The Trojan Horse files: On the eve of an explosive report into claims of a plot by
Islamic extremists devout Muslims to take over schools, we investigate the man accused of being the mastermind
“Meeting The Needs Of Muslim Pupils In State Schools”– what could go wrong?
- Ofsted report on alleged plot to Islamicise students will be released in days
- Tahir Alam is a governor at three Birmingham schools facing criticism
- Alam, 45, can be revealed as author of a controversial 2007 booklet
- Guide to teaching Muslim pupils suggested segregation in state schools
- It also banned relationships, gay or straight, and teaching contraception
- One head claimed he appointed ‘allies’ as parent governors in ‘coup’
- Alam denies plot and calls investigations an Islamophobic ‘witch hunt’
Read more: Daily MailÂ (Full post below the fold)
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Trojan Horse Continued:
Filled with endless pictures of smiling children, the ‘information and guidance’ booklet must have looked anodyne when it tumbled off the press a few years ago.
It was produced by the Muslim Council of Britain and contained â€” in the words of the foreword â€” 72 pages of advice to schools designed to ‘promote greater understanding of the faith, religious and cultural needs’ of pupils from an Islamic background.
Even the title seemed, on the face of things, uncontroversial. It was called simply: Meeting The Needs Of Muslim Pupils In State Schools.
Controversy: Tahir Alam is the alleged mastermind of a plot by Islamic extremists to take over schools. The 45-year-old can be revealed as the author of a controversial 2007 booklet about teaching Muslim pupils
Appearances can be deceptive, though. For within days of its publication, this outwardly unremarkable booklet had sparked an explosive political controversy.
For, in the eyes of a host of vociferous critics, it amounted to nothing less than a blueprint for the ‘Islamicisation’ of Britain’s entire education system.
To that end, it called for sweeping changes in the way everything from music, art and sports, to biology and religious education were taught in schools.
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One passage endorsed a ban on ‘unIslamic’ activities, such as dancing, for Muslim pupils.
Another said swimming lessons should be halted during Ramadan, because ‘the potential for swallowing water [when fasting] is very high’. A third, regarding behavioural codes, declared that ‘girlfriend/boyfriend as well as homosexual relationships’ are ‘not acceptable practices according to Islamic teachings’.
The booklet issued hawkish decrees on everything from architecture â€” it called for single-sex prayer rooms to be built at every school â€” to extra-curricular activities. School balls, discosÂ and fashion shows should be avoided so as not to ‘inadvertently exclude’ Muslim parents and pupils, it cautioned.
So, too, should fund-raising raffles, since gambling is forbidden by the Koran, Islam’s holy book.
At meal-times, meanwhile, it said children should be offered halal food, sourced from animals killed without first being stunned â€” the most ‘pure’ form of religious slaughter, dubbed cruel by animal welfare campaigners.
During biology lessons, many aspects of sex education, including teaching about contraception and the use of diagrams showing reproductive organs, would be regarded by Muslims as ‘completely inappropriate and encouraging morally unacceptable behaviour’.
In drama, Nativity plays were off-limits for Muslim pupils, while ‘parents may have reservations regarding participation in [any] theatrical plays or acting that involves physical contact between males and females’.
Art teachers, it added, ‘should avoid encouraging Muslim pupils from producing three-dimensional imagery of humans’, since that is also outlawed by the Koran.
‘Some Muslims may hold a very conservative attitude towards music and may seek to avoid it altogether,’ read a passage on music lessons.
‘Most Muslim parents will find little or no educational merit or value in dance or dancing after early childhood and may even find it objectionable.’ As for PE, the booklet said Muslim girls should wear full-length tracksuits and headscarves when taking part in even highly vigorous exercise, while teachers must avoid the ‘objectionable’ practice of allowing mixed-gender groups to play contact sports such as football or basketball.
Mixed-gender swimming sessions, even for primary school children, were ‘unacceptable for reasons of modesty and decency to Muslim parents’.
Finally, the booklet argued that all British children should have the option of studying Arabic, while staff should consider segregating morning assembly, with ‘separate acts of collective worship’ for Muslim and Christian Â students.
If you think some of that advice sounds divisive and extreme, not to say at odds with traditionally British educational values, you are not alone. For the contents of Meeting The Needs Of Muslim Pupils In State Schools sparked immediate controversy.
In the days after its publication in February 2007, front-page newspaper reports savaged its ‘Taliban-style’ decrees. Several MPs and pressure groups attacked the booklet â€” which ended up being pulled from the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) website â€” as dangerous and divisive.
‘The MCB needs to realise it has to move closer to the rest of the community, not away from it,’ said the Conservative MP Greg Hands, who is now a Government whip.
The National Secular Society dubbed the report ‘a recipe for disaster’. And the moderate Sufi Muslim Council, which claims to represent more Muslims than the MCB, said it had misunderstood the nature of Ramadan.
