School witch-hunt fuels UK Islamophobia
An official British probe this week into alleged “Islamic extremism” in schools is replete with rumor, hearsay and sensationalist accusations.
But, as it turns out, the government report is based on scant factual evidence.
What this amounts to is a “witch-hunt” against British Muslims fuelled at the highest level of government.
This exercise in fear mongering not only denigrates Muslim communities; it recklessly adds to an already hostile climate of Islamophobia in British society, where ordinary citizens are being targeting by racism and hate crimes.
This week the British government’s regulatory body, Ofsted, released a report into more than 20 schools in the midlands city of Birmingham, where it has been alleged that there is a secret plot to infiltrate the education system with “Islamic extremism.”
Six of the schools investigated have been accused of promoting “intimidation” and “intolerance” of non-Muslims. The British government has now placed the schools on a watch-list, which will involve future no-warning snap inspections.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed “a robust response to protect children” with “an extremism taskforce” that will from now on promote “British values” in schools.
The Birmingham establishments in question may now see their governors and staff sacked, and replaced by government-vetted personnel.
The local education trust that runs the facilities in Birmingham has flatly rejected the Ofsted report and the “baseless allegations.”
A senior member of Parkview Trust, which governs three of the schools investigated, said the government probe has found no evidence to support its claims. Trust chairman David Hughes said:
“This report has been conducted in a climate of suspicion… Ofsted inspectors came to our schools looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot. The Ofsted reports find absolutely no evidence of this because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools.”
So, what is going on here? The whole affair into alleged extremism in the Birmingham schools, both secondary and primary, began some four years ago when an anonymous teacher supposedly wrote a letter to the British government claiming that there was a “Trojan Horse” plot operating in schools in majority Muslim communities across Birmingham.
That plot was said to involve the takeover of teaching staff at the schools and the infiltration of students with extremist ideology.
The letter has since been widely seen as a hoax. Even right-wing British newspapers, such as The Daily Mail, have acknowledged that the document and its accusations therein are fabrications.
Nevertheless, the allegations have taken on a life of their own and have gained credibility, largely due to incessant media vilification of the schools and Muslim communities in general.
Reprehensibly, senior British government ministers have heightened this climate of fear and the ensuing Islamophobia by giving these groundless claims of extremism credence.
Last week, the interior minister Theresa May and education minister Michael Gove engaged in a bizarre public row, accusing each other of “being soft on Islamic fundamentalism.” Then Conservative party leader David Cameron stepped in to the war of words – not to dismiss the damaging allegations against Muslim majority schools, but to merely discipline his ministers for their public bickering.
There is more than a suspicion that the Conservative ministers, May and Gove, are each exploiting the issue as a way of garnering personal publicity and to further their ambitions for taking over the party leadership from the hapless Cameron. For his part, Cameron seems to be reacting in a heavy-handed way to shore up his image as a “tough leader” instead of being seen as the lame duck premier that he is increasingly appearing to be.
With the release of the Ofsted report this week, Cameron has not challenged the dubious premise of the probe, but has instead promised a “robust response,” thus giving its claims a veneer of veracity.
Teachers, parents and community leaders in Birmingham have roundly condemned the “political agenda” of the government’s so-called probe into Islamic extremism.
Lee Donaghey, a principal at the now black-listed Parkview Academy, said the accusations were “absolutely untrue,” adding: “This is a normal state school, like thousands of others across Britain – 98 percent of our pupils just happen to be Muslims. British Muslims.”
As several local people also pointed out, the schools being targeted by the British government report have staff of different religious faiths, including Muslim and Christian. Some are agnostic.
One parent, Arshad Malik, said the conclusions of the Ofsted report claiming the existence of extremism were “completely alien” to him.
“The only thing extreme about our school is the excellence of student achievement in exams,” he added, saying that Park View had been turned around from an academically failed school into an award-winning one in recent years, thanks to the resilient efforts of the teaching staff.
What forms the basis of the British government probe is nothing but a litany of hearsay and unfounded rumor, which has been pursued with prejudice among the government school-regulators. That is a symptom of the worrying trend of increasing Islamophobia in British society at large, not the existence of “hard-line Islamic” influence in schools.
This very real and unconscionable Islamophobia is now being further whipped up at senior government level for self-serving political reasons that bear no relation to alleged problems.
Furthermore, what is even more deplorable is that the government fuelled anti-Muslim attitude in Britain is placing the lives of ordinary Muslims, including young students, at grave risk. Already, there is disturbing evidence of a soaring number of physical attacks, some of them lethal, on Muslim citizens across Britain. In the mindset of racist street thugs, all Muslims are dehumanized as “terrorists.”
What the British government is doing with its scaremongering reports of “extremist plots” at schools in Muslim communities is setting the stage for even more hate crimes.
Ironically, the one entity that can be most associated with so-called Islamic extremism is the British government itself, with its covert support for terrorists in Syria and Libya, as well as its long-held cozy relationship with the Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia.
Tragically, Muslim communities across Britain are at risk of paying an even bigger price of human suffering for the reckless policies of the British government and its so-called “British values.”