Birmingham City Council’s leader, Sir Albert Bore, today attacked the Telegraph for its “wholly reprehensible and completely unacceptable” publication of a leaked Department for Education report into three of the so-called “Trojan Horse” schools taken over by Muslim hardliners. This is what in the trade is called “deflection”: try to make the story about the leaking of the report, rather than the contents of it.
It’s not hard to understand why Sir Albert wants to change the subject. The contents of the leaked report – which substantiate many of the claims made against the schools – make his and his council’s past behaviour look rather silly.
Little more than a month ago, Sir Albert was calling the Trojan Horse allegations “defamatory” and saying that there were “no serious flaws” in Birmingham’s school management. Just over two weeks ago, his chief executive, Mark Rogers, said there was no plot, merely “new communities” raising “legitimate questions and challenges” to the “liberal education system.”
Sir Albert now announces that the council is setting up a whistleblowing hotline for parents and teachers, saying that it has “received information in respect of 25 schools.” He named 18 of them today – a list that accords almost exactly with that published in the Telegraph at the weekend. Nor, of course, has Sir Albert or anyone else denied the central charge of our story – that six of the schools on the list will be rated “inadequate” for leadership and governance (one already is), something which usually leads to special measures.
Let us hope, however, that Birmingham council is not merely preparing a more sophisticated form of whitewash. The members of its investigation include the headteacher of one of the 18 schools inspected and the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, who has attacked the publication of this story for “demonising sections of the local community.”
The council has known about the Trojan Horse allegations for around six months – and known that something is wrong for a lot longer. It repeatedly ignored concerns raised in private. It only acted once the allegations got into the media. That, in short, is the value of disclosure.
The schools inspected so far are: Adderley, Alston, Golden Hillock, Gracelands, Highfield, Ladypool, Marlborough, Montgomery, Nansen, Ninestiles, Oldknow, Park View, Regents Park, Saltley, Small Heath, Washwood Heath, Waverley and Welford.
Here are extracts from the inspection report, leaked to the Telegraph, into three schools at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot to “Islamise” secular state schools in Birmingham. The schools are Park View, Golden Hillock, and Nansen, all part of the Park View Educational Trust. This inspection was carried out by the Department for Education last month. Separate inspections were carried out by Ofsted, many of which, as we report today, are also damning.
As you will see, the report substantiates many of the claims which the schools have for the last six weeks been furiously denying as a “witch-hunt.”
The extracts confirm that
– there is compulsory “gender segregation” in classes at Park View and Golden Hillock, “often with boys sitting towards the front of the class and girls at the back or around the sides.” (page 17)
– The school has consistently claimed that any segregation was voluntary but as the report makes clear, in a number of classes “students told us that they were required to sit in the places which they were given by teachers” (page 17) and “teachers gave [students] seats in which to sit in class by gender to avoid having to mix” (p10)
– some non-Muslim pupils at Golden Hillock have to “teach themselves” in a GCSE subject (page 18)
– an “extremist” speaker “sympathetic to al-Qaeda” addressed students at Park View (page 16);
– there is no humanities, arts or music teaching at Nansen in Year 6 and only “limited” teaching of these subjects in Year 5 (page 17);
– the teaching of some GCSE subjects was “restricted to comply with a conservative Islamic teaching” (page 10);
– in biology, a teacher had “briefly delivered the theory of evolution to comply with the syllabus, but had told students ‘this is not what we believe;’’ that reproduction was not covered in class, even though pupils needed it for their GCSEs; that students believed “as Muslims they were not allowed to study matters such as reproduction with the opposite sex” (page 10).
Further extracts including more of the quotes used in our story on Saturday will be published later.
The Metropolitan Police today stated that there was “no credible evidence” in files about Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets Council supplied by the BBC’s Panorama programme “to suspect that fraud or any other offence has been committed at this stage. Therefore the MPS will not be investigating at this point in time.”
Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, and his council have understandably been crowing about this statement today. The statement “is to be welcomed,” the council said. Rahman tweeted that there was “no evidence” of fraud. Rahman-friendly media outlets such as The Guardian newspaper have been carrying the statement prominently.
There’s only one problem – it’s not true. There is a criminal investigation. And the BBC files do form part of it.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed to me tonight that Tower Hamlets CID is investigating alleged fraud at the council involving a grant to an organisation called the Brady Youth Forum. A member of the mayor’s staff is involved in the alleged fraud, I separately understand. The Met said the investigation was at “an early stage”.
