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Operation Trojan Horse

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Operation Trojan Horse is an alleged plot by Islamists to take over schools in England and run them to their agenda. The name, based on the Ancient Greek myth, came from a leaked letter discovered in March 2014, alleged to be from Islamists in Birmingham, specifying the steps to take in order to get a school under control and speculating on the possibility of expanding the conspiracy to other cities. While some staff have stated that they were removed from their posts in manners similar to those described in the letter, a number of governors and the Muslim Council of Britain have dubbed the reaction of authorities to the alleged plot a "witch hunt".[1][2][3]

 

Letter[edit]

The leaked letter on the alleged plot was reported by media including the BBC on 7 March 2014.[4] In it, Islamists claimed responsibility for installing a new headteacher at four schools in Birmingham, and highlighted 12 others in the city which would be easy targets due to large Muslim attendance and poor inspection reports.[4] It encouraged parents to complain about the school's leadership with false accusations of sex education, forced Christian prayer and mixed physical education, with the aim of obtaining a new leadership of Islamists.[4] It was also encouraged to attain Academy status for successfully infiltrated schools, so as to have a curriculum independent of the Local Education Authority.[5] The letter was alleged to have been written from Birmingham and sent to a contact in Bradford to expand the operation into that city.[4] Its author described the plan as "totally invisible to the naked eye and [allowing] us to operate under the radar".[5]

Investigation[edit]

The Department for Education, Ofsted and Birmingham City Council agreed to investigate the letter, although West Midlands Police decided that it was not a matter for them.[4]

In March 2014, Ofsted made two inspections at Park View School in Alum Rock, Birmingham, one of the schools named in the letter.[6] On 14 April, the City Council confirmed that it had received over 200 reports from parents and staff at 25 schools in Birmingham. Council leader Sir Albert Bore stated that his council had spoken to authorities in Bradford and Manchester, and said that there are "certainly issues in Bradford which have similarities with the issues being spoken about in Birmingham".[7] Concerns have also been raised by the National Association of Head Teachers about schools in parts of East London and other "large cities around the country".[8] Senior Department of Education sources have also been reported as claiming that coordinated attempts to undermine and supplant head teachers have occurred in Bradford, Manchester, and the London boroughs of Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets.[9]

On 10 April, the council announced an investigation into the allegations, estimated to last six months.[10] Ian Kershaw, a former Headteacher in nearby Coventry, was named as its full-time special adviser.[11] The inquiry will be led by Peter Clarke, a former senior Metropolitan Police officer and ex-head of the Counter Terrorism Command.[12]

In May, Mark Rogers, Birmingham City Council's Chief Executive, had a meeting with Headteachers of affected schools. Despite calling for secrecy, a hidden recording was sent to The Daily Telegraph, in which Rogers criticised the approach to the conspiracy by Education Secretary Michael Gove and Chief Schools Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. He said that the overview report on the matter could trigger “some kind of bloody firestorm” and “may well lead to significant structural proposals” for the city council.[13]

Golden Hillock School in Sparkhill, Birmingham, was put under special measures by Ofsted on 5 June 2014, after being described as "inadequate". The inspection said that "Too little is done to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views".[14]

Events at schools[edit]

An account of the events at schools in Birmingham as part of Islamic takeover plot were published in The Daily Telegraph on 19 April 2014.[15][16] The affected schools are:

The allegations are (not all are alleged at all of these schools):

  • Girls segregated from boys. Non-Muslims segregated from Muslims.
  • Arts and humanities and music not taught.
  • Some Christian pupils left aside to teach themselves.
  • The GCSE curriculum restricted and changed to comply with strict Islamic teaching.
  • At Nansen, the Arabic language was taught to all students.
  • Pressure to remove non-Muslim teachers from these schools.
  • An Islamist connected with Al-Qaeda was invited to address pupils at a school.
  • Muezzin's calls on school's public address systems

Reaction[edit]

Political and unions[edit]

