A damning report into extremist infiltration of Birmingham schools has uncovered evidence of “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city”.
The conclusion emerges from a leaked draft of a report, commissioned by the former education secretary Michael Gove and written by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism command, which is due to be published in the next 24 hours.
Clarke said there was a “sustained and coordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strain of Sunni Islam”.
These are state schools, keep in mind, not private religious schools.
The uncompromising report may deepen community tensions in England’s second city and provoke a fierce debate on whether Britain has been sufficiently muscular in efforts to expose and uproot Islamism. It will also make uncomfortable reading for Birmingham city council as it accuses local politicians and officials of ignoring evidence of extremism for years, repeatedly failing to support bullied headteachers and putting the need to soothe community tensions ahead of all else.
Don’t go thinking it’s all Muslims on the side of the schools and everyone else on the other side – liberal secular Muslims are disgusted by this agenda and by people who are trying to cover it up or excuse it.
Last week Mark Rogers, the chief executive of Birmingham city council, said: “We’ve had to deal with a national political agenda that has deliberately conflated religious conservatism with an extremist agenda that is all to do with radicalisation and violent extremism.”
But why should state schools be shoving “religious conservatism” on children anyway? “Religious conservatism” means second-class status for girls, just for one thing. State schools shouldn’t be going anywhere near that.
Clarke’s report is backed up by graphic evidence, including social media exchanges between senior staff, and disagrees with the council’s previously expressed view, saying the offending ideology “manifests itself as the imposition of an aggressively separatist and intolerant agenda incompatible with full participation in a plural secular democracy”.
“Rejecting not only the secular and other religions, but also other strains of Islamic belief, it goes beyond the kind of social conservatism practiced in some faith schools which may be consistent with universal human rights and respectful of other communities. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to convert secular state schools into exclusive faith schools in all but name.”
“Essentially the ideology revealed by this investigation is an intolerant and politicised form of extreme social conservatism that claims to represent and ultimately seeks to control all Muslims. In its separatist assertions and attempts to subvert normal processes it amounts to what is often described as Islamism.”
Clarke’s investigation gained him access to transcripts of discussions on social media between senior figures at Park View Academy, one of the schools at the heart of the row. He asserts: “The all-male group discussions include explicit homophobia, highly offensive comments about British service personnel, a stated ambition to increase segregation at the school, disparagement of Muslims in sectors other than their own, scepticism about the truth of reports on the murder of [soldier] Lee Rigby and the Boston bombings, and a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-America and anti-Israel sentiment.”
In state schools. Not good. (Not good in private schools either, but those are…well, private, which complicates things.)
The report will be out tomorrow, I guess.