against the Muslim community.
“The headlines and media coverage has been negative and based on assumptions and in some cases lies whilst the inquiries by the City Council and the DFE have not even completed their work.
“I am very clear that if these allegations are proven then all stakeholders will need to work together to ensure that it does not happen again but equally this could be a hoax dreamt up without any evidence.
“It is important that Muslim parents and the wider community who take an interest in schools and education where they represent their children's interests are not seen as extremist when ensuring their religious needs are being met; this is something that should be encouraged and celebrated. Sadly the events of the past few months will lead to parents being reluctant of coming forward to support schools and it is the children and schools that will suffer.
“One thing is clear for British Muslims that there is an anti-Muslim atmosphere in many areas including in the media, whether it is the Hijab, Nikaab, Halal meat or anti-terror laws Muslims are being labelled unfairly and without any basis. We would like the inquiries to report back before forming opinion of what has happened and what we should do going forward.
“Birmingham has a rich and diverse population who will look at the allegations and demonisation of their fellow citizens as an insult and this may have lasting damage on the education standards of all children. I urge everyone to remain calm, allow both the City Council and DFE inquiries to complete their investigation before jumping to conclusions.”