I understand that detailed evidence on this specific allegation did form part of the dossier that Panorama’s reporter, John Ware, passed to the DCLG and which was then passed to the Met. The material supplied by Ware includes evidence implicating one of the mayor’s staff in an operation where cheques for public money were sent to what appeared to be a bogus address.
This blog has previously noted the local police’s cosy relationship with Lutfur’s council – but what on earth is the Met playing at here? Serious questions – more serious questions – need to be asked about whether we can ever trust what this force is saying.
Even, of course, if the statement by the Met had been true – even if Tower Hamlets didn’t face any allegation of criminality – the list of charges against Rahman is long.
Panorama, too, alleged favouritism in the allocation of council grants and misuse of council resources for electioneering purposes. The fraud allegation didn’t form part of the programme because it wasn’t ready for broadcast in time.
But be in no doubt – as well as the auditor investigation into Tower Hamlets into all the non-criminal sleaze, there most certainly is an ongoing police investigation, for all the Met’s denials to the contrary.
Here are five words that liberals should say more often: thank God for Michael Gove. The Education Secretary has sent dozens of inspectors to 15 state schools in Birmingham targeted by Islamic radicals – and now, reportedly, plans to extend the idea nationwide, with new powers for Ofsted to fail schools where religious conservatism prevents balanced learning. He has acted because he knows what others have too long ignored: that schools are the key battleground against Islamism in Britain.
As poll after poll tells us, the vast majority of ordinary Muslims reject radical views. They support a mixed, plural society. They want to get on with their own lives, not interfere with anyone else’s. Successful Muslims, such as the new Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, are making their way to the top – defining themselves by their jobs, or their politics, or the football teams they support, and not (unless they want to) by the faith they were born into.
The problem is that the leading institutions of Muslim Britain are disproportionately dominated by the small minority of Islamists. They get all the publicity. They make all the noise. Sometimes publicly, sometimes only when they think no one’s looking, key mosques, charities, TV stations, schools and university societies promote a separatist, grievance-led agenda, in which Islam is the only identity that matters, in which Muslims stand against corrupt Western values and are victimised for doing so.
For those who think this way, schools are the front line – because they are how the hardliners hope, over time, to convert more British Muslims to their cause. And in a small but significant (and growing) number of schools, a new generation of students is being raised to be much more radical than its parents.
Of these, the worst are in the private sector – such as the schools where children study anti-Semitic textbooks, or the Madani Girls’ School in Tower Hamlets, which forces all pupils to wear the full-face veil and has explicitly stated on its website that “we as Muslims oppose the lifestyle of the West”. The Association of Muslim Schools, the private schools’ trade organisation, has hosted extremist speakers at its annual conference.
Most Muslim children, however, go to state schools – so the hardliners’ efforts are moving there as well. In Birmingham, five non-Muslim head teachers in a tiny area of the city have left their posts in the past six months. Dozens of staff, former staff and parents at these supposedly secular schools have told me and others that extremist and anti-Christian views are preached at assemblies, that teaching has been Islamified and that secular heads have been hounded out.
Messages leaked to me revealed the existence of a group called Educational Activists, including many teachers and school governors, which pursues what its leader calls an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools. At each of the schools concerned, links can be traced to the same small group of activists, and to the Association of Muslim Schools. The local council says it has received “hundreds” of complaints from teachers, governors and parents.
When confronted, those involved have four lines of defence. The first, inevitably, is that any criticism is an “Islamophobic witch-hunt”, which rather ignores the fact that many of those complaining are themselves Muslim parents who want a broad education for their children. Fortunately, such brazen attempts to play the race card have gained little traction.
The activists’ second defence is that they are merely seeking to improve “failing” schools. The problem, alas, is that most of the schools affected were graded “outstanding” or “good” by Ofsted. By contrast, the religious school that ties together most of the plotters has been graded “inadequate”.
It is also argued that any changes that have occurred simply reflect the dominant culture in these overwhelmingly Muslim-majority schools and Muslim-majority neighbourhoods. But if you live entirely among people of your own faith, it is even more important that you are exposed to other cultures at school, and that teachers from other backgrounds are not removed from your life.
Finally, it is sometimes said (not least on the BBC) that any extremist incidents that may have occurred were “isolated”. They weren’t – but even if they had been, can we seriously imagine that line being tenable if the position were reversed? Had there been even one teacher leading white children in anti-Muslim rhetoric, it would rightly be proclaimed a national scandal.
