Saturday 26 April 2014

Straight from the Trojan Horse's mouth?

When you've been following a story closely at, say, Andrew Gilligan's column in the (right-leaning) Telegraph or at (left-leaning) Harry's Place, and they've been somewhat of the same mind about it, then the BBC's coverage of the same story can appear to come from somewhere unique to the BBC. Somewhere strange.

The Trojan Horse story is a case in point.

Yes, all credit must be given to Newsnight for leading their Thursday edition with some freshly-discovered developments in the story, but the results were tame by the standards of what I've been reading elsewhere. 

It's as if they were holding back, and that ever-present sense of a BBC walking along a concrete path (when it comes to Muslim sensibilities) as if they were actually treading on a land-mine-festooned gossamer web decorated with humming bird egg-shells comes to mind again.

Still, contrary to what many of us might have expected, the BBC hasn't ignored the story. 

Indeed, programmes like Today and Newsnight have been actively involved in investigating it, and on this edition of the programme Newsnight went to Park View School in Birmingham and talked to two teachers there who said (anonymously) that (a) worksheets were handed to Year 11 boys saying that a woman must obey her husband and that sex education lessons contained the message that “wives are not allowed to say no”, and (b) that Creationism and intelligent design were taught by at least one science teacher. 

The school's response was that the former came about due to a misunderstanding and that a school assembly had been convened afterwards to make it clear that non-consensual sex within marriage is rape. Plus they said that Creationism isn't school policy.

Then (in Chris Cook's report) two young female Muslim parents were interviewed, stating how good the school has been at helping produce well-behaved pupils in a deprived area of Birmingham - which rather took the sting out of the report.

Kirsty Wark then interviewed Talha Ahmad from the Muslim Council of Britain and Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association.

Kirsty stuck to challenging Mr Ahmad over those two charges, rather going round in circles in the process, and then started rubbishing the "overblown" claims being made about the affair with Andrew Copson. 

Andrew, being a nice humanist, wasn't the man to give a robust, non-pc answer to such questioning and, frankly, Newsnight really needs to get Andrew Gilligan onto the programme. He would have given Kirsty short shrift over such assertions.

Andrew C was there because the BHA has been investigating the story too - rather more robustly than the BBC in fact.

The BBC report completely missed some of the more serious charges being reported by the BHA, and it's a shame that Andrew Copson didn't mention some of them during his Newsnight appearance (for some reason).

The Birmingham Post is reporting the BHA's findings in much greater detail. 

The BHA is saying that "former workers" at the school claim that (a) pupils at Park View School were allowed to express “positive views” about the 7/7 and 9/11 attacks, (b) members of staff had been advised not to bring soldiers to the school for visits and (c) that one employee spoke of wanting an “Islamic state”.

This story looks set to run and run and the BBC is bound to keep pussy-footing around over the issue. Because that's what they do.

Update: ...and there's more from Andrew Gilligan in this morning's Sunday Times.

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