Operation Trojan Horse
Operation Trojan Horse is an alleged plot by Islamists to take over schools in England and run them to their agenda. The name, based on the Ancient Greek myth, came from a leaked letter discovered in March 2014, alleged to be from Islamists in Birmingham, specifying the steps to take in order to get a school under control and speculating on the possibility of expanding the conspiracy to other cities. While some staff have stated that they were removed from their posts in manners similar to those described in the letter, others have dubbed the reaction of authorities to the alleged plot a "witch hunt".
The leaked letter on the alleged plot was reported by media including the BBC on 7 March 2014. In it, Islamists claimed responsibility for installing a new headteacher at four schools in Birmingham, and highlighted 12 others in the city which would be easy targets due to large Muslim attendance and poor inspection reports. It encouraged parents to complain about the school's leadership with false accusations of sex education, forced Christian prayer and mixed physical education, with the aim of obtaining a new leadership of Islamists. It was also encouraged to attain Academy status for successfully infiltrated schools, so as to have a curriculum independent of the Local Education Authority. The letter was alleged to have been written from Birmingham and sent to a contact in Bradford to expand the operation into that city. Its author described the plan as "totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar".
In March 2014, Ofsted made two inspections at Park View School in Alum Rock, Birmingham, one of the schools named in the letter. On 14 April, the City Council confirmed that it had received over 200 reports from parents and staff at 25 schools in Birmingham. Council leader Sir Albert Bore stated that his council had spoken to authorities in Bradford and Manchester, and said that there are "certainly issues in Bradford which have similarities with the issues being spoken about in Birmingham".
On 10 April, the council announced an investigation into the allegations, estimated to last six months. Ian Kershaw, a former Headteacher in nearby Coventry, was named as its full-time special adviser. The inquiry will be led by Peter Clarke, a former senior Metropolitan Police officer and ex-head of the Counter Terrorism Command.
Political and unions
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) demanded a full review of academies after the letter was revealed, expressing that political and religious groups had exploited the status at "thousands" of schools to indoctrinate children. Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to Birmingham, praised his government's swift action in investigating the conspiracy. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also backed the investigation, stating that schools should not become "silos of segregation". The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has stated that he is "extremely concerned by the allegations" and that no pupil should be exposed to "radicalisation" in school.
Members of Parliament of all three major parties in Birmingham wrote a joint letter for an inquiry. Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Perry Barr, said that the City Council may have known of previous plots, but not acted due to fears of being seen as anti-Islamic. Mahmood, who is a Muslim, said that he felt that it was certain that "Salafists" were attempting to change the school's secular nature and "split young people away from their parents". On 10 April, in reaction to Operation Trojan Horse, Birmingham City Council imposed a temporary freeze on the appointment of school governors.
Support of allegations
Two anonymous members of staff at Park View School told BBC Radio 4 that school assemblies had praised Anwar al-Awlaki, the former head of Al-Qaeda. Although the school describes itself as "multi-faith", there are allegations that the Islamic call to prayer is broadcast throughout. Park View Headteacher Lindsey Clark told inspectors that her role had been marginalised and that major decisions were being made by governor Tahir Alam and a small group of "hardliners". A senior teacher told inspectors that the solution to all problems would be a global Caliphate under Sharia law.
Roughly a month after the letter was revealed to the public, Birmingham City Council said that it had received "hundreds" of allegations of school takeover plots similar to those illustrated in the letter, dating back over 20 years. Michael White, former Headteacher at Park View School which was mentioned in the letter, told the BBC that the school's governing board had been "taken over by a Muslim sect" in 1993. They had allegedly pressured him to ban sex education and the teaching of non-Muslim religions, and dismissed him in 2003 after he told prospective teachers to question the governors.
Opposition to allegations
David Hughes, a trustee at Park View School, claimed that Ofsted's investigation of the school was biased, and dubbed the inspection a "witch hunt". Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham City Council, called the letter "defamatory" and "hugely difficult to investigate" and offered protection to the whistleblower if they would come forward to help in the investigation. Tahir Alam, a governor at Park View School since 1997, said that the accusations had been "motivated by anti-Muslim, anti-Islam sentiment".
- Al-Madinah School, Muslim academy investigated in 2013 over allegations of discrimination and subsequently shut down
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