The same double standards used, until recently, to apply in official Britain. Many private Muslim schools have been allowed effectively to inspect themselves – using a private inspectorate co-controlled by the Association of Muslim Schools. In others, Ofsted seemed prepared to overlook bigotry, so long as the bigots were Muslim. At Madani, which openly expressed its hostility to the West, the Ofsted report claimed the school left its pupils “well-prepared for life in a multicultural society”.
Yet it is precisely because such an education leaves its pupils adrift in a multicultural society, prey to all sorts of dangerous influences, and with a negative view of their fellow citizens, that Islamist influence in schools is so desperately dangerous for social cohesion. And it is a profound relief that the authorities have finally recognised this. Let us hope that the work continues if and when Mr Gove moves on.
Lindsey Clark, the respected executive head of Park View, one of the Birmingham schools targeted in the alleged “Trojan Horse” plot by Muslim radicals, has confirmed that she is to retire. She becomes the fifth non-Muslim headteacher to leave one of the schools linked to the plot over the last six months. The others are Balwant Bains (Saltley), Tina Ireland (Regent’s Park), Bhupinder Kondal (Oldknow), and Peter Slough (Small Heath). A sixth head, Golden Hillock’s Matthew Scarrott, left a little earlier.
Mrs Clark, who was awarded the OBE last year for her work in taking Park View to the highest Ofsted ranking, “outstanding,” in 2012, told Ofsted inspectors probing her school last month that she had been marginalised by Tahir Alam, the hardline chair of governors at Park View, and the school’s principal, effectively its number two, Mohammed “Moz” Hussain. The school’s leadership and management have now been dropped to “inadequate” by Ofsted in a report expected soon.
As we reported on Sunday, a former department head at Park View, Nigel Sloan, says he witnessed Mr Hussain giving “mind-blowing anti-Western propaganda” assemblies to pupils at the school, including claims that the Americans were “the evil in the world” and “the cause of all famine.” Mr Hussain is now a candidate to replace Mrs Clark.
The same issue of the newsletter includes an attack by Dave Hughes, Park View Education Trust’s only non-Muslim director, on Mr Sloan – essentially the predictable charge of racism that the school’s defenders have been wheeling out since the beginning. Mr Hughes is also booked on BBC WM radio this morning to spread the word that it’s all Islamophobic lies.
It’s not very surprising, perhaps, that a member of the leadership team branded “inadequate” should dispute his own inadequacy. Interestingly, however, for all its huffing and puffing, Mr Hughes’ article doesn’t specifically deny the charge that Nigel Sloan makes. Just thought I’d point that out.
Tell Mama’s founder, Fiyaz Mughal, said that there had been a “wave of attacks” against Muslims, with 193 “Islamophobic incidents” reported to it in the first five days (to 27 May), rising to 212 by June 1, the eve of publication of our first article.
“I do not see an end to this cycle of violence”, said Mughal, describing it as “unprecedented”. Tell Mama’s Twitter feed claimed that a Muslim woman had been “knocked unconscious” in Bolton, a claim recycled in the Guardian. “The scale of the backlash is astounding,” Mughal told the BBC. “There has been a massive spike in anti-Muslim prejudice. A sense of endemic fear has gripped Muslim communities.” According to Mughal, the unprecedented spike proved British society’s “underlying Islamophobia.” These claims, and Tell Mama’s figures, were unquestioningly repeated across the media.
What Tell Mama and Mughal did not tell us at the time, however, was that 57 per cent of its 212 “incidents” took place only online, mainly offensive postings on Twitter and Facebook. They did not say that a further 16 per cent of the 212 reports had not been verified. They forgot to mention that not all the online abuse even originated in Britain.
Contrary to the group’s claim of an unending “cycle of violence” and a “wave of attacks”, only 17 of the 212 incidents, 8 per cent, involved the physical targeting of people and there were no attacks on anyone serious enough to require medical treatment. The supposed Bolton attack never happened. There were a further 13 attacks on Islamic buildings, four of them serious.
Far from being “unprecedented,” the spike in attacks was in fact “slightly less” than after 7/7, according to the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick. Far from being unending, the post-Woolwich spike in anti-Muslim incidents fell to pre-Rigby levels within days. If there was a “sense of endemic fear” in Muslim communities, it was partly created by Fiyaz Mughal himself.
