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Trojan Horse is Birmingham’s ‘Zinoviev Letter’ written to stir up Islamaphobia, claims school governor

Trojan Horse is Birmingham’s ‘Zinoviev Letter’ written to stir up Islamaphobia, claims school governor

🕔07.Apr 2014

Media claims about Birmingham classrooms being taken over by hardline Muslims are reminiscent of witch hunts in the Middle Ages or McArthyism in 1950s America, a governor at one of the schools named in the allegations has suggested.

MG Khan said the Trojan Horse document, a letter setting out details of an apparent stealth plot to drive out non-Muslim teachers and impose strict Islamic principles at schools across Birmingham, was written with the intention of “destabilising” governing bodies in Muslim-majority schools by making claims that would be bound to trigger snap inspections by Ofsted.

The watchdog is currently inspecting at least 12 schools at the centre of the Trojan Horse claims.

Mr Khan, a governor at Saltley School, likened the document to the Zinoviev Letter, published in the Daily Mail shortly before the 1924 General Election, which purported to be a directive from the Communist International to the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The letter, later revealed as a forgery, called for intensified communist agitation in Britain and was believed to have harmed the Labour and Liberal vote at the election.

Mr Khan didn’t speculate on who might be behind the Birmingham letter, but writing in the Times Educational Supplement he stated: “The so-called Trojan Horse document is not, as the media speculate, a hoax, a simple crude trick or joke.

“Rather, it is being used to destabilise governing bodies in Muslim majority schools in Birmingham by galvanising Ofsted into snap inspections that would find these governing bodies unfit for governance, caricaturing them as driven by ideology rather than student needs.

“In its intended consequences it is not too dissimilar to that of the Zinoviev letter which led to the downfall of the first Labour government in the 1924 by galvanising public opinion against the spectre of socialism and communism. Today, just change that to Islam.”

Mr Khan continued: “Over the last few weeks a number of allegations have been made about governors in Birmingham schools being involved in a jihadist plot to take over and Talibanise schools as part of operation Trojan Horse.

“These allegations have included plots to overthrow heads and in the case of Saltley School, where I am a governor, the governing body has been falsely accused of banning sex education, stopping GCSE citizenship classes, forcing everyone to eat halal food – something present in schools for at least 25 years – and ultimately aiming for secession into an academy, in order to gain complete control of the school and its curriculum.

“In the course of this same period, Muslim school governors have been referred to by the media as jihadist plotters, Muslim zealots, Salafi fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists, Muslim fundamentalists, Islamists, etc. The vocabulary is impressive and journalists’ ability confidently to use it as a way of describing Muslims even more so.

“These are emotive terms and methods designed to play on people’s fears and prejudices, tapping into a vein of Islamophobic sentiment that is never far from the surface, eliciting caution, fear and a horrible doubt that affects Muslim men and women in all walks of life in this country. They are reminiscent of witch hunts in the Middle Ages or McCarthyism in post-war America.

“These doubts and suspicions ultimately mean that organisations become cautious about employing Muslims. Indeed, a recent research report worries that institutional racism is at the heart of the difficulty of recruiting people of Asian heritage into teaching.”

Mr Khan criticised Birmingham City Council for failing to provide Saltley School with a copy of the Trojan Horse document. He added: “This raises the suspicion that, in the minds of the officers dealing with the allegations, Muslim governors were complicit in the alleged plot.”

He continued: “Since the Education Acts of the 1980s, governments have consistently asked for greater involvement, challenge and accountability from school governors. Governors are obliged therefore to ask questions when they think there is a conflict between the interests of the children and the interests of the school – or, for that matter, the government.

“So questioning the relative value of citizenship or philosophy or English literature, of BTEC or GCSE courses, can so easily be interpreted falsely as governor bullying in predominantly-Muslim schools when all we want is the best future for all children.

“It is not easy being a Muslim school governor when Islamaphobic characteristics are so prevalent. It is not surprising, therefore, that increasingly many school governors in Muslim majority schools think twice about their position, and some, whether Muslim or not, decide to leave. As each does, ignorance claims another victory and our society loses one more advocate of what it means to be civilised.”

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