Lost in the noise, however, was the identity of the author behind this report. Perhaps surprisingly, he was neither named nor quotedÂ in any of the mainstream coverage that followed its publication.
During biology lessons, many aspects of sex education, including teaching about contraception and the use of diagrams showing reproductive organs, would be regarded by Muslims as ‘completely inappropriate and encouraging morally unacceptable behaviour’
Today, however, this individual â€” and his conservative beliefs â€” seems very relevant indeed.
He is crucial, in fact, to fully understanding a different, but no less chilling scandal that has in recent months raised another pressing set of questions about the relationship between Islam and the state education system.
The man in question is called Tahir Mahmo Alam. He is 45 years old, lives in Birmingham and intriguingly (given the conservative views espoused above) he happens to be the central figure in the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ affair.
The story broke two months ago when a strange but shocking letter was leaked to newspapers.
Typed in italics and apparently unsigned and undated, it described a five-step strategy that Muslim extremists have supposedly been using to take over the running of a string of primary and secondary schools.
Their alleged ‘jihad’ was designed to ‘drip-feed our ideal for a Muslim school’ and went by the name Operation Trojan Horse.
It involved identifying target schools in predominately Muslim areas, getting sympathetic parents to join governing bodies and then using underhand methods to remove non-Muslim teachers from positions of influence.
After that, the curriculums, time-tables and cultures of the schools would be quietly altered to adhere to an Islamic ideal.
Alam, a governor of five schools in Birmingham, had supposedly ‘fine-tuned the Trojan Horse so it is totally invisible to the naked eye’, the letter said, allowing it to be quietly enacted across the city.
The plot would therefore spread to Bradford and Manchester, the letter continued, where Westernised teachers are ‘corrupting children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making children say Christian prayers and mixed swimming and sports’.
It should at this point be stressed the letter has not been substantiated as genuine and cannot be held as proof that such a plot exists.
Indeed, since the day it emerged, Mr Alam has repeatedly described the document as a ‘hoax’ and ‘fabrication’ â€” a line he maintains.
Yet while the provenance of the letter is murky, and the fact it contains several mis-spellings and factual errors, the problems it highlights are almost certainly genuine.Â Just as the letter states, several non-Muslim headteachers have, indeed, left their jobs in a small area of Birmingham (near to Alam’s home) in a very short space of time â€” five have departed in the past sixÂ months.
Thanks to a steady stream of concerned parents and teachers who have recently gone public, there also appears to be ample evidence of organised efforts to Islamicise local schools.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has identified ‘concerted efforts’ to infiltrate at least six schools in Birmingham and ‘alter their character in line with the Islamic faith’.
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham’s Perry Barr, said: ‘There has been a serious bid to take over most of the schools in the east and south of the city.’ The local council admits receiving more than 200 complaints about the matter, prompting it to suspend recruitment of school governors.
Little wonder that the Trojan Horse allegations are being taken seriously at the highest levels of Government. Three inquiries into 25 Birmingham schools are underway.
One, by the former Scotland Yard Â anti-terror chief Peter Clarke â€” appointed by Education Secretary Michael Gove â€” will report in July. Another, by Birmingham Council, is due to release initial findings next week.
The third, and for now most important, is expected to be unveiled at a press conference next Thursday. It is the work of Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, who recently sent emergency teams of inspectors into 21 local schools.
They have been asked to establish exactly what has been going on in playgrounds, classrooms and assembly halls. And well-placed sources said this week that their findings are ‘dynamite’.
At least six schools are expected to be placed immediately in special measures by Ofsted â€” a move that gives the agency the power to remove staff and governors, and even close the school. Lesser, but nonetheless serious, action is expected at ten other schools.
Tellingly, at least three of the six schools said to be facing the most serious criticism have Tahir Alam as a governor. And all the others are said to be controlled by associates of Alam or people linked to faith-based organisations in which he takes a prominent role.
The three main establishments â€” Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen primary â€” are within a few miles of each other in Small Heath, a neighbourhood just east of Birmingham city centre where Mr Alam lives with his wife and two children.
A fourth, Oldknow, has as its head governor Achmad da Costa, a friend of Alam and fellow director of an organisation called the Muslim Parents Association. ‘You get a sense of Alam’s hardline agenda from the views he espoused in the MCB document,’ adds the source.
‘What you don’t realise, untilÂ you visit the schools he’s taken control of, is the sort of environmentÂ it creates.’
At Park View, for example, there have been complaints of segregation in classrooms and of GCSE syllabuses being restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching.
Sex education lessons have, according to reports in a Sunday newspaper, seen impressionable teenage boys told rape is legal in marriage, while religious education classes have seen pupils given a list of Christian teachers and told to try to convert them.
At one assembly, a senior teacher is said to have endorsed terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. At another, detailed by a Sunday newspaper, he allegedly described non-Muslims to pupils as ‘kuffar’ â€” or infidels.
Last November, Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, a preacher many regard as extremist, was invited to speak at the school.