Mr Mughal, as you can imagine, wasn’t best pleased when we reported all this. In a typically bullying campaign, he got his supporters to write round-robin emails to the paper accusing us of behaviour “better suited to the days of 1930s Germany,” wound up to attack us various luminaries who should have known better, and submitted what would became a 10-month, 127-page Press Complaints Commission complaint, full of the same misrepresentation and bluster that characterised his earlier media performances. At one point, he asked to withdraw the complaint – only to reactivate it several months later. This is, apparently, allowed.
Last week he was comprehensively defeated on all points. The PCC ruled that our reporting that Mughal exaggerated the prevalence of anti-Muslim attacks, that he had not had his funding renewed, and that DCLG officials had expressed concern about his methods, was “not inaccurate.”
Perhaps it helped that we could point out that the day after our first piece, Mughal himself admitted to the BBC that the number of physical attacks was in fact “quite small;” that within two months, he had quietly dropped his own estimate of the number of “Islamophobic incidents” post-Rigby from 193 in the first five days to “more than 120” in the first week; and that the DCLG, by his own admission, had demanded an “independent review” of his data. Various police officers and DCLG officials, asked by Mughal to support his case against us, conspicuously declined to do so.
Mughal does seem to spend too much of his time picking silly fights – as we also reported, he has been threatening to sue people who criticise him on Twitter. Perhaps it’s time to get back to the day job? Although anti-Muslim hate crime in Britain appears (with the exception of the brief spike after Rigby) to be diminishing, not growing, there remain, as my articles made quite clear, real and significant anti-Muslim hatred in this country, and it’s disgraceful.
Over the next few weeks, this blog will be setting out in detail the truth about Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, and the full evidence against him. I should stress that, over the last four years, all our material about Lutfur and his extremist allies has survived literally hundreds of complaints to Ofcom and the Press Complaints Commission.
Rahman’s supporters make two main defences: first, that in the words of the Guardian’s Dave Hill, “if Rahman has sinned, how many others are doing so all day, every day in ways that, in the end, differ if at all only in the means and detail?”
To the contrary, this series of blog posts will show that what is happening in Tower Hamlets is on a completely different plane from normal political behaviour. (What is it with Dave, who has embarrassing form as Ken Livingstone’s chief media poodle? Has he some psychological need to act as a public excuse-maker for the least scrupulous politicians he can find?)
The second defence, inevitably, is to claim that all scrutiny of Rahman is racist – again, without any factual basis. Instead, as I show below, it is Rahman who is practising racial and religious favouritism and it is his ethnicity that has saved him from scrutiny. Any council led by a white politician responsible for even half of what Tower Hamlets has done would by now have been picked apart by the media and placed under official investigation. But many journalists and officials are afraid of being branded racist for criticising Rahman.
Finally, however, following the BBC’s Panorama on Rahman this week, it looks as if the dam is breaking. A Government investigation is now looking extremely likely. In the days ahead, I will describe the kind of things it should be about.
We start today with the evidence which shows how the Rahman adminstration’s grant-giving in many areas strongly favours Muslim groups, even though their presence in the borough is actually falling.
First, some facts about the ethnic and faith makeup of Tower Hamlets. According to the 2011 census, its largest single ethnic group is white – 45.2 per cent of the population. Bangladeshis make up 32 per cent – down from 33.4 per cent in 2001. Muslims make up 34.5 per cent of Tower Hamlets people – again down, from 36.4 per cent in 2001.
You wouldn’t know this from the makeup of Lutfur Rahman’s ruling cabinet, which is 100 per cent Bangladeshi and Muslim, or from his grants. In 2012, the council changed its policy to ensure that “the decisions for all awards over £1,000 were to be made by the Mayor under his executive authority”.
After that time, as both the BBC and I have catalogued, there was a clear diversion of funding away from secular bodies serving the whole community to faith-based or religious groups serving only sections of the community. As councillors on Tower Hamlets’ cross-party scrutiny committee put it, “new, untested organisations with no track record of delivering for the community” suddenly sprang up, paid substantial sums for often ill-defined projects. As I will describe in future posts, several of these very well-funded new projects appear to be based in people’s private homes. Several involve individuals with close personal connections to Lutfur Rahman.
There are a number of grants programmes with which we will deal in turn.
Community faith buildings support scheme
This is a new £2 million fund invented by Lutfur Rahman to pay money to religious buildings. No other council in Britain does this, or anything like it. Of the first £600,000 awarded, the only round announced so far, £388,000 (64 per cent) went to Muslim faith buildings.
Some places got grants without even having to say what they wanted them for – for instance, the Bow Muslim Cultural Centre got £10,000 for work simply described as “to be confirmed.” Let’s hope they think of something to spend it on soon, shall we?
