UK: Dep Prime Minister, Clegg, defends use of counter terrorism expert investigating Muslim majority schools

1st Jul 2014

[Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi (L) interviewing Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, at his offices in Whitehall, on June 26. Photo: Sara Asaria/The Muslim News]

Hamed Chapman

London, (The Muslim News): Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has attempted to defend the Government’s controversial policy of tainting Birmingham schools with a brush of extremism and the use of a counter terrorism expert to investigate the Muslim majority schools.

In an exclusive interview with The Muslim News Editor, Ahmed J Versi, Clegg also switched the blame of the ensuing Islamophobic frenzy as being caused by the media rather than Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who initiated the Government’s interference with the support of Prime Minister, David Cameron, on the basis of a known forged document.

“If there are people in British Muslim communities who are anxious, fearful or, worse still, feel a bit intimidated by the tenor of this debate, I want them to know that I believe, and I think most people do, that they have as much right to their British identity as anybody else,” Clegg said.

“The vast majority of British Muslims believe in tolerance, equality before the law and mutual respect between faiths as much as anybody else. And so I think at a time of heightened anxiety like this, it is crucial that we work with the vast majority of British Muslims who want to promote values of mutual tolerance and respect, rather than run the risk of everyone feeling that they’re being painted into a corner. I think that it is very unhelpful and very unfair if people feel that they’re being tarred with the same brush.”

Clegg said that he was very keen to make this point “loud and clear” even though he supported the Government going ahead with putting five Birmingham schools under special measure, lining up four for takeover and taking 11 others to task despite Ofsted inspectors finding no evidence of alleged extremism nor of extremists taking over the schools as claimed by the ‘Trojan Horse’ conspiracy.

As Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Deputy Prime Minister has his own separate issues with his Conservative partners over education policy. In particular, he does not believe in the freedom given to academies that come under direct Government control, who have no requirement to follow the national curriculum nor employ qualified teachers

“It is of great frustration for me, that the recommendation to ensure that all schools deliver a core curriculum, hasn’t been supported by the Conservatives and this Government. And I think that parents should be entitled to expect that their sons and daughters are being taught by qualified teachers, or by teachers who are seeking a qualification and that all children, across our country, are taught a core body of knowledge. And I think that it is wrong of the Conservatives to block that.”

He agreed that this was not the fault of Muslims but of Government policy yet still denied that the Birmingham schools where Muslim pupils were in the majority were being singled out. “All schools, where there is a sudden deterioration or a sudden concern, are susceptible to Ofsted inspections,” he claimed. “There are many, many schools which don’t make the headlines, that aren’t covered by the media, where Ofsted go in and make aggressive recommendations of change.”

Like in a recent official statement, Clegg expressed his deep regret about the whole media frenzy. “There’s a real danger that people feel that a whole community is being typecast, that a whole community is being stereotyped and I think that that’s deeply unfair. Many, many, many British Muslims are as British as anybody else.”

“There’s a real risk, with the way in which this issue has been portrayed, the language that has been deployed, the somewhat shrill way in which this has been portrayed in the media, and this has made many British Muslims feel that they’re being stereotyped, that they’re being typecast and this is wrong.”

The way to redress the Islamophobic tone, he suggested, was to “make sure that people are treated fairly, is to speak up in favour of the values that actually unite us.”

The Deputy Prime Minister refused to answer why the former head of counter terrorism had been sent by the Government to investigate the schools other than saying the circumstances were known under which he had been asked to go.

He denied that the Government believed that Muslim students at the schools were potentially extremists.

“No-one on the Government thinks that the little children, who deserve a good education here, are terrorists.” But he added “If the perception is that people are being typecast, that people are being pushed into the same corner, that is unfair, it is wrong and I strongly believe that we need to treat people with respect and on the merits of the case.”

Challenged why the Government tends to treat Muslims differently to other citizens looking at them through the lens of extremism and terrorism, Clegg said, “Extremism takes different forms” and insisted that the last meeting of the extremism task force was “all about the rise of anti-Muslim extremism.”

