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Operation Trojan horse a Plot with huge implications for British Muslims

In March 2014, British media including BBC reported a leaked letter of dubious genuineness. A five-point plan of the letter dubbed as Operation Trojan Horse. The letter revealed a plot to “overthrow” current teachers and governors in various non-faith government funded schools across Birmingham and replace them with “Islam-friendly” individuals who will run the schools in accordance with traditional Islamic principles. In the alleged letter a group of political Islamists exhibited their influence for installing a new head teacher at four schools in Birmingham. The letter allegedly highlighted 12 other schools in the city which could easily be manipulated due to large cohorts of Muslim students and poor inspection reports.The questionable letter exhilarated Muslim parents to complain about the schools’ management with false indictments of sex education, forced Christian prayer and mixed physical education, with an aim of more involvement of Political Islamists in the Schools’ governing bodies. The letter also encouraged the attainment of Academy status for successfully insinuated schools, so as to have a curriculum independent of the Local Education Authority. The Guardian and The Independent both specified that the letter is “widely regarded as a fake”.  The Times labelled the letter as ‘a crude forgery’,

Understandably, there are qualms about the genuineness of the leaked letter. West Midlands Police is currently investigating claims that it is a mere deception. Evidence for this includes the suggestion that those behind the dossier are currently working to remove a primary school headmistress who was dismissed around 20 years ago. Similarly, the dossier claims credit for removing two head teachers from Birmingham schools whilst getting their respective departure dates wrong.

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour Member Parliament from Birmingham, 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”. He accused Tahir Alam, chairman of the Park View Educational Trust, of “planning this for 15 years”.  Tahir Alam and  Park View Educational Trust runs six schools in Birmingham, was found to have written a 72-page document for the Muslim Council of Britain in 2007 detailing a blueprint for the “Islamisation” of secular state schools.Interestingly enough, Inayat Bunglawala, media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, wrote that he was “sadly not so sure” that the dossier was fake.

Birmingham City Council, the Educational Funding Authority and The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) agreed to investigate the letter. On 14 April, the City Council confirmed that it had received over 200 reports from parents and staff at 25 schools in Birmingham about Islamisation allegations. The council also confirmed it has been in contact with authorities in Manchester and Bradford over issues similar to the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations.

Education Secretary Michael Gove ordered inspectors from Ofsted to go into 15 schools in Birmingham to investigate in the immediate wake of the reports. Gove also appointed the former national head of counter terrorism, Metropolitan police ex-Chief Peter Clarke, to lead the Trojan Horse investigation.The move swiftly came under increasingly heavy fire, with one top police officer saying it is a “desperately unfortunate appointment” that will be misinterpreted by some people. Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Chris Sims criticised the decision to call in Peter Clarke. Sims said: “Peter Clarke has many qualities but people will inevitably draw unwarranted conclusions from his former role as National Co-ordinator for Counter Terrorism.”

In June 2014, there was a highly public argument between the Minsters for Home Office and Department for Education about the responsibility for the alleged extremism.Sensational quotes attributed to a Department for Education source in The Times on 4th June detail Michael Gove’s concerns about the Home Office’s approach to tackling extremism. The source quoted in the Times said: “Charles Farr [the former intelligence chief who runs the office for security and counter terrorism] always believed if extremists become violent we should deal with it. But the office of the Home Secretary, Thersa May hit back, with a Home Office source telling The Times: “Why is the DfE wanting to blame other people for information they had in 2010? Lord knows what more they have overlooked on the subject of the protection of kids in state schools?’A letter from Mrs May to the Department of Education attacking her cabinet colleague for failing to tackle Islamic extremism in schools was published on the Home Office website. But then was quietly deleted. Its publication was ascribed to Mrs May assistant Fiona Cunningham, the partner of Charles Farr. On June 5, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to investigate the commotion between May and Gove.Education Secretary Micheal Gove forced to apologise to David Cameron and Home Office counter-terror Chief Charles Farr as the crisis over the destructive commotion at the heart of the Cabinet deepened. Theresa May’s special adviser Fiona Cunningham also resigned.

Ofsted investigated in 21 schools in Birmingham in March-April 2014. The Education Funding Authority conducted a parallel investigation. Ofsted subsequently expanded their investigation into schools in the north and south-east of England. They investigated schools in East London, Bradford and Luton over concerns regarding a limited curriculum and pupils’ detachment from the wider community.

The Government has also sent financial experts into a Trojan Horse-linked Trust to investigate fraud allegations involving school funds. The Education Funding Agency instructed auditors from a major accountancy to examine claims that money meant for pupils at Park View Educational Trust schools had been misused. The allegations include claims that Pupil Premium funds, meant to help improve the education of disadvantaged youngsters, had been improperly spent. It is also alleged that funds had been used for personal gain, including hotel accommodation and expenses for senior staff. The financial experts will also examine allegations that travel for school trips and catering contracts were awarded to external firms without conflicts of interest being declared. It is alleged that an individual at a Birmingham restaurant and another at a city coach company were relatives of staff at the Trust. Auditors will also look at claims that firms were ‘overpaid’ by the Trust. The trust, based in Alum Rock, is responsible for Park View, Nansen Primary and Golden Hillock schools.

Five of the 21 schools judged by Ofsted to be inadequate and will be put into special measures. These schools are Park View, Golden Hillock, Saltley, Oldknow and Nansen.Ofsted also faced serious questions as three schools once praised by the fraught inspections body were declared failing placed in special measures in the wake of allegations.

Dilly Hussain a blogger for 5 pillars says that the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is either the author or the “brains behind” the Trojan Horse letter which claimed that Muslim extremists were plotting to takeover schools in Birmingham.One of dilly’s assertions behind why Gove is directly linked with the inflammatory Trojan Horse document is because in his book Celsius 7/7, Chapter 8 is entitled “Trojan Horse”. In the said chapter, Gove writes how radical Islamism is on the rise and creeping into mainstream British society, including the education system. He opines that in 2009, Michael Gove ( the then Shadow Secretary of State) spoke about the “effective policing” of Muslim schools which promote an “extremist ideology” counter to “British values”. This was in context to a BBC Newsnight report on two schools with alleged links to Islamic political party, Hizb ut-Tahrir. Dilly suggests that Five years later, and Gove is still using the same terminologies in relation to the Trojan Horse scandal.

George Galloway, leader of the Respect Party and MP for Bradford West, opposed the government inspections. He dubbed these as “Trojan Horse-shit” and likened the basis of the investigation to the Iraq War dossier, also calling it “a dog whistle response to UKIP. The opinion of Mr Galloway could not be ignored as the occurrence of operation Trojan horse is synchronous with recent European Parliament Election.  The EP elections have rung the alarm bells in the whole EU. The reason of this alarming situation is the rise of the ‘right radical parties’ in the European parliament. These right wing parties are often described by the common public as ‘racist’, ‘fascist’ , ‘anti-sematic’ and Euroskeptic. The European politics was jolted as these extreme right parties triumphed in the European parliament elections. Prime Minister, Mr Cameron had stressed the need for reform and to urged to “heed the views expressed at the ballot box”.

In the wake of the Trojan Horse plot, Government is introducing new emergency powers to close any school linked to extremism or child abuse. As reported by the Telegraph Lord Nash, the Schools Minister, said the government would be able to apply to a magistrate to shut a school “where there are serious safeguarding concerns”.Schools can appeal but will not be able to operate while a legal challenge is being made. From September, schools must show how they are “embedding fundamental British values” across the curriculum and around the school site. The reforms will apply to all independent schools in England alongside state-funded academies and free schools including madrassas where Muslim children are given religious instruction.

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