Many of the recipients were in no need whatever – such as the East London Mosque, which got £10,000 for “professional fees” even though it has an income of more than £1 million a year. The East London Mosque is the home of Lutfur’s key backers, the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), whose front organisations have received millions from the council under various programmes.
Community events and community chest schemes
Rahman has created funds that organise pre-election events and reward his supporters and potential supporters with public money. Of the £593,512 granted, at least £327,645 (55 per cent) has gone to Muslim organisations.
Grants (listed here and here) included a total of £37,195 to several groups closely associated with the IFE. A further £32,500 of public money has been paid to UK-based Bengali-language newspapers, media organisations and TV stations – influential with Rahman’s electorate – which have given the mayor fawning coverage.
Other grants included £1,800 to an Islamic religious teachers’ organisation for its annual day out to the Isle of Wight and £1,500 for a “festival of sneakers.” Someone else has bought themselves a coffee machine on the public dime. In a number of other cases, as with the faith grants, the council hasn’t troubled even to agree what it is paying for before it hands out the dough.
Rahman’s own officers and the council’s cross-party overview and scrutiny committee strongly objected to several of the awards, but the mayor brushed them aside, saying (in a written decision – he’s refused to answer any questions on the issue) that “although officers may come to the view that an application is poor and/or that it should not receive funding, there are from time to time cases where, when taking account of wider circumstances, projects are worth supporting in view of the perceived potential community benefits” (Page 5 of this PDF).
At its meeting on 7 January, members of the overview and scrutiny committee said that the grants were “not benefiting the Borough as a whole” but were “being directed to certain areas in the west of the borough where the Mayor had the majority of his vote.” The Bengali areas, they meant. Two maps, published by the committee, of the chosen locations for the grants make this favouritism starkly clear.
The pre-existing, and much larger, “mainstream grants” programme, too, has been changed to favour Rahman’s client groups, as the council’s own documents admit. Several key elements of the programme are affected. The full list of grants is here.
Older people’s lunch club programme
Of the £907,180 given to run lunch clubs for residents over 50, £515,280 (57 per cent) was allocated to Muslim organisations, to lunch clubs described by the council as exclusively for Bangladeshis or Somalis, or to clubs which from their own publicity are aimed at an exclusively Muslim clientele.
As the council’s own equality impact assessment admits (p5 of PDF), 22 out of the 34 lunch clubs funded (65 per cent) are targeted at ethnic minorities, even though 60 per cent of the borough’s over-50s are white and only 23 per cent are Bangladeshi. There was an increase of nine ethnic minority-only lunch clubs from the previous funding round, and “a reduction in lunch clubs for the general population, which primarily impacts the white British, Irish and non-Bangladeshi or Somali ethnic minority population”.
Community and economic engagement
Of the £1,235,000 in grants for community and economic engagement, £858,500 (70 per cent) went to Muslim organisations. Beneficiaries included the IFE front, the Osmani Trust, which received £80,000.
Children, schools and families
Of the £526,000 in grants for children, schools and families, £334,500 (64 per cent) went to Muslim organisations. Beneficiaries included two IFE fronts, the London Muslim Centre and the Osmani Trust, which received a total of £140,000.
As the council’s own documents admit (p3 of PDF), “this funding stream primarily supports Bangladeshi and other BAME [ethnic minority] communities.”
Of the £207,850 allocated in grants for study support schemes, £130,750 (63 per cent) went to Muslim organisations.
Mother tongue classes
Of the £313,486 in grants for mother tongue lessons, £296,016 (94 per cent) was allocated to Muslim organisations. The neighbouring secular borough of Newham spends money on teaching recent immigrants to speak English. Lutfur’s Tower Hamlets spends money on teaching people not to speak English.
Youth and Connexions services
Of the £667,000 in grants for youth and “connexions” (career advice) services, £437,500 (66 per cent) was allocated to Muslim organisations. Beneficiaries included the IFE front, the Osmani Trust, which received £130,000.
Of the £156,000 for lifelong learning, £87,000 (57 per cent) was allocated to Muslim organisations.
In only a handful of programmes in the grants portfolio, mainly those handed out under national guidelines such as the early years nursery grants, do Muslim groups not take the lion’s share of the funding.
It may be argued that Bangladeshis, in particular, are a poor community who need more help than others. They do – but in the past, as is still the case elsewhere in east London, that help was provided by long-established secular organisations with a strong track record of delivering for all communities, not organised into faith or race silos and not operating out of individuals’ private homes.