Operation Trojan Horse

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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".

Letter[edit]

The leaked letter on the alleged plot was reported by media including the BBC on 7 March 2014.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] It was also encouraged to attain Academy status for successfully infiltrated schools, so as to have a curriculum independent of the Local Education Authority.[2] The letter was alleged to have been written from Birmingham and sent to a contact in Bradford to expand the operation into that city.[1] Its author described the plan as "totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar".[2]

Investigation[edit]

The Department for Education, Ofsted and Birmingham City Council agreed to investigate the letter, although West Midlands Police decided that it was not a matter for them.[1]

In March 2014, Ofsted made two inspections at Park View School in Alum Rock, Birmingham, one of the schools named in the letter.[3] 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".[4]

On 10 April, the council announced an investigation into the allegations, estimated to last six months.[5] Ian Kershaw, a former Headteacher in nearby Coventry, was named as its full-time special adviser.[6] The inquiry will be led by Peter Clarke, a former senior Metropolitan Police officer and ex-head of the Counter Terrorism Command.[7]

Reaction[edit]

Political and unions[edit]

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.[8] Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to Birmingham, praised his government's swift action in investigating the conspiracy.[9] Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also backed the investigation, stating that schools should not become "silos of segregation".[10] 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.[11]

Members of Parliament of all three major parties in Birmingham wrote a joint letter for an inquiry.[12] 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.[13] 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".[14] On 10 April, in reaction to Operation Trojan Horse, Birmingham City Council imposed a temporary freeze on the appointment of school governors.[5]

Support of allegations[edit]

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.[15] Although the school describes itself as "multi-faith", there are allegations that the Islamic call to prayer is broadcast throughout.[15] 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.[14]

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.[16] 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.[17]

Opposition to allegations[edit]

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".[18] 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.[19] Tahir Alam, a governor at Park View School since 1997, said that the accusations had been "motivated by anti-Muslim, anti-Islam sentiment".[15]

See also[edit]

  • Al-Madinah School, Muslim academy investigated in 2013 over allegations of discrimination and subsequently shut down

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Mackie, Phil (7 March 2014). "'Islamic takeover plot' in Birmingham schools investigated". BBC News. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Oldham, Jeanette (7 March 2014). "'Jihadist plot to take over Birmingham schools'". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Oldham, Jeanette (21 March 2014). "Ofsted in second snap inspection at Birmingham school as 'Trojan Horse' probe continues". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Trojan Horse: 25 schools probed over alleged takeover plot". BBC News. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Hiles, Hannah (10 April 2014). "Birmingham council freezes appointment of school governors following Trojan Horse probe". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  6. ^ McCarthy, Nick (14 April 2014). "Trojan Horse: Special adviser brought in to investigate 25 Birmingham schools". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "Trojan Horse probe headed by ex-Met chief Peter Clarke". BBC News. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Hallam, Katy (5 April 2014). "Trojan Horse probe: Teachers union demands review of academies as Birmingham schools are investigated". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Hiles, Hannah (4 April 2014). "Birmingham schools Trojan Horse probe: PM David Cameron backing Ofsted". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Arkell, Harriet (14 April 2014). "Did Muslim hardliners try to infiltrate and takeover TWENTY FIVE Birmingham schools? Probe into 'Trojan horse' plot expands". Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Extremist 'takeovers' in Birmingham schools?". BBC News. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Savvas, Christina (8 April 2014). "MPs unite in call for 'school plot' inquiry". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Elkes, Neil (1 April 2014). "Birmingham Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood says city schools are being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Gilligan, Andrew (30 March 2014). "Teachers 'assaulted and marginalised in Islamising plot'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c Webb, Sam (10 April 2014). "Secondary school investigated over 'infiltration by Islamic extremists' is victim of a witch-hunt, says governor". Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Elkes, Neil (9 April 2014). "Birmingham City Council receives 'hundreds' of allegations after Trojan Horse claims". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "Birmingham 'Trojan Horse' plot 'started 20 years ago'". BBC News. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  18. ^ Marks, Gary (9 April 2014). "Trojan Horse probe at Birmingham schools: Academy hits out at 'witch-hunt'". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Birmingham schools 'Islam plot' letter 'is defamatory'". BBC News. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.