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The Conversation: Operation Trojan Horse: examining the ‘Islamic takeover’ of Birmingham schools

conversation-full-logo2A version of my Birmingham Brief article examining ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ has now been published by The Conversation. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Operation Trojan Horse: examining the ‘Islamic takeover’ of Birmingham schools

It is believed that at least 25 schools in Birmingham are now being investigated in response to allegations of what the media and city council are routinely describing as “takeover” bids by “hardline Muslims”.

Birmingham City Council has subsequently announced that it intends to freeze the recruitment of school governors and appoint a new chief adviser to deal specifically with the allegations.

This action comes in the wake of Operation Trojan Horse, a leaked anonymous letter – which some say is a hoax – that claims to reveal a plot to “overthrow” existing teachers and governors in various non-faith state schools across the city and replace them with “Islam-friendly” individuals who will run the schools in accordance with orthodox Islamic principles.

What to believe

Much has been made of the dossier. Some believe it is a conspiracy against Muslims while others cite it as evidence of a concerted effort to “Islamify” Britain or, to use a phrase preferred by some on the far-right, as evidence of “creeping sharia”.

Trying to disentangle the conspiracy from the connivance is, understandably, extremely difficult. From my own research into Islamophobia, Operation Trojan Horse would not be the first time that spurious claims have been made about Muslims and Islam in recent years. Such claims have included allegations of Muslims wanting to ban everything from Christmas to piggy banks.

Read on here.

birmingham-brief

Birmingham Brief: Operation Trojan Horse: examining the ‘Islamic takeover’ of Birmingham schools

birmingham-briefThis article was published as the ‘Birmingham Brief’ on Thursday 17th April 2014. Whilst the first few paragraphs are reproduced below, the full article can be read here.

Operation Trojan Horse: examining the ‘Islamic takeover’ of Birmingham schools

It is believed that at least 25 schools in Birmingham are now being investigated in response to allegations of what the media and city council are routinely describing as ‘takeover’ bids by ‘hardline Muslims’. Birmingham City Council has subsequently announced that it intends to freeze the recruitment of school governors and appoint a new chief adviser to deal specifically with the allegations.
This action comes in the wake of Operation Trojan Horse, a leaked anonymous letter – which some say is a hoax – that claims to reveal a plot to ‘overthrow’ existing teachers and governors in various non-faith state schools across the city and replace them with ‘Islam-friendly’ individuals who will run the schools in accordance with orthodox Islamic principles.

Much has been made of the dossier; some believe it is a conspiracy against Muslims while others cite it as evidence of a concerted effort to ‘Islamify’ Britain or, to use a phrase preferred by some on the far-right, as evidence of ‘creeping sharia’. Trying to disentangle the conspiracy from the connivance is, understandably, extremely difficult.

From my own research into Islamophobia, Operation Trojan Horse would not be the first time that spurious claims have been made about Muslims and Islam in recent years. Such claims have included allegations of Muslims wanting to ban everything from Christmas to piggy banks. In 2005, the Daily Express claimed that Muslims were seeking to ban Jesus. What the journalist behind the headlines overlooked was that such claims could never be true, given that Jesus is recognised as a prophet of Islam and held in great esteem by Muslims.

Read on here.

birmingham-brief

Article: Dark legacy of Birmingham’s ‘Trojan Horse’ episode – Birmingham Brief

birmingham-briefYesterday I was invited to write a follow-up Birmingham Brief comment piece following the publication of the Ofsted reports into 21 schools in Birmingham following the Operation Trojan Horse allegations.

To read the piece in full, click here.

As a taster, I’ve pasted a few paragraphs below:

Dark legacy of Birmingham’s ‘Trojan Horse’ episode

Despite the findings from the investigations into 21 Birmingham schools by Ofsted being published on Monday, the shadow cast by Operation Trojan Horse’s allegations are likely to loom large over the city’s Muslims.

Undoubtedly, some incidents highlighted by the reports – specific incidents in specific schools as opposed to anything resembling a more widespread or systematic plot – did indeed make for uneasy reading, and so the need for appropriate action to be taken is without question both right and proper.

While the legacy of the allegations will be felt for some time among Birmingham’s schools, there is very real potential for detrimental impact within the city’s Muslim communities who are still reeling from the fallout of the now defunct Project Champion.

When more than 200 ‘spy’ cameras were placed around two of the most densely populated Muslims areas in the city just a few years ago many of Birmingham’s Muslims felt – as my research with Dr Arshad Isakjee showed – the impact of the cameras had been less cohesion, more tension between different communities and, most worryingly, increased feelings of Islamophobia.

Continue reading here.

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Paper: Islamophobia in the British policy spaces – retrospect and prospect (Beyond Islamophobia conference, 7-8 June 2014)

I was recently invited to present a paper at the truly excellent ‘Beyond Islamophobia’ conference at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London over the weekend of the 7th and 8th June 2014.

