Prevent Watch

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Britain’s Trojan Horse: A hoax that still harms children

Ex-chair of Park View Educational Trust Tahir Mahmood Khan, writes for Al Jazeera that the Trojan Horse hoax served to legitimise, legalise, and institutionalise a discriminatory culture against Muslim children. In 2014, sensationalist headlines circulated in the United Kingdom about an alleged Muslim plot to take over schools. The so-called “Trojan Horse” involved “extremists” infiltrating Birmingham to “sow terrorism” in young minds. As the then chair of the Park View Educational Trust, which ran three of the schools in question, I suddenly found myself in the centre of a media storm, subjected to a multitude of government inspections and inquiries looking into alleged improprieties. It was a classic moral panic. Subsequently, all of our schools were deemed failures, despite having been ranked as outstanding before. They were placed under “special measures”, which created the possibility of removing senior leadership in the accused institutions. Of course, we rejected the supposed findings […]

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Meeting told how Trojan Horse Affair has ‘left a scar’ in Birmingham

The Birmingham Mail reports that although not one MP accepted an invitation to a panel discussion on the fallout of Trojan Horse affair, the event gave people a safe space to speak about the ‘scars’ it left. Birmingham’s Trojan Horse affair is ‘not over for us’, with its impact still reverberating through Muslim communities. That was the standout message at a panel discussion into the issue organised by city mosques. Around 100 Brummies, mostly Muslim, attended the event at the University of Birmingham as part of the ‘Under the Lens’ series of talks examining social issues, organised by mosques across the region. This event was coordinated by the university’s Islamic Society and Chaplaincy. Despite the organisers’ best efforts, none of the city’s MPs or councilors accepted an invitation to take part. But that gave panelists the opportunity to air their opinions in what had become by default a safe space […]

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New government rules on ‘political impartiality’ in schools will chill free speech

John Lubbock writes for Left Foot Forward that new government guidance on ‘political impartiality’ has been criticised for seeking to chill discussion of political subjects. On February 17, the UK government released a report on ‘Political Impartiality in Schools’. The document effectively tells teachers how they should talk about ‘sensitive issues in the classroom in a politically impartial way’. The guidance has some disturbing aspects which seek to neuter teachers and suppress real discussion about topics like the British Empire, Black Lives Matter, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The document reminds teachers of their legal duty to be impartial. The law prohibits the “promotion of partisan political views” and says teachers “should take steps to ensure the balanced presentation of opposing views”. Partisan views are those which seek to “further the interests of a particular partisan group, change the law or change government policy”. This leads to some strange ideas about […]

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Opinion: It took a hoax and the hijacking of a school to embed Prevent in education

Dr Layla Aitlhadj, the director of Prevent Watch, argues in 5 Pillars that the hoax Trojan Horse Affair which turned the lives of Muslims in Birmingham upside down was rooted in a preconceived Prevent agenda. The Trojan Horse hoax (as it came to be known) relates to a letter that was anonymously sent to Birmingham City Council officials outlining a plot by “Islamists” to take over schools. The source of the letter and its real modus operandi should have been the subject of investigations, and then dismissed as most likely a malicious means of distracting from some dubious, localised problems at one school. Instead, the letter was taken up as “truth” by then Education Secretary Michael Gove, who then oversaw the decimation of Muslim achievements in Birmingham and ruination of the lives of Muslims, young and old. This happened despite Gove knowing weeks before appointing Peter Clarke to “investigate” the […]

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PROP: Trojan Horse hoax led to ‘abuses’ of children

The Middle East Eye’s Simon Hooper reports that the People’s Review of Prevent reveals that the extension of the Prevent programme into schools in the wake of the Trojan Horse Affair has led to children being targeted in ways that amount to abuses of their human rights. The People’s Review of Prevent also cited new evidence suggesting that the Home Office is continuing to rely on profiling of Muslim communities in allocating Prevent resources, with almost three-quarters of Muslims in England and Wales living in “priority areas”. The report describes Prevent as “ineffective, disproportionate, and discriminatory” against Muslims. It suggests that the strategy is undermining values that it purports to promote such as tolerance and free expression and says that it has been “overwhelmingly directed at children and young people where it represents an abuse of their rights”. It cites examples including an eight-year-old boy who it says was asked […]

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Muslim Council of Britain calls for independent inquiry into the Trojan Horse Affair

The Middle East Eye reports that The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has called for an independent public inquiry into the Birmingham Trojan Horse affair, following fresh revelations about the case in a recent New York Times podcast. The MCB said it warned authorities at the time of the hoax alleging an ‘Islamist plot’ to take over schools, to not be “side tracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators”. It rejected the findings of a government report on the issue. “This podcast reveals the deep-rooted nature of institutional Islamophobia in the UK. Each episode is a damning indictment of how narratives and tropes were perpetuated to feed a story of moral panic, in which Muslims are centre stage,” Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the MCB, said. “We call for an independent public inquiry into the Trojan Horse case, and a public apology from those who ignored the truths presented to […]

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New podcast trails the mystery letter that unleashed the Trojan Horse Affair

‎ Serial Productions and The New York Times presents a 9-part series in which journalist Hamza Syed and reporter Brian Reed, the host of S-Town, follow the strange trail of events that led to the Birmingham ‘Islamist plot’ school hoax, commonly known as The Trojan Horse Affair. A strange letter appears on a city councillor’s desk in Birmingham, England, laying out an elaborate plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the city’s schools. The plot has a code name: Operation Trojan Horse. The story soon explodes in the news and kicks off a national panic. By the time it all dies down, the government has launched multiple investigations, beefed up the country’s counterterrorism policy, revamped schools and banned people from education for the rest of their lives. To Hamza Syed, who is watching the scandal unfold in his city, the whole thing seemed … off. Because through all the official inquiries […]

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Survey: The Education Sector & Government Policies

This questionnaire is part of a doctoral research project by Max Weedon at the University of the West of England, Bristol. Full details about this project can be found on the information sheet attached to this survey here. The aim of this questionnaire is to find out more about the views of education professionals regarding the effects of two UK government policies: The ‘Prevent duty’ and the duty to promote ‘Fundamental British Values’. By finding out the views of education professionals the research aims to facilitate a better understanding of how to improve and implement these policies, hopefully to benefit policy makers, education professionals and students. Read more

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East London boy wins £3.5K payout after teachers wrongly report him for supporting ISIS

Tower Hamlets Council in London has paid £3,500 in compensation to an 8-year-old boy after teachers reported him to social services because they wrongly believed he was an ISIS supporter. The alarm was raised when the boy turned up to class wearing a T-shirt with the slogan: “I want to be like Abu Bakr al-Siddique,” the successor to the Prophet Muhammad (saw). But due to their ignorance of Islamic history, teachers thought the T-shirt expressed support for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Read more

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Prevent referrals from education rise 24%

Referrals by educational institutions to “prevent”, the government’s anti-extremism programme, rose by almost a quarter in the 2017-18 financial year. New data from the Home Office shows the number of referrals from the education sector rose from 1,976 in 2016-17, to 2,462 in 2017-18. The rise brings the number of referrals from education staff almost to the level seen in 2015-16, the first year of the programme. Education continues to be the biggest referrer to prevent, responsible for around a third of all referrals. The figures aren’t broken down by type, and will refer to school, colleges and universities. Read more