Maajid Nawaz, Michael Gove, Ofsted and the “Trojan Hoax”

Former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove who spearheaded the Trojan Horse investigation in Birmingham schools

The Trojan Horse investigation is another scaremongering tactic used by the government to demonise Islam and Muslims and Maajid Nawaz appearing on the BBC to discuss the scandal only confirms this, writes Ghulam Esposito Haydar.   

It is interesting that the BBC perpetually calls on Maajid Nawaz for discussions which include traditional orthodox Muslims.

Nawaz is a controversial figure who has a reputation for causing discord within the British Muslim community. British Muslims do not recognise him or his organisation as representative members of the community.

And it’s quite bizarre that he made the statement that “it is the vocal minorities that are dominating the discourse”. The irony could not be lost in this statement since it is people precisely like him who are the vocal minority given an unprecedented amount of media space.

Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam Foundation
Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam Foundation

Watching Maajid Nawaz espouse his aggressive rhetoric on national television shouldn’t surprise us.

Little has changed about Nawaz. In spite of his constant renunciation of his previous ways, it is clear from the manner in which he constantly interrupted fellow Newsnight guest, Ibrahim Hewitt, that he is still an attention seeker who wishes to be heard by shouting the loudest.

The way that he demands instant answers which require insightful explanation is reminiscent of that of his apparent foe, Anjem Choudary. Those who know him will recognise the similar tactics of interrupting and shouting over fellow guests.

Maajid has indeed taken a leaf out of Choudary’s book; after all, they’re both cut from the same cloth. They both live in a world of black and white.

“Trojan Hoax”

It was interesting how Maajid felt he needed to question Ibrahim Hewitt’s personal beliefs on the penal code of the Shariah (which isn’t as black and white as he wishes to make the unassuming British population believe) rather than discuss the subject at hand, “The Trojan Hoax”.

Keeping the Trojan Hoax alive is merely opportunism from the government. If we examine the absurd nature of the “plot”: an “anonymous letter” found by the wayside outlining the desire to increase religious influence in public schools is submitted to the local council in Birmingham.

This consequently instigates four separate government inspections, one of which was led by a counter-terrorism officer of a school in a deprived inner city area of Birmingham. A school that has a near-complete intake of ethnic minority students who come from an extremely deprived area of the UK. A school which has successfully managed to overturn a culture of academic failure, achieving results well above the national average. A school that was only recently identified as a model example by the education authorities.

The Education Minister Michael Gove’s decision to turn this story into a national concern along the lines of “tackling extremism” in schools has been nothing short of sensationalism and a disingenuous attempt to create distrust between the Muslims and the wider society.

Ofsted

On the issue of the subsequent school inspections which were performed in a sinister fashion, Lee Donaghy, the assistant principal of Park View School said: “Their selective search and use of evidence was clear to us. They picked on small things and things that would fit a narrative, and ignored things that would go against that narrative.”

More than 20 Muslim schools in Birmingham are being investigated under the "Trojan Horse" scandal.
More than 20 Muslim schools in Birmingham are being investigated under the “Trojan Horse” scandal.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, Sir Tim Brighouse, a former chief education officer in Birmingham, stated that he was extremely unhappy at the way Ofsted had conducted inspections into schools allegedly infiltrated by conservative Muslims and that it is at risk of compromising political independence by producing “tarnished reports”.

Describing the mass inspection as “a landmark in the history of education in these islands”, Brighouse and the other signatories argue: “First-hand accounts of the Ofsted inspections that have emerged are disturbing. They suggest that inspectors were poorly prepared and had an agenda that calls into question Ofsted’s claim to be objective and professional in its appraisal of standards in schools serving predominantly Muslim pupils.

“It is beyond belief that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be outstanding are now widely reported as ‘inadequate’, despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body. This is uncharted territory, with Ofsted being guided by an ideology at odds with the traditional British values which schools are meant to espouse, particularly fairness, justice and respect for others.”

On Tuesday, further evidence also emerged of abrupt shifts in Ofsted’s inspection results with a leaked inspection report showing that a second secondary school in the city that had been previously rated as “good or outstanding” in November 2013 is expected to be downgraded to “inadequate” when its new report is published next week.

Who’s pulling the strings?

To suggest that cabinet ministers are in collusion with Ofsted isn’t a farfetched assumption.

If we examine this further, it does seem that Ofsted have been instructed to shift their goal posts. Take for example the manner in which Ofsted inspectors conducted their investigations in all of the implicated schools, which included the independent (i.e. not state funded) Olive Tree primary school in Luton. They persistently questioned primary children about their attitudes to homosexuality.

Contrast this to happenings earlier this year, where a number of Catholic state-funded schools across the Lancashire region in the North-West of England distributed a booklet to pupils discussing a boy dealing with homosexual attractions, that suggested, could stem from “an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys or even sexual abuse.”  The booklet went on to state that the homosexual act is “disordered” and was directed against “God’s natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding.”

When the TUC wrote to Gove about what they believe to be a contravention of current equality legislation, he insisted: “The law did not extend to the school curriculum, and any materials used in sex or relationship education would not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the Act”. 

It will be interesting to see whether Mr Gove will make a similar defence of the implicated Muslim schools in the Trojan Horse affair, when Ofsted release their reports.

Ghulam Esposito Haydar is a Muslim activist, the founder of Manchester New Muslim Network and the Myriad Foundation.

@ghulamesposito

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