“This Government has taken unprecedented steps to attack and bear down on the EDL. That’s not a form of violent Muslim extremism, in fact it’s a form of, in many respects, violent anti-Muslim extremism. I abhor violent extremism of all kinds and I think it’s incredibly important that wherever violence of extremism takes root, it is treated with the same uncompromising approach and that is what we’re doing in this Government.”

2 Responses to “UK: Dep Prime Minister, Clegg, defends use of counter terrorism expert investigating Muslim majority schools”

Iftikhar AhmadJuly 8, 2014

Subject: Trojan Horse

I am willing to bet there are lots of Brits who have jumped through hoops to get their children into high performing Catholic or C of E schools yet claim to be atheist. I am also willing to bet they would be the first to complain if their children were offered a place at a school with a high proportion of Muslim children. Faith schools are popular with families across denominations and none. If there was a ‘don’t like’ message they would want a place. The whole problem with the “Trojan Horse” schools was that they were providing the education that parents wanted.
Speaking to a head of one of the inspected schools it turns out that one of the failed six schools failed because of negative answers given by pupils. The following question was crucial. ” Have you been told that it is morally ok for lesbians and gay men to have same sex relationships?” If pupils answered in the negative this was taken as evidence that the school had not taught tolerance and therefore didn’t safeguard against extremist views. I heard a parent of a child at one of the Birmingham schools on News night say something like “as 90% of the children here are Muslim, the school should cater for their needs as Muslims”
What the press haven’t told us is that most schools in the country would fail on that question. Most people, in the world would also fail. It does make it sound like the thought police are inspecting these schools. The vilification of the school in question regardless if guilty or innocent of indoctrination is disgraceful – witty and snarky comments undermining contrasting belief systems is essentially bigotry. The accusation of non-integration by said school is a double standard – what is the community (and society as a whole) doing to meet halfway? The consensus has been to reinforce prejudice rather than reconcile factions. Bad times. Integration is the responsibility of all – and we all screw this up quite tremendously – empathy rather lacking. I have just seen a live interview of a father of a pupil at one of these schools. He is happy with his school and states ” Of course the girls are kept away from the boys that is how it should be” Note the phrase that girls have to “kept away”. The reality is that girls in these schools are seen as a distraction for the more important male pupils. My real point is that if you believe in Parental Choice in education you are bound to run into this kind of problem.

The problems at Oldknow Academy were a whole different matter to the allegations levelled at Park View and other schools. The government has uploaded its report, and they revolved around bad practices (some very bad) within the school. This is not the same as a plot by extremists to take over primary schools. Pupils have limited knowledge of religious beliefs other than Islam. Are we really sure that we can’t find schools in which, ‘pupils have limited knowledge of religious beliefs other than Christianity’? Are we confident that Ofsted is applying this test even headedly and universally. Absolutely not……..Ofsted is frequently subjective, two faced and prone to changing its mind….As far as I can see none of the schools has been found guilty of terrorist offences. Ofsted is an unquestionably flawed organisation, too open to accusations it takes decisions that are sometimes linked to politics …

We didn’t recently invent faith schools, as some seem to think. Churches provided most of the education in this country. The 1944 Act, which made both primary and secondary education free to all, was only possible if the church schools came into the system. We’ve been stuck with that ever since. Nobody envisaged Muslim schools then. And it’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle. What about all-boys or all-girls schools? Never hear them in news ever being accused of religious segregation. We need to have a proper debate about these things and not to say one community is wrong to do it but another one is ok to carry on. Same goes for religion in schools.

