April 14, 2014
The investigation into an alleged plot by Islamic extremists to take over schools in Birmingham has widened after more than 200 complaints were received by the city council amid claims that religious hardliners threatened to overthrow secular head teachers. Staff at one of the Birmingham schools targeted by Muslim hardliners in the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot were assaulted as part of a campaign against the school management, official documents show.
25 schools are now being investigated in the city which has appointed a new chief advisor to handle growing levels of public anxiety in relation to allegations resulting from Operation Trojan Horse.
Council leader Sir Albert Bore said the authorities had been in touch with counterparts in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and Manchester which also have large Muslim populations to discuss the issue although no schools outside Birmingham have been identified as subject to threats so far.
Parallel inquiries are being conducted by the police and the Department for Education (DfE), with education secretary Michael Gove appointing a former head of anti-terrorism to investigate an alleged plot by Islamic extremists to take over schools in Birmingham. Chief Constable Chris Sims, the head of West Midlands police has criticised the “desperately unfortunate” decision and warned that the appointment of Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, sent the wrong message about an investigation that followed claims religious hardliners had threatened to overthrow secular heads.
A report from Birmingham containing recommendations for schools locally and nationally will be published in July
Operation Trojan Horse refers to a leaked anonymous letter claiming to be sent between fundamentalists seeking to persuade Salafi parents to force out senior staff in Birmingham and replace them with those sympathetic to their Islamist beliefs.
Among the claims by whistle-blowers are that boys and girls are made to sit in segregated classrooms whilst sex education is banned. Many Muslim parents at Oldknow oppose what has been happening. “This is not supposed to be a faith-based school and we did not send our daughter to a faith-based school,” said one Muslim father, who has complained to his MP and to Ofsted.
It emerged yesterday that Bradford council had replaced the entire board of governors at Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College, a secondary school with more than 1,000 pupils, amid reports of clashes between the head and Muslim governors. It is the third time that schools governors have been replaced in the city in recent months.
Bradford was cited in the Trojan Horse document as a possible place to influence education policy however the authority said there was no link with any of the incidents. A spokeswoman for Manchester City Council said there was no investigation in the city.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned against schools becoming “silos of segregation”. He said: “I am very concerned whenever I hear allegations that schools, funded by the taxpayer, become vehicles for the propagation of particular ideologies which divide young children and pupils off from other people in society.”
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, accused Birmingham city council of being “complicit” in the alleged plot and attacked the purported ringleader, Tahir Alam, saying: “It is very appropriately named Trojan Horse – that’s exactly what he has been doing.”