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Lunar Society chair asks Brummies to consider boycotting Telegraph newspapers over Trojan Horse

Lunar Society chair asks Brummies to consider boycotting Telegraph newspapers over Trojan Horse

🕔15.Jul 2014

The head of Birmingham’s premier intellectual think-tank wants Brummies to consider boycotting the Sunday and Daily Telegraph because of the newspapers’ “negative” Trojan Horse headlines.

Lunar Society chairman Waheed Saleem will say in a speech tonight that the Telegraph stable of papers has been leading a media “onslaught” and has a particular dislike for Birmingham.

The Sunday Telegraph, through reporter Andrew Gilligan, has been at the forefront of national media coverage of the Trojan Horse affair.

Mr Saleem plans to call for a fight-back with a “hands off our city campaign” and will liken Birmingham’s plight to that of Liverpool when thousands of readers boycotted the Sun newspaper following its coverage of the Hillsborough football tragedy in 1989.

He will reject claims that some Birmingham schools have fallen victim to Islamic extremism, insisting there is no evidence for such allegations.

An Ofsted report last month into 21 schools at the heart of Trojan Horse allegations uncovered a “culture of fear and intimidation” and blamed some governors for imposing a narrow faith-based ideology. However, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw accepted there was no evidence of extremism.

An independent review ordered by the city council will report a “serious and substantive problem” in a small number of Birmingham schools over several years with governors seeking to undermine the  inclusive values of a liberal democracy.

In his annual Lunar Society chairman’s address, Mr Saleem will say: “Birmingham is a diverse and socially cohesive city. It has for centuries welcomed people from different parts of the world and continues to do so, but this has led to some challenges not least the attack on the city from the national media and politicians alike trying to label the city’s schools as extremist, contrary to the evidence.

“This onslaught continues with negative headlines in national papers especially in the Telegraph that seems to have a particular dislike for Birmingham.

“This is a time when we need a strong fight back from all sections of the city to say ‘hands off our city’, in the same way Liverpool did when they boycotted The Sun for its  attacks over the Hillsborough incident.

“Although not the same, the sentiment is similar, whether Birmingham boycotts the Telegraph is something for Birmingham citizens to ponder on.”

He will call for a move away from the segregation of communities and propose drawing up a Birmingham Citizens Charter “which sets out what is expected of Birmingham citizens and what is expected of the institutions”.

Mr Saleem will say: “The charter should be developed by the people of Birmingham, embraced by everyone in Birmingham and promoted across Birmingham. So every school teaches these values irrespective of the status of the school, every religious institution embeds this in their teaching and every institution abides by these values, including civic, private and third sector organisation. This will bring people together under core values.”

The Lunar Society chairman will become the latest public figure to urge Birmingham to revive the spirit of Joseph Chamberlain, the city’s reforming mayor at the end of the 19th century. He plans to call for the election of a city region mayor with wide-ranging powers to underpin Birmingham’s future prosperity.

Mr Saleem will say: “Today we have a sleeping giant that is Birmingham City. I passionately believe that Birmingham can once again be the city that leads the UK and can develop the Chamberlain factor.

“Birmingham has been at the forefront of civic leadership and engagement, which was epitomised by Chamberlain who developed a strong sense of Birmingham civic pride. We had in Chamberlain a strong leader and, after his death 100 years ago, we still celebrate his achievements.

“As an enlightened city we will need to ensure we have strong civic leadership.  The new Chamberlains should reflect the diversity of the city. This can, in my opinion, only be achieved through a combined city region mayor elected with the mandate to develop the economic and social renaissance required to become a globally competitive city.

“We see the benefits that working across the economic footprint can bring, for example the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is making considerable strides in economic and social development setting a clear vision and strategy with 10 Local Authorities working together for the common good.

“I’m sure our six local authorities can combine their intellectual and political muscle to set up a Combined Authority as the first step to moving to an elected mayor with the powers to make the change for the common good.”

Mr Saleem will challenge political leaders to find ways of rolling out Birmingham’s city centre renaissance into the poorer suburbs where unemployment is high.

He will say: “I do understand that the city council, once an economic player in with a significant budget that could have done good, is facing its biggest challenge in generations with the unprecedented cuts and financial challenges, thus other than funding the basic statutory services, there is little money for much else, but what the council can do is provide leadership, become the enabler, support citizens and communities to take responsibilities of their own lives and communities, and get the powers from central government on infrastructure and skills development.

“This therefore requires a new breed of Local Government worker, an entrepreneur, a facilitator, an enabler, a change agent and commercial in outlook.”

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