Nigel Sloan, a former teacher at the school, has said Mozz Hussain, the deputy headmaster, preached ‘mind-blowing’ anti-American and anti-Western ‘propaganda’ to pupils, describing the U.S. as ‘the evil in the world’ and ‘the cause of all famine’.
Former Park View teacher Michael White told us this week that the problems dated to the Nineties, when Alam became a governor.
‘Within a few weeks he’d got his allies to become parent governors, which gave them a majority on the committee. Then things began to get very nasty indeed. I would describe it as a coup,’ he said.
‘They began to complain about the way we taught religious education, the way sex was dealt with in science, the teaching of art and music, that kind of thing.
‘They got parents to complain. It totally undermined senior staff.
‘I’ve no idea whether the Trojan Horse document is real. But the stuff it says is happening certainly is. Everything in that letter is what I experienced at Park View. It has been going on for years.’
At Nansen primary, Arabic lessons are compulsory, from the age of four, while entire year groups have allegedly been prevented from learning arts. Concerns have been raised over recently appointed deputy head Razwan Faraz, who once ran an online forum called Educational Activists, which pursued an ‘Islamicising agenda’ in schools, and Â is the brother of Ahmed Faraz, a bookseller jailed for terror- related offences.
Golden Hillock school has seen discussion of sexual orientation ‘banned’ in science, the arts and literature, and Creationism â€” the belief the world was created by a divine being and evolution is false â€” taught in biology, according to a whistleblower. Non-Muslim students were reportedly left to ‘teach themselves’ religious education, one newspaper alleged.
At Oldknow school, meanwhile, Department for Education investigators found conservative teachers had introduced segregated PE lessons, led anti-Christian chanting in assemblies and banned the celebration of Christmas.
Three school trips have allegedly been organised to Mecca, and the study of French scrapped because the country has banned the Islamic veil, the inspectors have discovered.
School governors and senior staff they have appointed are blamed for the recent departure of Bhupinder Kondal, a non-Muslim head said to have been ‘driven from office’ for resisting their Islamising agenda.
‘What’s amazing about these places is that you don’t have to look very hard to see what’s going on,’ I am told. ‘Take even a cursory glance at Tahir Alam and it’s clear where his loyalties lie.’ Indeed it is.
A former BT engineer, Alam describes himself as an educational consultant. Ironically, given the nature of the Trojan Horse scandal, he has in recent years derived much of his income as a ‘trainer’ of school governors, mostly for Labour-run Birmingham Council.
He has strong connections to Labour activists and power-brokers in the city, counting prominent MP Liam Byrne as a ‘friend’ on Facebook. A Labour councillor, Habib Rehman, has sat on the governing body of a school with Alam,
Alam began getting involved in education in the Nineties and soon became governor of several schools. One, Washwood Heath Academy, terminated his directorship earlier this month, according to records filed at Companies House. No reason was given. Others ‘may well find themselves forced to dispense with his services in the near future’, according to a source.
Alam’s wider interests include a directorship of the Muslim Parents Association, a non-profit group that seeks to ‘empower Muslim parents to advance the education of their children’ and a place on the board of the Association of Muslim Schools.
The latter organisation runs the controversial Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which fulfils theÂ role of Ofsted for private Muslim schools. The think-tank Policy Exchange has accused it ofÂ covering up extremism and called for its abolition.
Alam is also a director of a dormant company called the Bordesley Birmingham Trust, an organisation credited as encouraging creativity and learning for children,Â whose fellow board members include Bridge Schools Inspectorate and (bizarrely) a clairvoyant called Ivy Caesar.
A previously undisclosed fourth directorship of a company raises further pressing questions. Called Crescent Books Limited, it appears to be a publishing firm entirely owned by a charity called the Islamic Dawah Centre International (IDCI).
‘Within a few weeks [Alam] had got his allies to become parent governors, which gave them a majority on the committee. Then things began to get very nasty indeed. I would describe it as a coup’
– Former Park View teacher Michael White
On its website, the IDCI describes its raison d’etre as ‘conveying the pure and pristine message of Islam’. And this agenda has caused it to flirt with controversy in the past. In 2010, the centre invited Dr Zakir Naik to speak at an event, only to have it cancelled after discovering that the Muslim cleric was banned from visiting Britain due to an exclusion order after saying ‘every Muslim should be a terrorist’.
Shortly afterwards, the IDCI was investigated over the alleged sale of extremist books on its website, though no evidence of wrongdoing was uncovered.
Tahir Alam did not respond to our inquiries about his links to IDCI this week, and did not return calls seeking a comment on the running of schools of which he is a governor or the imminent Ofsted reports. However, in recent interviews, he has described investigations as ‘a witch hunt’ inspired by Islamophobia.
Others aren’t so sure. ‘That’s Alam’s response to any criticism,’ said Michael White this week. ‘He claims Islamophobia or racism. But that’s nonsense. It’s not about who he is. That’s not the problem. The problem is what he and his associates are doing to children in our schools.’
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