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) demanded a full review of academies after the letter was revealed, expressing that political and religious groups had exploited the status at "thousands" of schools to indoctrinate children.[17] The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has also expressed concerns about the scope of the problem in other major cities, whilst advising that there was no “cause for panic”.[8] Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to Birmingham, praised his government's swift action in investigating the conspiracy.[18] Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also backed the investigation, stating that schools should not become "silos of segregation".[19] The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has stated that he is "extremely concerned by the allegations" and that no pupil should be exposed to "radicalisation" in school.[20]

Members of Parliament of all three major parties in Birmingham wrote a joint letter for an inquiry.[21] Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Perry Barr, said that the City Council may have known of previous plots, but not acted due to fears of being seen as anti-Islamic.[22] Mahmood, who is a Muslim, said that he felt that it was certain that "Salafists" were attempting to change the school's secular nature and "split young people away from their parents".[23] On 10 April, in reaction to Operation Trojan Horse, Birmingham City Council imposed a temporary freeze on the appointment of school governors.[10]

In May, David Blunkett announced that if in government again, the Labour Party would appoint an ‘Independent Director of School Standards’ with the power to monitor academies as “In April 2014, the alleged Operation Trojan Horse in Birmingham demonstrated the difficulties that have arisen from this ‘absence of transparency’".[24]

Support of allegations[edit]

Two anonymous members of staff at Park View School told BBC Radio 4 that school assemblies had praised Anwar al-Awlaki, the former head of Al-Qaeda.[25] Although the school describes itself as "multi-faith", there are claims that the Islamic call to prayer is broadcast to the entire school.[25] Park View Headteacher Lindsey Clark told inspectors that her role had been marginalised and that major decisions were being made by governor Tahir Alam and a small group of "hardliners". A senior teacher told inspectors that the solution to all problems would be a global Caliphate under Sharia law.[23]

Roughly a month after the letter was revealed to the public, Birmingham City Council said that it had received "hundreds" of allegations of school takeover plots similar to those illustrated in the letter, dating back over 20 years.[26] Michael White, a former teacher at Park View School which was mentioned in the letter, told the BBC that the school's governing board had been "taken over by a Muslim sect" in 1993. He claims he was pressured to ban sex education and the teaching of non-Muslim religions, and dismissed him in 2003 after he told prospective teachers to question the governors.[27]

Andrew Gilligan of The Daily Telegraph found that Tahir Alam, the governor of Park View School, had written a 72-page document for the Muslim Council of Britain in 2007 which had similarities to Operation Trojan Horse.[28]

In May 2014, the BBC reported that Tim Boyes, the former headteacher of Queensbridge School, had written anonymously to Birmingham City Council in 2010 to try to expose Operation Trojan Horse,[29] and in June a former prospective school governor said that he had informed authorities of the conspiracy in 2008.[30] John Ray, a former governor at Golden Hillock, claims that in the 1990s when John Major was Prime Minister, he made the government aware of Islamists from Hizb ut-Tahrir becoming involved at his school.[31]

Opposition to allegations[edit]

David Hughes, a trustee at Park View School, claimed that Ofsted's investigation of the school was biased, and dubbed the inspection a "witch hunt".[32] Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham City Council, called the letter "defamatory" and "hugely difficult to investigate" and offered protection to the whistleblower if they would come forward to help in the investigation.[33] The Council's Chief Executive, Mark Rogers, said that there was no plot, but that “new communities” had raised “legitimate questions and challenges” to the “liberal education system”.[13] Tahir Alam, a governor at Park View School since 1997, and former chair of the education committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that the accusations had been "motivated by anti-Muslim, anti-Islam sentiment". The Muslim Council of Britain also described the investigation as a 'witch hunt'.[3][25] Waseem Yaqub, fomer Head of Governors at Al-Hijrah school, called it "a McCarthy-style witch-hunt" and that the letter was used by councillors "to turn on [Muslims] and use Muslims as scapegoats".[34]

See also[edit]

  • Al-Madinah School, Muslim academy investigated in 2013 over allegations of discrimination and subsequently shut down

