Exam whistleblower wins £70,000 claim

By Rachel Fletcher, April 17, 2008

A sacked teacher who criticised an Islamic school for using books that described Jews and Christians as “monkeys” and “pigs” has spoken of his ordeal.

Colin Cook, who taught English at the King Fahad Academy in Acton, West London, was last week awarded nearly £70,000 for unfair dismissal by a Watford Employment Tribunal.

The tribunal upheld his claim that he was wrongly fired from his £36,000-a-year position in December 2006 for whistleblowing about alleged cover-up of cheating in a GCSE exam. He failed in a claim of race discrimination.

He received over £58,000 for unfair dismissal and compensation, and £10,500 for injury to feelings.

Mr Cook told the tribunal that, after his dismissal, he had discovered books in Arabic used by the school which referred to “the repugnant characteristics of the Jews” with the phrase “those whom God has cursed and with whom he is angry, he has turned into monkeys and pigs. They worship Satan.”

The private school, funded and run by the Saudi government, was opened in 1985 for its diplomats’ children. It has denied teaching any racial hatred.

It has said the passages in the books were “misinterpreted” and that they were not taught.

Mr Cook, a British Muslim whose children had attended the school, said: “I am a teacher and it [the books’ content] goes against that. I did what I had to do. It was the right thing to do.”

He described the texts as “pure evil”, and “appalling. It’s like something from the Third Reich, except it’s not Berlin in 1940, it’s East Acton in 2008.

“There was no alternative for me. What could I have done, kept quiet? It doesn’t matter if you’re Buddhist, Hindu, anything, you have to speak out.

“None of the British teachers knew these books were there. You just wouldn’t think a school would have books like this. If this were a British school it would have been closed down.”

Asked whether it had been painful to find the books in use in an Islamic school, Mr Cook said, “Yes. This is nothing to do with Islam. This is about Saudi education and objectives, whatever they are.”

In his witness statement to the tribunal, Mr Cook said books had included test questions asking pupils to list Jews’ reprehensible qualities.

After his revelation in February last year, Academy director Sumaya Alyusuf told the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman: “These books have good chapters that can be used by the teacher. It depends on the objectives the teacher wants to achieve”, adding: “We don’t teach hatred towards Judaism or Christianity — on the contrary.”

This week Dr Alyusuf said she was “pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed that it is not a racist and discriminatory institution and that Mr Cook’s substantial and wide-ranging claims to the contrary have been discredited”.

She said Mr Cook had “been awarded compensation on the basis of legal and technical deficiencies which arose from the Academy’s disciplinary procedures” and said the school was considering an appeal.

Last updated: 4:10pm, May 13 2008