British authorities are investigating an alleged plot to oust the heads of Birmingham schools and replace them with Islamists who would then run the school according to Islamic principles. At the center of this controversy is a letter that details such plans and claims responsibility for replacing heads at the Adderley Primary, Saltley School, Park View School and the Regents Park Community Primary School. Local authorities had been aware of the plot since November, 2013 but the details have been revealed only after this letter was leaked.
Operation Trojan Horse
The letter appears as part of correspondence between Muslim fundamentalists in Birmingham and Bradford. Calling the plot “Trojan Horse,” the letter details step-by-step tactics which begin with identifying vulnerable schools in Muslim neighborhoods, using Ofsted authority reports about their performance, and turning Muslim parents against the school heads. The letter specifically targets Muslims of Salafist (also known as Wahhabis) background, claiming “once charged up they keep going for longer.” The letter claims Muslim families can be fired up by pointing out how the schools are "corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and [carrying out] mixed swimming and sport.”
The lobbying of parents is followed by identifying “weak and disgruntled staff” to encourage complaints against the establishment, followed by letter-writing campaigns to MPs and other education authorities. One of the key goals of this alleged campaign is to convert schools into academies, thus making them exempt from local authority administration.The “Islamic principles” to be implemented include segregation between male and female students in classes and school activities and more importance given to religious studies and Islamic subjects.
Letter identifies its mission as “Jihad”
The Birmingham City Council has stated that these letters, which were sent to 12 more schools in Birmingham, were being investigated. Although deemed not an issue for the police, the U.K. Department of Education's Extremist Unit and the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Unit were also informed about the letter and allegations. The West Midlands Police is re-opening a fraud inquiry in a school named in the letter, while the Ofsted education inspectors are conducted a snap inspection at Park View Academy in Alum Rock, where a staff member had complained in the past of discrimination against non-Muslim employees, and of attempts to introduce Islamic studies to the curriculum.
The letter touts the success of the 'operation' in Birmingham and encourages its imitation in Bradford: “We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own Academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools. Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a 'Jihad' and as such all means possible to win the war is acceptable.”
While the authenticity of the letter itself is yet to be ascertained, Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak said attempts by extremist groups to infiltrate schools and oust its heads through dirty tricks have occurred in the past: “This is not the first time this has happened. The difference here is the suggestion in the paper, and I know no different, that this is some sort of concerted organisation and strategy paper. I know heads that have been suspended or driven out because of the enormous pressure they are put under by certain groups or cliques trying to usurp them.”
The Labour MP Liam Byrne has held “urgent talks” with Ofsted and other city authorities, citing the “deeply disturbing allegations.”
The British Humanist Association's representative Pavan Dhaliwal said: “We are glad that this matter is being investigated and hope that any such behaviour is put a stop to. It is vitally important that no school discriminates against pupils or staff on the basis of faith, but instead that every school is equally welcome to all, regardless of religion or belief.”
Photo: Keith Edkins