The Muslim Council of Britain has called for an independent public inquiry into the Birmingham Trojan Horse affair following revelations in a New York Times podcast by investigative journalists Hamza Syed and Brian Reed.
Among other things, the podcast revealed that Government Minister Michael Gove, who launched the Trojan horse inquiries, was told by authorities that the letter upon which it was based was fake.
The affair, which began in 2014, led to a media frenzy about “Islamic extremism,” teachers being sacked and banned, and counter-extremism policies being beefed up.
The official government report found “disturbing” evidence that people with a “shared ideology” were trying to gain control of school governing bodies in Birmingham. It found evidence of an “aggressive Islamist agenda” and highlighted “intolerant” messages between school staff.
But Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, said: “This podcast reveals the deep-rooted nature of institutional Islamophobia in the UK. Each episode is a damning indictment of how narratives and tropes were perpetuated to feed a story of moral panic, in which Muslims are centre stage. The consequences of the ‘Trojan Hoax’ not only ruined the lives of those directly involved but punished a whole generation of Muslims across the UK. This series reflects the hostile political environment in which British Muslims still find themselves in today, suspect communities and not quite British enough.
“The truth now needs to come out. Who was behind this hoax? Why did decision makers dismiss crucial evidence presented at every turn? We know who the victims of this hoax were, but who were the beneficiaries? We call for an independent public inquiry into the Trojan Horse case, and a public apology from those who ignored the truths presented to them. Communities deserve the truth.
“We commend the New York Times and their journalists for forensically reporting the facts; basic things all journalists should do. Their findings are an indictment on British policymaking and the media echo chamber they rely on.”
The Trojan Horse affair centred around allegations of a supposed “plot” by Muslim teachers in Birmingham, including a step-by-step plan, to take over schools and impose extremist or hardline views of Islam. The claims were based on an anonymous letter, later leaked to the media, which was widely discredited by Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police.
The MCB said the government must now “be held accountable for their actions; for the effect this had on Muslim communities across the country at the time, and since. Trust needs to be rebuilt and only a truly independent public inquiry will shed light on the truth of the matter.”
The MCB said there are also serious points of reflection for the British media which struggled to scrutinise the narrative put forward by government.
“The MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring, in its report ‘British Media’s Coverage of Muslims and Islam (2018-2020)’ concluded that media commentators consistently cited the alleged ‘plot’ as a function within media reports as an index for ‘Extremism’ and ‘religious intolerance’. This fueled a pervasive narrative of Muslims which persists to this day; reflected in hate crime statistics and attitude surveys which show how negatively Muslims are perceived in society…
“The resulting action from this national hoax has been used to justify government policy and vilify Muslims, casting suspicion and aspersions on those who wish to participate in public life.”