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All Birmingham Muslims hit by Trojan Horse ‘terrorism’ slur, claims council boss

All Birmingham Muslims hit by Trojan Horse ‘terrorism’ slur, claims council boss

🕔16.Jul 2014

Birmingham’s response to the Trojan Horse affair has been ratcheted up to a new level, with a claim that the city’s Muslim community is being labelled “terrorists in the making” when all that has really happened is that a few school governors have misbehaved.

The idea that an entire faith group is under attack from Ofsted and the Department for Education is being promoted by Mark Rogers, Birmingham city council’s chief executive, and it seems certain that this notion will be pushed further over the next few weeks by the political and business establishment.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, was on much the same ground last week when he accused Ofsted of “tarring” a generation of Muslim children with the “brush of extremism”.

Now Mr Rogers has used his blog to launch a ‘Birmingham fightback’, and the tone of his message is that the entire Trojan Horse saga is centred on poor governance rather than any organised plot by extremists to infiltrate classrooms.

Rogers’ approach is a slightly refined version of the explanation he gave to Chamberlain Files back in April, which can be summed up as: “Trojan Horse is just a little local difficulty involving a few governors and there’s really nothing much to see here.”

Of course, things have moved on since April. Ofsted and the Department for Education inspected 21 Birmingham schools, placed six in special measures, and identified a “culture of fear and intimidation” where governors were intent on introducing a narrow faith-based ideology at non-faith schools.

A draft report by Stephen Rimmer, the council-appointed expert reviewing the Trojan Horse investigation, identified a “serious and substantive problem” in a small number of schools over several years with governors seeking to undermine the values of a liberal democracy.

So, yes, some governors have behaved badly. But, as Ofsted has been at pains to point out, there is no evidence of extremism.

There again, to quote Ofsted directly, the city council has failed to support schools from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism. Note the use of ‘potential’, for this is the most important word in the entire Trojan Horse affair.

In his blog, Mr Rogers lets off a fair old head of steam: “The great City of Birmingham deserves neither to be ignored, nor to be trashed. What it is entitled to is an intelligent, objective and informed critique. In other words, a fair hearing. And some encouragement.

“Let’s not forget that Ofsted and the Department for Education also have realities to face up to, lessons to learn and changes to make. As several of us have repeatedly pointed out, the imperative is to address those issues of unacceptable governance and their causes, not a contrived failure of Prevent agenda that mislabels decent, upright, devout and loyal Muslim communities as ‘extremists’ and, as a corollary, terrorists in the making.

“Certainly, some governors have behaved unacceptably; and some things have occurred that should not. But, in line with Ofsted’s own findings, it now seems improbable that there will be either crocodiles to shoot, let alone swamps to drain in our schools.”

Mr Rogers adds that the council has “made every effort to be proactive, cooperative, collegiate, balanced and conciliatory” in dealing with Trojan Horse matters.

He insists that the he does not fear “honest, evidenced and constructive” comments from the likes of Ofsted, before adding: “But that’s not the tone and sometimes the content of the criticism we’re getting in Birmingham – and that’s why enough is enough.

“We cannot allow whole communities to be pilloried for the misdemeanours of a few; nor can we stand back and allow the unwarranted re-definition of the underlying problem.

“Everyone involved, in my mind, shares in a collective responsibility to take a broad and balanced view. Rushing to judgment and/or conflating what should not be conflated is singularly unhelpful.”

There’s also an angry sideswipe at Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw’s “serial chastisement” of Birmingham, which Mr Rogers says is “insufficiently substantiated, unwarranted broad brush lambasting” without any serious offer of help.

Trojan Horse appears to be cantering to a climax. The report of Peter Clarke, the education commissioner appointed by Michael Gove to investigate infiltration claims, will be published shortly.

Mr Gove, of course, was relieved of his duties as Education Secretary in the Government reshuffle, on the same day ironically that the entire board of trustees at Park View School in Birmingham resigned, claiming that Gove had it in for them over ‘false’ Trojan Horse allegations.

Meanwhile, Waheed Saleem, chair of the Birmingham Lunar Society, joined the Rogers/Blackett alliance by suggesting that Brummies boycott the Sunday and Daily Telegraph over their coverage of Trojan Horse.

So it should not come as any surprise that Mr Rogers’ attack has not impressed Andrew Gilligan, the Sunday and Daily Telegraph reporter who has probably written more about Trojan Horse than any other journalist.

Describing Rogers’ blog as “extraordinary and inflammatory”, Gilligan points out that the council chief executive is guilty of a classic non-rebuttal rebuttal. He is, in other words, rebutting claims about Birmingham that have never been made.

Gilligan says: “It’s hard to overstate the stupidity and irresponsibility of this from someone in Mr Rogers’ high office. First, of course, it is simply a lie. No one, let alone ‘whole communities,’ has been mislabelled as extremist or a terrorist in the making by Ofsted or anyone else.

“A handful of individuals have been correctly labelled as extremists by journalists, me included, but none by Ofsted or the Government. No one has been labelled as a would-be terrorist by anyone, ever.

“Most importantly, of course, no statements whatsoever have been made by the Government or anyone else that the whole Muslim community in Birmingham is extremist or terrorist.”

Gilligan concludes: “The claim that a whole community has been accused of proto-terrorism is a straw man that even the worst Socialist Workers’ Party frothers in the Hands off Birmingham Schools campaign haven’t yet tried.

“But Mr Rogers is chief executive of the city council, and one of the duties of that council is presumably to promote community cohesion. His words can only harm community cohesion by giving succour to those who want to persuade the whole Muslim community that they are under attack by a racist establishment. And if anyone has associated Birmingham Muslims with terrorism, it’s now him.”

Rogers versus Gilligan? This one will run and run.

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