Senior MP hits out at erasing extremists' effort to take over UK schools

Khalid Mahmood is concerned local schools in his city are at the centre of an ideological battle

Michael Gove joined Khalid Mahmood and others to write in the Policy Exchange report on co-opting UK schools for an ideological agenda. PA
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A leading British MP has spoken out against a concerted campaign to cover up efforts by extremists to take over UK schools and radicalise pupils.

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for a Birmingham seat and the longest serving Muslim in the House of Commons, warned that a 2015 scandal involving local education was being written out of public memory.

The think tank Policy Exchange said in a report issued on Monday that the effort involved a high-profile podcast series, books and campaigner appearances.

In a foreword, Mr Mahmood said the extent of the continuing cover-up was fuelling conspiracy theories about events at the school, which led to an investigation commissioned by the UK government into extremism and a damning report by Ofsted, the education regulator.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has written about defending schools from extremism. Getty

In particular he warned of the effect of the podcast, The Trojan Horse Affair, which was aired this year.

“Eight years on, there is a risk that the truth — as understood by the public as well as within more specialist academic circles — will be even more diminished,” Mr Mahmood wrote.

“This threw fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories about a supposed 'witch hunt' of Muslims led by an 'Islamophobic' government.

"The podcast was uncritically embraced and promoted by activists who claim Muslims were scapegoated by the official inquiries and the media coverage of the Trojan Horse affair.

"But these activists do not represent all Muslims, many of whom told me they were too afraid to publicly challenge the activists’ narrative.”

The Policy Exchange report shows how systematic the school authorities in certain parts of Birmingham had been in pushing extremist concepts of what should be taught.

Policy Exchange said the organised efforts to exert control included matters such as diminishing the teaching of science subjects such as biology.

It quoted from the findings of senior police terrorism expert Peter Clarke about the extent of organising.

This encompassed “the effective takeover of the governing body by like-minded people” and “interference by the governing body in the curriculum and the day-to-day running of the school”.

It also included “bullying and intimidation of senior teaching staff" and “the reinforcement of Muslim identity to the exclusion or disparagement of others”.

Policy Exchange also said head teachers considered to be hostile by the organisers, who used WhatsApp groups such as Park View Brotherhood, were in line to be sacked.

“In several of the schools inspected, children are being badly prepared for life in modern Britain," a report by the leading educationalist Sir Michael Wilshaw concluded at the time.

The Policy Exchange report also had a foreword from Britain's Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, and commentator Nick Timothy.

“The notion that the events in Birmingham had nothing to do with extremism is as dangerous as it is false, since it conceals an ugly truth that too many prefer not to acknowledge," they wrote.

"We have a problem in Britain with Islamist ideology and its adherents, who seek to impose their intolerant values on Muslim communities, including children, through non-violent means including the capture of important institutions such as schools," they wrote.

"The fear of being branded 'Islamophobic' has only made it more difficult to speak up about such extremism.”

The ultimate purpose was to undermine the government's main counter-extremism policy, Prevent.

“There is a well-organised campaign that seeks to undermine our counter-extremism work and the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent," the Conservative Party representatives said.

Updated: December 12, 2022, 7:36 AM
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