My paper, entitled “Islamophobia in the British Policy Spaces retrospect and prospect”, was presented as part of a panel that included Nathan Lean, author of the recommended book ‘The Islamophobia Industry’. Others speaking at the conference included John Esposito, Stephen Sheehi, AbdoolKarim Vakil, Peter Morey and Peter Gottschalk among others.

For those interested, a recording of my paper and is presented below.

BIRMINGHAM

Article: Birmingham has most to lose from Gove-May extremism row – The Conversation

conversation-full-logo2Following on from an article I wrote a month or so ago for The Conversation on the Operation Trojan Horse allegations (available here), I was yesterday invited to write a follow-up to explore the political row that was unfolding and what impact this might have on communities in Birmingham.

To read the new article in full, click here. Below, I’ve pasted the first few paragraphs:

Birmingham has most to lose from Gove-May extremism row

Allegations of an “Islamist” plot to infiltrate and take over schools in Birmingham at the centre of Operation Trojan Horse are looking increasingly thin. But they have caused a very public row between education secretary Michael Gove and home secretary Theresa May over how to deal with extremism in schools.

From informal conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks with people from across Birmingham about Trojan Horse – including teachers at some of the schools, local journalists, fellow academics and researchers, and also ordinary people from within the city’s Muslim population – it is striking that hardly anyone has anything bad to say about the schools under investigation. Even fewer believe there was ever a takeover plot.

While speculation continues about what will eventually emerge from the Ofsted inspections undertaken in 21 Birmingham schools in response to the claims, it would seem highly unlikely that any concrete evidence of a wider “plot” will be found.

What is more likely to emerge when the Ofsted reports are released next week are a number of specific issues that will be applicable to specific schools as with any typical Ofsted inspection. This is what seems to be emerging from the drip-feed of leaks that continues to ensure the story remains in the public eye.

To continue reading, click here.

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Radio: BBC Radio 5 Live – Operation Trojan Horse and Extremism in Birmingham Schools

5liveI was invited to appear on BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘Question Time Extra Time’ programme with Stephen Nolan and John Pienaar (of whom I’m a big fan) to discuss the issue of extremism in Birmingham’s schools and the Operation Trojan Horse allegations. Below is a recording of the feature.

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Article: “New Labour’s policies to influence and challenge Islam in contemporary Britain: A case study on the National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group’s Theology Project” – Social Sciences Directory

SSD croppedLast week saw the publication of my latest article in an ‘open access’ journal (i.e. everyone can read it for free).

Published in the Social Sciences Directory, the article revisits some of the work I did with the National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group (NMWAG) from a few years ago to reconsider the extent to which the New Labour government sought to try and shape, even change, Islam in Britain.

If interested, you can access – and download – a copy of the article by clicking here. If you’d like to have a taster beforehand, I’ve included the first paragraph below.

While at it, you might want to take a look at another article I wrote about the NMWAG with my colleague Surinder Guru from a few years ago. This is also available free and can be located here.

New Labour’s policies to influence and challenge
Islam in contemporary Britain: A case study on the
National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group’s
Theology Project

For Katherine Brown (2008), Muslim women have been seen as something of a ‘missing link’ within the dominant British Governmental counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation initiatives of recent years, a topic she notes as having received relatively scant attention. Falling within the realm of such Governmental ‘missing link’ initiatives was the National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group (NMWAG), created in 2008 by Britain’s New Labour Government. Established as part of a strategy which sought to engage different levels of Muslim communities, the group sat below a broad policy umbrella that sought to reduce
‘Islamic extremism’. Bringing together 19 Muslim women from across Britain who were deemed to have either held positions of leadership or were active within their respective communities, the NMWAG sat within the auspices of the Government’s PREVENT policy programme – a policy initiative that sought to prevent violent extremism within Muslim communities following the events of 9/11 but more importantly following the London public transport attacks of 7/7 – and had a broad remit to advise Government via the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) on issues relating to the empowerment and increasing participation of Muslim women in civic, political and public life (Allen & Guru, 2012). Key to this was the explicit acknowledgement by Government that Muslim women were perceived to be able to ‘influence and challenge’ extremist ideologies. Whilst so, Government also acknowledged that Muslim women would need to be supported to overcome what it saw as the barriers to greater engagement posed (imposed maybe?) by the religious, theological and cultural constraints placed on Muslim women in contemporary Britain. To achieve its political aim, Government deemed ‘theological understanding’ a priority.

To continue reading, click here.

| writes about Islamophobia, religion, culture, politics & society | Millwall fan | Coke & coffee addict | nice bloke | lecturer | Bermondsey born, Brum based |

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