References[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ "Police arrest four former teaching assistants from 'Trojan Horse' school". The Guardian. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  2. Jump up ^ "Islamist plot: six schools face Ofsted special measures". The Telegraph. 19 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b "Education and Muslims: End this Witch-Hunt of British Muslims". Muslim Council of Britain website. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Mackie, Phil (7 March 2014). "'Islamic takeover plot' in Birmingham schools investigated". BBC News. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b Oldham, Jeanette (7 March 2014). "'Jihadist plot to take over Birmingham schools'". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  6. Jump up ^ Oldham, Jeanette (21 March 2014). "Ofsted in second snap inspection at Birmingham school as 'Trojan Horse' probe continues". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  7. Jump up ^ "Trojan Horse: 25 schools probed over alleged takeover plot". BBC News. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Jump up to: a b "Head teachers raise 'serious concerns' over Islamic school take-over". The Telegraph. 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-02. 
  9. Jump up ^ "City fights new Trojan Horse Islamic schools plot". The Telegraph. 3 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  10. ^ Jump up to: a b Hiles, Hannah (10 April 2014). "Birmingham council freezes appointment of school governors following Trojan Horse probe". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  11. Jump up ^ McCarthy, Nick (14 April 2014). "Trojan Horse: Special adviser brought in to investigate 25 Birmingham schools". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  12. Jump up ^ "Trojan Horse probe headed by ex-Met chief Peter Clarke". BBC News. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Jump up to: a b Gilligan, Andrew (10 May 2014). "Council expects 'firestorm’ over Trojan Horse schools plot". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  14. Jump up ^ "Trojan Horse leaked report says pupils 'not protected from extremism'". BBC News. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  15. Jump up ^ The Daily Telegraph Saturday 19 April 2014 (front page, page 4), Sunday Telegraph Sunday 20 April 2014 (main headline, front page, page 4)
  16. Jump up ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-26816724
  17. Jump up ^ Hallam, Katy (5 April 2014). "Trojan Horse probe: Teachers union demands review of academies as Birmingham schools are investigated". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  18. Jump up ^ Hiles, Hannah (4 April 2014). "Birmingham schools Trojan Horse probe: PM David Cameron backing Ofsted". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  19. Jump up ^ Arkell, Harriet (14 April 2014). "Did Muslim hardliners try to infiltrate and takeover TWENTY FIVE Birmingham schools? Probe into 'Trojan horse' plot expands". Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  20. Jump up ^ "Extremist 'takeovers' in Birmingham schools?". BBC News. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  21. Jump up ^ Savvas, Christina (8 April 2014). "MPs unite in call for 'school plot' inquiry". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  22. Jump up ^ Elkes, Neil (1 April 2014). "Birmingham Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood says city schools are being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  23. ^ Jump up to: a b Gilligan, Andrew (30 March 2014). "Teachers 'assaulted and marginalised in Islamising plot'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  24. Jump up ^ Walker, Jonathan (1 May 2014). "Labour education plan aimed at stopping further Trojan Horse controversies". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  25. ^ Jump up to: a b c Webb, Sam (10 April 2014). "Secondary school investigated over 'infiltration by Islamic extremists' is victim of a witch-hunt, says governor". Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  26. Jump up ^ Elkes, Neil (9 April 2014). "Birmingham City Council receives 'hundreds' of allegations after Trojan Horse claims". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  27. Jump up ^ "Birmingham 'Trojan Horse' plot 'started 20 years ago'". BBC News. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  28. Jump up ^ Gilligan, Andrew (26 April 2014). "Guide to school Islamisation, by 'ringleader’ of Trojan Horse plot". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  29. Jump up ^ "Ministers 'given Trojan Horse schools warning in 2010'". BBC News. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  30. Jump up ^ "Trojan Horse fears in Birmingham 'raised in 2008'". BBC News. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  31. Jump up ^ Edmonds, Lizzie (3 June 2014). "Fears of Islamic Trojan Horse plot to takeover Birmingham schools 'first raised to then Prime Minister John Major 20 years ago'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  32. Jump up ^ Marks, Gary (9 April 2014). "Trojan Horse probe at Birmingham schools: Academy hits out at 'witch-hunt'". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  33. Jump up ^ "Birmingham schools 'Islam plot' letter 'is defamatory'". BBC News. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  34. Jump up ^ "Trojan Horse letter 'used to target Muslim schools', axed governor claims". BBC News. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014

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