Thursday 15 May 2014

Trojan Horse; hobbled

While I agree with Craig that Mishal Husain did a fairly robust job of interviewing Tahir Alam recently on the Today programme, (nice illustration by the way) I’d argue that we’re allowing ourselves to be distracted by relatively superficial, even peripheral issues. By spending too much time on these, the fundamental problems are suffocated and never confronted head-on.

We’re continually diverted by the media’s preoccupation with the symptoms rather than the illness.  So with regard to the Trojan Horse fandango the problems Mishal Husain was trying to tackle, such as gender segregation in class, dress code and attitudes to arts subjects like music and dance, are easily dispatched by Tahir Alam and his fellow 'horses' with airy, somewhat disingenuous assurances like “that’s not school policy” often with a caveat such as  “but, but if the pupils choose...”

Sarah AB has readjusted her position on the Harry’s Place fence today, by setting out certain pieces of the puzzle. As well as the above, allegations were made that a Park View teacher taught in class that:

In Islam women were required to obey their husbands and could not refuse to have sex with them. This was brushed aside as ‘a misunderstanding.’  

Whereas schools are encouraged to celebrate the interests and festivals of Muslims, they are advised to avoid events which may make Muslim children feel excluded. 

a pretty conservative interpretation of the religion is presented as the minimum and the default.
 Strong stuff from Sarah AB, who goes on to say, of Ibrahim Hewitt’s “appalling views”  
“It seems perfectly reasonable that Gove should have been worried.” 

A good article, I thought.

The media’s examination of the Trojan Horse issue is hobbled by political correctness across the board. Some of the more obvious symptoms are noted with increasing frankness, but fear of appearing racist means that the underlying cause is ignored.

The question is whether it’s okay for a state school attended by children, 99% of whom are from Muslim families, to insist on autonomy, which in this case means bowing to the wishes of the majority view.  If the ‘interested parties’ - parents, pupils and governors wish it, why should it not be so?

We are allowed to venture, cautiously, that it’s Britain we’re talking about, not Pakistan, although talking about a ‘clash of cultures’ is taboo in the current climate. (That’s the kind of man-made climate change that can’t come too soon.) 

Why do Muslim families wish to come to  libertarian country in the first place? Why choose to live in a democracy, which is largely secular, and that mainly because it's secure in the knowledge that the majority of the inhabitants respects its underlying Judeo-Christian structure? 

What is it about the UK that they wish to share? Are they like crowds who flock to enjoy some serenity, and in the process destroy the very serenity they seek? Or is it all part of a broader Trojan Horse style enterprise, in which a world-wide Islamic caliphate is achieved, bit by bit, as many people claim. 

I feel like Mrs Merton “Tell me, Ibrahim Hewitt  what attracted you to tolerant, complacent, yet very vulnerable Britain?”

In his helpful guide “What Does Islam Say” Mr Hewitt is not shy. He’s more open and honest than any of the mealy-mouthed apologists who tie themselves in knots beating around the bush, not unlike Emma Knights, spokesperson for the governor’s campaign group ‘Inspire Governors” with Justin Webb this morning. Today. 12 mins past 7 am.

What is the job of school governors? The question is very much in play. Following the allegation that some schools in Birmingham have been hijacked by Islamic extremists there is a separate campaign to improve school governance. The chief of the campaign Emma Knights is here.  And your campaign is going to do what? 

We want to encourage people up and down the country who have never thought about volunteering as a school governor to do exactly that. So, for example one of the qualities that is incredibly important for school governors is the ability to ask questions and to understand what is happening in the school and to check with the head, that things are going as they should” [...] 
“Your discussion, and your appeal to people is taking place in the wake of the allegations of what is happening in Birmingham, and it sort of raises questions about the role of governors. Should they be enforcing the attitudes of..... local communities, .....local people (eggshells crunching) should they be representing the views of local communities and making sure schools conform to those views, or are they..... a step back if you like, people who are there to enforce, to represent the view of wider liberal secular, society? What’s the job of a governor? 

We have the same job as boards of any other sector... 

But are they there though to enforce the view of how a school should behave, of local people...or of wider society? 

