The Plot to Islamise Birmingham’s Schools
Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman: Invited to speak at Park View, one of the 'Trojan Horse' schools, he called on God to "destroy the enemies of Islam" and "prepare us for jihad"
"Phew, that's a relief," exclaimed the female teacher, slipping off her jacket and displaying two bare arms. It was hot and she and a colleague were enjoying a drink. "We daren't have our arms uncovered at school."
This was not the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It was Britain's second city, Birmingham, and the teachers were from one of the secular state schools targeted by religious hardliners in the so-called "Trojan Horse" plot which attempted to convert them into Islamic faith schools in all but name.
At another school, a male governor pointed disapprovingly to a young teacher wearing a short-sleeved dress. Turning to an older teacher, he demanded: "Can you ask her to cover her arms please?" "No," replied the teacher. "Why not?" asked the governor. "Because she's 25 and I'm 60." "Can't she wear a shawl, then?" "No! She's wearing standard Western dress."
How was it possible that female teachers faced criticism merely for baring their arms in school? What explains the intolerance towards such a basic liberty? The right of a woman to be able to uncover her arms is not, admittedly, a right on a par with the right to free speech or a fair trial. But being free in a state-funded institution to dress in clothes which have not been given the seal of approval by highly conservative Muslims is nonetheless a valuable right, and one which most women in this country wish to preserve.
The incubator of that intolerance has been officially identified as the Park View Educational Trust, which runs three state schools and which tried to export its "Islamising blueprint" to several other schools in east Birmingham, where most of the city's 140,000 citizens of Pakistani heritage live.
In July, as 600 pupils streamed through the gates of Park View School to start their summer break, the acting principal bade them a confident farewell: "See you in September," said Monzoor "Mozz" Hussain. But he won't. Hussain is alleged to have been the administrator of a semi-secret group called the "Park View Brotherhood." He has been suspended and may face a professional misconduct hearing before the National College for Teaching and Leadership, an agency of the Department for Education (DfE).
Children returning this month to some schools affected byTrojan Horse will find they are being taught by a record number of supply teachers. At one secondary it's approaching 20 per cent. There's been an exodus of disheartened teachers. "The heart has gone out of the school," said a former teacher. "Nobody to lead it and nobody to love it." Yet more suspensions are forecast after the two latest official inquiries into the impact of Trojan Horse.
These two inquiry reports cry out for a national debate for they mark a seminal moment in the challenge that faces this country: how exactly do we create a common life with fellow citizens who have shown a greater reluctance to assimilate than most other ethnic minorities, who already practise Britain's second largest religion, are projected to form 8 per cent of the population by 2030 and whose observant followers are becoming more socially and religiously conservative?
Unfortunately, the two reports were published as Parliament rose for the summer recess. Partly as a result, they've barely had a hearing but the evidence they present is explosive.
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