For parents of pupils attending these schools what matters is results. Staff (of all backgrounds) tend to say that having pupils whose parents are almost in all cases from the same region of Pakistan, most of whom are religious and socially conservative – has both positives and negatives. On the plus-side the levels of discipline are very high because children are raised very conservatively, so class-management is very easy compared to most inner-city schools with a similar socio-economic demographic. This is why the schools can take weak pupils at Junior or Senior level and really do an amazing job results-wise. Parents who are uncomfortable with the overtly religious ethos tolerate it because ultimately they want their children, male and female, to have a much better education than they did – they want them to go to University and get highly-paid jobs. Those parents with concerns still are pretty confident that the educational benefits far outweigh the cost of a narrow educational experience.

Though not a faith school, Park View evolved to fit in with an overwhelmingly Muslim demographic, for example by adjusting the statutory act of worship, and this has gone alongside a transformation of results. There may be no causal connection, though enthusiasts for a religious role in schooling, from Tony Blair to David Cameron, would not shrink from suggesting one if this was a Christian outfit. If Muslim parents believe that the traditional virtues they associate with their religion can infuse education to the good, they are not unique in that…
London School of Islamics Trust


Iftikhar AhmadJuly 8, 2014

Subject: Extremism

Islamic extremism and Washington’s extremism is not really that different in their goals of domination. I am more concerned about being shot by a cop in my own house than being shot or blown up by a Muslim also.

None of 7/7 bombers and British Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq are the product of Muslim schools. They are the product of British schooling which is the home of institutional racism with chicken racist native teachers. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. It is not wrong to teach children that Jews are committing the same cruelty in Palestine what German did to them before or during Second World War. It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals.

The West has never been at ease with Islam since the Crusades. It is unfortunate that huge oil supplies lie under the Arabian Deserts. It is the West that stirred the trouble that led to 9/11. That attack was a desperate act of by men prepared to lose their life. We need to get to grips on who is the terrorist? On 24 November 1963, Lyndon Johnson said, “the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination. Some three million lives were lost in the consequential battles. The US had to pull out due to Public Opinion. Communism lived on. So who was the terrorist?

Peoples all over the world are condemning the two attacks by Muslims and fail to condemn tens of attacks on Muslim areas by American forces using drones, etc. Tens of Muslims are being killed in Palestine and other places. Muslims’ right to exist has been negated. It needs to be restored to it’s original position.

Right now the war is on. If you cannot fight at least do not condemn those who are fighting for the cause of Allah. Remember that your words are recorded in your books of account and you might have to read it with fright in your heart on the day of Judgement. In a war mistakes can happen – like a bomb exploded in public where women and children are also present, etc. But the enemy is doing the same.

The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to bilingual Muslim children. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit.

Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage, literature and poetry. They suffer from identity crises and I blame British schooling.

Only less than 10% of Muslim children go to Muslim schools and over 90% go to state schools to be mis-educated AND DE-EDUCATED BY STATE SCHOOLS WITH NON-Muslim TEACHERS. All those Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq, are the product of state schools where they could not develop their linguistic, cultural Identities. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage and are unable to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. It is an educational issue. It is nothing to do with integration or segregation.

The shocking level of targeting of the Muslim community of Birmingham is indicative of the normalisation of the dehumanisation of the Muslims of Britain. Under the pretext of “extremism”, criminal undemocratic and unethical abuse of public institutions and the Muslims of the UK can occur without much accountability. This pervasive attitude, especially amongst officials like Michael Gove needs to change. Our schools are truly trying to develop our children to do well at schools so later in life they are able to stand on their own two feet, but if we stop our schools from doing this than our country will have up rise of unemployment, benefit issues, crime levels high, I think its time for you apologize and allow practitioners to do their job right.

Muslim children not only need halal meat or Eid Holidays but they need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their development period also. There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This means the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islamic teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. Legally, the state has an obligation to respect the rights of parents to ensure that ‘education and teaching(of their children) is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.’ The schools must satisfy the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural needs of Muslim pupils. State schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers are not in a position to satisfy their needs. A good school is not just a knowledge factory or a conveyor belt for churning out exam passes – it is a community, a family. A community is held together by common values and principles.
London School of Islamics Trust


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