No, we are not representative, so although we pull people, we hope, with a range of experience, we want a diverse set of people so we don’t have ‘groupthink’, that’s not good for governance, but once we come round the table, whether we are a parent, wether we are from the local community or whether we are for example from employers, we are encouraging [....] we don’t represent our particular backgrounds we are there governing in the interests of the pupils in that school. That is our job! 

In the interests of the pupils doesn’t really answer it, does it? In the interests of the pupils as seen by particular communities? Or in the interests of the pupils as seen generally in the way society is run in Britain?  

As seen by those fifteen individuals round the table
So we are bringing our combined experience, skills and wisdom to hold the schools to account. 

So if you think, for instance, that Muslim girls shouldn’t go swimming during Ramadan because they might ingest water and that would be breaking their fast, and you have that view as a governor, that is perfectly acceptable, then, for that view to percolate from the governors through the school. In other words the governors aren’t there to protect some idealised, liberal secular view of education, they are there to represent the views of local people. 

One of our three key responsibilities is to set the vision and the ethos of the school, so between them those people will do that. We’re also responsible for ensuring that the head-teacher and the teachers were doing their jobs properly, and we’re also responsible for the finance of the school, so between us school governors are responsible for about £b 46 of public expenditure. 

I just wondered who’s responsible for looking after children though, when there’s a conflict if you like, between  the way some local people want those children to be treated and the wider way in which children generally are treated, Who looks after their interests? Not, according to you, the governors. 

Yes, exactly, the governing body are there in the interests of pupils. So what we should be doing is talking to the various constituencies, whether that be the local communities, the parents, staff, and indeed pupils themselves, but it’ll be that group of about 15 individuals which will take the decision. But in a way what your questions are doing are actually highlighting how incredibly important this role is and the fact that it’s been largely overlooked, hidden from view,[..] illustrates why the ‘inspiring governors’ campaign is so badly needed. 

So poor Justin was outmanoeuvred by Emma Knights who successfully avoided answering all those awkward ‘are you with us or against us?’ questions. She might have been too busy concentrating on being  un-Islamophobic, or perhaps she was simply too dim to realise what Justin was getting at.

Brownie points to Justing for trying.

Over on Al Jazeera’s website Ibrahim Hewitt has published an article titled “Crusade against British Muslims in education, a counter-assault on the neocons.
“The real Trojan Horse plot is the planting of neo-conservative apparatchiks in key positions within government departments and quasi-governmental bodies. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is himself an avowed neoconservative.” 

Some of the BTL comments give him a kicking, but it’s his point of view, and it’s helpful in that it sets out the difference between “them and us” straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. It clarifies the problem in a way perhaps more revealing than he intended.

He associates ‘achievement’ or attainment with religiosity, Islam-style, and claims that if schools do not cater for the ‘needs’ of Muslim pupils they will not be happy learners.
I would take exactly the opposite view, but I do see where he’s coming from. 

He contends that the Muslims have been disadvantaged by not having their religious needs catered for and believes that granting Muslim children the unnatural conservative Islamic practices we neo-cons are determined to deny them would instantly bestow greater attainment upon them. What sort of attainment we do not know. Not the arts, probably not history, and definitely no joy.

Then there’s the problematic interpretation of the word ‘extremist’. The government and the politically correct brigade are currently allowed only to openly condemn ‘extremism’ as undesirable and dangerous, but so far we can’t point out that it’s not only the extreme version of Islam that  is a threat. It’s the whole bang shoot.

All that is permissible is to protest that ‘extremism’ is a perversion of the real Islam, despite everything that Ibrahim Hewitt and Tahir Alam say in their publications and recommendations. It’s crazy.

1 comment:

  1. I`m no fan of Justin Webb, but to be fair to him...he DID ask the pertinent questions but our Emma was as much a PC World do-gooder as you tend to get from superannuated mumsnet types with too much free time, and too much guilt tripping.
    Knights never did see how ludicrous her campaign was when laid next to this current scandal in power, no accountability but the whole Koran thrown at you if you`re not pliant to the "host community".
    The BBC did put the stories together-and Webb did try to untangle the nest of vipers that Emma wanted to squirm for our fascination.


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