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MPs have failed us over the Trojan school affair

November 24, 2016 23:25

The recent Education Select Committee’s report into last summer’s “Trojan Horse” affair must rank as one of the worst any select committee has produced.

It asserts that, save for a single incident, there was “no evidence of extremism or radicalisation” at any of the 16 state schools investigated independently by Peter Clarke, the government appointed Education Commissioner, and Ian Kershaw, Birmingham City Council’s Independent Adviser.

The committee’s report is dangerously misleading.

Unlike Mr Clarke, the Labour-Lib Dem-dominated committee fails to draw the important distinction between “violent” and “non-violent” extremism, and by doing so — yet again — allows the latter to escape critical scrutiny.

No one, least of all Mr Clarke, Mr Kershaw or ministers has ever claimed that violent extremism was found in the schools.

However, Mr Clarke in particular found plenty of evidence of “non-violent” extremism: Muslim children being warned not to listen to Christians because they were “all liars”, how they were “lucky to be Muslims and not ignorant like Christians or Jews”, how they would go to hell if they did not pray.

There was also evidence of segregation, homophobia, a hard-line curriculum, contempt for the armed forces and even scepticism about the truth of reports about the near-beheading of Drummer Lee Rigby and Americans killed by the Boston nail bombers, and “a constant undercurrent of anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment”.

Most people would regard such attitudes as extreme and they manifestly fall within the definition of extremism in the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter-terrorist strategy CONTEST, and the spectrum of extremism described by the Prime Minister in his Munich speech in 2011.

In his oral and written evidence to the committee, Mr Clarke said he found “clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views”.

The committee seems to have simply ignored this.

The committee also said that there was “no evidence of a sustained plot” to take over the schools.

Again, contrary to the committee’s conclusion, Mr Clarke’s evidence also showed how hard-line governors and teachers had indeed plotted to take over some of the schools, and in some cases, had succeeded.

The committee appears to have leapt on the un-caveated language of Ofsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, when he said, “We did not see extremism in schools”, even though the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had made the careful distinction to Parliament that no evidence of “violent extremism” had been found.

By failing to make clear the distinction between violent and non-violent extremism, the committee has dignified a host of regressive Islamist organisations, and their apologists, mainly on the radical Left, as well as the Muslim Council of Britain, who dismissed what Mr Clarke uncovered as merely evidence of “Conservative Muslim practices”.

It is true that the committee’s main focus was how the Department for Education and Ofsted responded to the affair and how a number of overlapping inquiries “contributed to the sense of crisis and confusion”.

But that is no excuse for the failure to label what was going on in Birmingham state schools for what it was: religious and racist bigotry.

It is hard to know whether this was careless or deliberate. What is clear is that it is yet another example of how some MPs — in this case, five Labour, one Lib Dem (David Ward) and five Conservatives — have still got their heads buried in the sand on the increasingly vexed issue of “extremism”.

November 24, 2016 23:25

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