Early in March this year, I was driving back with some friends having attended a nikah in London. My phone beeped and I had been sent a whatsApp message. I had been forwarded a news article from the Birmingham Mail outlining a ‘plot by extremists to infiltrate schools in Birmingham’. The article went on to describe this letter ‘Trojan Horse’ outlining a plan to Islamise state schools in the UK, outlining a plan of action for governors’ and teachers. The ‘Trojan Horse’ fell badly at the first hurdle as the letter was widely believed to be false, concocted by disgruntled former members of staff. With such a bad fall ‘Trojan Horse’ should have been put down, or at least left in the stables. However, it was allowed to compete in more races and events fixed in such a way that Trojan Horse was allowed to win races, even though it was a rank outsider. What started off with a fake letter, soon became an open discussion of the role of Islam and Islamic values in state schools with majority Muslim population. An article in the Birmingham Mail, soon became front news on all mainstream media outlets.
We were inundated with Park View Academy, Golden Hillock School, Adderley School, Oldknow school and others. We were told of radical speakers being invited to speak at assemblies, prayer facilities being provided to Muslim students, students having segregated PE lessons as well as a whole host of discussions surrounding women, homosexuality, music and Christmas. All the schools implicated in the Trojan Horse scandal were inner city schools within the Birmingham area. All of them were in majority Muslim areas and all of them had over 90% Muslim population. Ofsted had previously reported favourably on these schools, with Park View Academy previously being cited as a role model school. However, the Ofsted report in June gave a damning verdict on these previously outstanding schools. Trojan Horse, pumped with performance enhancing substances, backed by the government and all other political parties, had overcome insurmountable obstacles and crossed the line in first place.
There has been much written about the whole Trojan Horse affair, ranging from the role of governors and management of schools, the role of religion in state schools and how Ofsted has become a political tool to further the integration of Muslims. In this regard I refer you to Dr Abdul Wahid’s excellent article.
The situation is indeed muddy, what was actually going on in these schools? What were these mysterious WhatsApp groups? Did Michael Gove have an agenda as outlined in his book Celsius 7/7? What role did Evangelical Christians play in the issue? Was there an internal dispute between the home office and department of education? and what were these ‘British values’ that schools had to now actively promote?
At face value, the issue should have died after the Oftsed report was concluded. Trojan Horse had won the race and should now to be put out to stud. However, behind the scenes numerous Muslim teachers had been suspended from their jobs pending investigations. Trusts had been dissolved, governors removed and schools taken over. Muslim teachers were being asked to proactively promote LGBT within the 98% Muslim majority state schools. Muslim students were been forced to interact boy and girl, starting with classroom seating plans. In short, when you come into our schools leave your Islamic beards at reception, you can collect them at home time.
Recently we have seen a widening of the Islamist extremism in schools to incorporate schools outside of the Birmingham region, with the recent no-notice inspections carried out in 3 schools within the London borough of Tower Hamlets. However, what was most concerning was the fact that these were Independent Islamic schools and not secular state schools. An Islamic school within the West Midlands was recently visited by Ofsted where staff were asked for their personal views on homosexuality. When one member of staff replied that his views were his views but he wouldn’t discriminate, he was interrogated specifically about what his actual views were. In one Islamic nursery, staff were requested by management to deny they taught any Islam to the children during a recent Ofsted visit. Head teachers and staff at Islamic institutions are walking on egg shells and bending over backwards to not be seen as extreme in order to score a favourable rating by Ofsted.
It is clear that there is an agenda to force all Muslim children to adopt British values. British values are ambiguous and unclear. However, given that every school that has been investigated has had a majority Muslim population and all discussions have been laced with terms like ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamic extremist’, it is clear that these British values are contradictory with Islam and Islamic values. The agenda has moved from Islamist takeover of schools to the forced indoctrination of British values, even if they are opposed to Islam and Islamic ideals.
Islam is a complete way of life that defines every aspect of living, enshrined within the Quran and the speech and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Islam was never designed to be relegated to the masjid or the house, or even just in personal actions. Islam came to interact with society and shape its image. In secular societies, such as Britain, religion should be separated from life’s affairs and restricted to the small sphere of the individual only. This forms the basis of British values resulting in a difference with Islam, which came to bring mankind out of darkness of man-made laws and systems. Previously, under the guises of multiculturalism, certain Islamic views and practices were tolerated, if not accepted. What we are seeing now is an agenda to assimilate the indigenous Muslim community and all apparatus of state being utilised to achieve that objective. In that regards no Muslim is secure and immune to this agenda, whether your child attends state school, Islamic school or is home educated. These are the fruits of that Trojan Horse letter and the Birmingham Mail article I read all those months ago.
The majority of Muslim children are in some form of school environment. With the politicisation of Ofsted, these children are now at the front line of the integrationist agenda. Perhaps they are the test case of what will be seen in a generation to come as the ideal British Muslim defined by the political establishment. Through the carrot and stick approach, unfortunately we may find that it is Muslim teachers and Islamic schools that are the means by which our children lose their Islamic identity, adopt secular values and provide tacit support to British foreign policy.
These are difficult times, especially for those working in and entering the teaching profession. Many Muslim teachers enter the profession with great hope in bringing some good and life back to the community through education. They work hard and dedicate hours upon hours in helping children. Education is more than just being able to read and write, but is about preparing a child for life in the big, wide world. Rather than taking into consideration the divergent backgrounds and opinions of students, teachers are now being told what type of personalities they need to produce and which thoughts and ideas they need to hold. Outstanding schools are no longer graded by the distinctive personalities they produce, the exam results and good behaviour. Rather they are dependent upon the active promotion of British values and the curbing of so called extremism.
Muslim teachers and Islamic schools have a responsibility to the students that they teach. Every Muslim teacher must realise that they are role models for the students in their class. Their actions, and words will have a implications on the coming generations. The stance that they take will be a source of reward or punishment for them in the hereafter.
However the main responsibility in raising children lies with the parents.
Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones.” [TMQ 66:6]
The Prophet (saw) said: “Every one of you (people) is a shepherd. And every one is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them.” [Bukhari / Muslim]
Raising pious Islamic children is an arduous task without the added complication of this ideologically charged environment. We need to reassess how we view raising our children and the relationship we have with them. Perhaps a few decade ago we could send your child to school and hope for the best. Now there is little hope left. As parents we need to be proactive in our child’s education and upbringing. We need to be fully aware as to what they are learning and how they are being taught. We need to have a positive relationship with the school by understanding what rights, if any, we have and exercising them. But perhaps, most importantly, we need to understand our Islam, understand our values, our loyalties and the type of personality that Allah (swt) wants us to produce. As parents we are the first line in the defence of the upbringing of our children. We need to prepare our children Islamically by making them strong personalities who have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong from Islam. We need our children to stand up against injustice, to not be shy but make their voices heard and attempt to shape opinion in line with Islam and the Islamic values. They need to be clear and convincing with their arguments, able to articulate their views with confidence.
In the absence of a true Islamic environment we are the final hurdle in the path of the Trojan Horse. But we are a strong and powerful obstacle and with the help of Allah (swt) we can be insurmountable.
Allah (swt) says: “If Allah helps you, none can overcome you; but if he forsakes you, who then can help you after Him? So in Allah let the believers place their trust” [TMQ 3:160]