Socialist Worker

The racist ‘Trojan Horse’ lie hits the rocks after case is thrown out

An Islamophobic scheme to accuse Muslims of taking over Birmingham schools was further exposed as a lie last week. Sadie Robinson says the scandal is how Muslims were demonised

Issue No. 2557

Protesting in Birmingham against the Trojan Horse smears in 2014 (Pic: Pete Jackson)

Protesting in Birmingham against the Trojan Horse smears in 2014 (Pic: Pete Jackson)


A disciplinary panel threw out proceedings against five teachers last week.

It was another nail in the coffin for the “Trojan Horse” lie that extremist Muslims had plotted to take over Birmingham schools.

The claim came to light in 2014 after Birmingham City Council received an anonymous letter.

The letter described a plot to control schools and run them on Islamic principles called “Operation Trojan Horse”.

A wave of Islamophobia followed. Teachers were sacked or suspended from their jobs, then investigated for serious misconduct. Some were banned from teaching. Governors were removed.

Hated schools inspectorate Ofsted investigated 21 schools in relation to the letter and found five to be “failing”. Another was deemed “inadequate”.

A warning from Birmingham - Muslims speak out against racist witch hunt in schools
A warning from Birmingham - Muslims speak out against racist witch hunt in schools
  Read More

The right wing media went into overdrive and the Tories drew up more repressive measures.

As Gadija da Costa, a parent of children who went to Oldknow Academy, told Socialist Worker at the time, “We’ve been vilified and slated. We’ve been tarnished with the extremist brush just because we’re Muslim.”

Evidence

From the start the aim was to witch hunt Muslims. Tories and racists have since pointed to the story as evidence of what happens in “segregated” areas with high Muslim poplulations.

When the letter came to light, Roger King was chair of governors at a Birmingham primary school.

He said that in one school that was inspected “the Ofsted team told the staff, ‘We’re going to fail you’”.

Four investigations found no evidence to back up the Trojan Horse claim. But there is evidence that inspectors set out to find it.

The Tories commissioned an investigation by Peter Clarke, a former national head of counter-terrorism.

His report found no evidence of extremism.

But it claimed to find evidence of school governors who “espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views”. These “extremist views” included hostility to Israel or British imperialism.

Clarke ploughed through 3,235 social media postings and found just two discussions on the British army. Yet to him this was “revealing” of attitudes.

Clarke said that the fact that some head teachers at the schools had left showed that similar “tactics” were being used. He gave no evidence for the claim. Clarke complained of children not being taught about faiths other than Islam. Yet his report refers to a rabbi giving an assembly and a school Hanukkah display.

We were told that governors “banned” Christmas at Nansen primary school—while “parents attended the nativity play as usual”.

The holes in the Trojan Horse story were there right from the start. It was an Islamophobic lie—and now that lie is falling apart.


Government lawyers kept back witness statements

An “abuse of process” by government lawyers led to a disciplinary panel throwing out proceedings against five teachers last week.

The five, Arshad Hussain, Hardeep Saini, Lindsey Clark, Monzoor Hussain and Razwan Faraz, were accused of serious professional misconduct. If found guilty they could have been banned from teaching.

The panel said the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) government agency failed to disclose witness statements taken during the Clarke review (see above).

The statements amount to 1,600 pages of information. The panel ruled that this “major failure” brought “the integrity of the process into disrepute”.

It added that “serious failures with regard to disclosure” were “far-reaching and extend over the entire life of this case”. The case began in October 2015.

“Such failures arise out of decisions which were consciously made,” it said. Barrister Andrew Faux represented Saini and Hussain. Last year he said the NCTL investigation was marked by “fear, a cockup and a degree of incompetence”.

Government lawyers asked Hussain why he didn’t challenge a message on a private Whatsapp group saying people should “vote Asif Zardari” in a parent governor election.

“That’s a reference to the then president of Pakistan, that’s a joke,” said Faux. “But it’s proffered up by the NCTL because it fits a narrative of ‘bad Muslims’ taking over a school.”

Claire Darwin represented Faraz. She said the NCTL’s case used “evidence that was tarnished by religious and racial prejudice”.

The NCTL called one anonymous witness who claimed Faraz had used the term “kuffar”—a derogatory term for non-Muslims. But there was no date or other information, other than it may have been in 2009.

The case heard that the government’s key witness had been accused of making racial and religious slurs.

It isn’t clear if disciplinary hearings against other teachers linked to Trojan Horse will go ahead.


Cases keep collapsing

Last week’s ruling was just the latest in a long line of setbacks for the Tories.

In October last year the High Court in Birmingham threw out lifetime bans imposed by the Department for Education on two teachers.

Judge Stephen Phillips overturned a ban against two former Park View teachers Inamulhaq Anwar and Akeel Ahmed.

He said there had been a “serious procedural impropriety” because the NCTL failed to reveal evidence used in other cases.

The other cases included those of Monzoor Hussain, Lindsey Clark and Hardeep Saini.


Ofsted needs inspecting

Schools inspectorate Ofsted appeared to look for evidence to fit the government’s agenda.

Park View school was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2012. Two years later it was “inadequate”.

Oldknow Academy was rated outstanding in 2013. A year later it was deemed inadequate.

But it seems it wasn’t the school that changed, but Ofsted’s way of judging it.

In 2014 Wilshaw complained about governors who opposed mixed swimming lessons “on the basis of their beliefs”.

In 2013 Ofsted praised the school for respecting “different faiths and cultures, for example, by ensuring there are separate changing rooms and single-sex physical education lessons.”


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