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Trojan Horse Affair: When ‘facts’ are contested, who decides the truth?

trojan horse affair birmingham islamist plot fake hoax
The Trojan Horse Affair involved false allegations of an Islamist plot to take over Birmingham schools, and it had devastating consequences for Muslim communities. Now those who shaped that story want the ‘final word’.

In December last year the British think tank Policy Exchange released a long report which claimed to expose “a concerted campaign to rewrite history around the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal, where hard-line activists Islamised state schools in Birmingham”.

Policy Exchange presented the report as a necessary response to the podcast released by the New York Times just over a year ago which sought to re-examine the “Trojan Horse” story.

The podcast described how the letter at the centre of the scandal was initially dismissed as a hoax by officials and police. There was no attempt to identify the author of the letter, but nonetheless it prompted a number of inquiries into the allegations it made of an Islamist plot – with devastating consequences for students, teachers and governors at the schools under scrutiny.

The most significant of these was ordered by the then-education secretary Michael Gove in 2014 after details of the letter were leaked to the media. Gove appointed a former counter-terrorism police chief, Peter Clarke, to head the inquiry, which the podcast examined at length.

The Policy Exchange report is co-authored by Damon L Perry, a senior research fellow at Policy Exchange and an associate fellow at King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), and Paul Stott, Policy Exchange’s head of security and extremism.

Policy Exchange describes its own report as “the first comprehensive documentation of the key events in Birmingham”, yet it examines at length John Holmwood’s 250-page academic study, co-authored with Therese O’Toole, which was published with a full chronology in December 2017.

The purpose of the article is instead to challenge serious errors of fact and interpretation which bring into question Gove and Timothy’s assertion that the Policy Exchange report should be considered “the final word”.

Read more on Middle East Eye: Trojan Horse: When ‘facts’ are contested, who decides the truth?

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