Tendance Coatesy

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Independent investigation sparked by ‘Trojan horse’ letter finds officials failed to act for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

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SWP Placards, No Answer to Real Problems. 

Is the Guardian finally seeing sense?

This report has just appeared.

Birmingham council a ‘disastrous failure’ over Islamism in schools

Independent investigation sparked by ‘Trojan horse’ letter finds officials failed to act for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

Birmingham council “disastrously” failed to act when a group of Muslim men began to promote, sometimes illegally, a fundamentalist version of Islam in some schools, because officials were afraid of being accused of racism or Islamophobia, a report has found.

The investigation, carried out by the independent adviser Ian Kershaw, was commissioned by Birmingham City council (BCC) as a result of concerns raised in a letter dated 27 November 2013, known as the “Trojan horse” letter, which suggested a number of schools in the city had been “taken over” to ensure they were run on strict Islamic principles.

The Birmingham report, compiled by Kershaw and overseen by a review group that included senior Home Office official Stephen Rimmer and representatives of the West Midlands police, interviewed many of the same witnesses and reviewed the same documents as the former counterterrorism police chief Peter Clarke, who was commissioned by the then education secretary Michael Gove to address extremism in Birmingham schools.

The article continues and states this,

The report found that a small group of governors had:

• placed unreasonable demands on head teachers to “modify curriculum provision, which denies students their right to access a broad and balanced curriculum, including the right to understand other world religions and the right to sex and relationship education”.

• placed “inappropriate demands on head teachers by repeatedly requesting information”.

• been “overly challenging and sometimes aggressive in the management of head teachers”.

• inappropriately appointed friends and relatives to the school staff.

• undermined head teachers during Ofsted inspections.

Kershaw found that elements of the five steps referred to in the Trojan Horse letter for taking over schools were present in a “large number of the schools considered as part of the investigation”.

These five steps were to: target poorly performing schools in Muslim areas; select parents to turn against schools; install governors to encourage Islamic ideals; identify key staff to disrupt from within; and to instigate a campaign of pressure.

Kershaw found evidence of all five steps at Golden Hillock School, Moseley school, Nansen primary school and Saltley school. All of those schools, with the exception of Moseley, were recently put into special measures after emergency Ofsted inspections downgraded them to “inadequate”.

There was no evidence of all five at Park View Academy, which has been at the centre of the controversy.

Kershaw concluded that the evidence collated to date “does not support a conclusion that there was a systematic plot to take over schools”.

He added: “There are concerns which require immediate attention, but the evidence is not sufficient to lead me to construe the behaviour to be a coordinated plan to improperly influence the direction and management of schools (or academies) serving schools of predominantly Islamic faith or Muslim background.”

More here.

Has the Guardian changed? Have all their writers  now dropped the automatic resort to charges about ‘Islamophobia’ when these problems were reaised.

Not really.

It remains trapped in religious multi-culturalism, as this accompanying article by  illustrates.

The Trojan horse plot shows we must clarify religion’s place in state schools

Isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly and not accepted as part of faith or cultural practice

….we need to clarify the place of religion in state schools. For example, is it reasonable to expect a school with a majority Muslim population to hold Christian prayers during assembly, daily worship apparently being a legal requirement? Should it offer Islamic prayer instead or different assemblies for pupils of different religious and non-religious backgrounds? Does modern religious diversity mean we do away with collective worship at school or adopt a multi-faith approach? Schools around the country regularly grapple with such issues.

And,

As a result of this unfortunate episode, we need to put measures in place to ensure that the teaching of religion in schools is objective, balanced and non-discriminatory, while all school activities and practices are inclusive and devoid of narrow religious or political influences. While state schools must remain sensitive to the cultural needs of all pupils, isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly and not accepted as part of faith or cultural practice. Governance structures also need to be improved so that schools are more careful about whom they appoint. Extremists, even if they are non-violent, should not be allowed to work in schools or be governors, and attempts to impose puritanical agendas on schools in the public sector must not be allowed to happen again.

How about simply removing religion from “school activities and practices”, and teaching about it within the context of philosophy and cultural anthropology  in schools?

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Faith Schools Undercover: When Will we Get a Secularist Challenge to Faith Education?

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Humanists Show the Way Forward.

Faith Schools Undercover: No Clapping in Class  (Monday 14th July at 8pm on Channel 4) revealed:

  • Exclusively that even before the so-called anonymous ‘Trojan Horse’ letter came to light the Prime Minister’s office had been warned of what was going on
  • Claims by current and former members of staff at Park View – one of the schools implemented in the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations – that male pupils were given worksheets saying women couldn’t say no to sex with their husbands and also girls at the school were sent home from a sports event because only a male coach was present
  • The ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish schools in the London Borough of Hackney ‘operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks’. Channel 4 Dispatches has shocking evidence that Hackney Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted have all known about the schools for years

The programme began with concerns at  Oldknow Academy Birmingham. A parent had complained at Christmas not being celebrated and got short shrift. He wrote to the PM.

The most important item was on Park View school,

A former teacher said, on camera, but anonymously that,

“about 60 male pupils were given a worksheet saying women couldn’t say no to sex with their husbands.

She says: “The work sheet categorically said that you know the wife has to obey the man. Well I think it makes the boys feel that they have got that power over girls. The east Birmingham area has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country.”

This was flately, and not very convincingly, denied, by the school.

Local MP Khalid Mahmood  says: “I am not talking about here extremism in schools although ultimately it could lead to it, and that’s my fear, is that when you are grooming young people into that sort of a mind-set then its very easy once they leave school is to go that extra additional step.”

He also dismissed suggestions the controversy smacks of Islamophobia.

“Over 200 people complaining to the local authority about what’s gone on and you can’t really claim that it’s a witch-hunt,” said Mahmood, whose own actions have shown him sensitive to the difficulties raised by racist attacks on Birmingham Muslims.

There was a report on Olive Primary School in Blackburn.

During this there was evidence that  music in school was discouraged, that clapping was not encouraged, and that other “un-Islamic,” practices were frowned on.

Olive Primary  is run by the Tauheedul Education Trust, with two other secondaries in Blackburn.

The Lancashire Telegraph draws attention to one feature of the Trust’s activities,

The programme revealed trust schools hosted lectures by three extremist preachers, including Mufti Ismail Menk banned from six UK universities for preaching same-sex acts were ‘filthy’.

It showed him saying of gay people: “With all due respect to the animals, they are worse than animals.”

In Hackney illegal Jewish religious schools (for the ultra-orthodox) exist,

Channel 4 Dispatches discovered that more than 1,000 boys aged 13 to 16 have disappeared from registered schools in the London borough of Hackney.

Instead they are being sent by their parents to be educated in yeshivas – fee-paying schools where the curriculum is solely religious.

We have identified more than ten unregistered, illegal, schools.

And what’s really shocking is that Hackney Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted have all known about these schools for years.

We’ve seen internal government briefing documents that reveal as early as 2008 the Department for Education was aware of the issue. One document states the Department knows a number of schools are ‘operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks’.

In 2012 the Department acknowledged those running the schools were breaking the law, but said they preferred to work cooperatively with the community.

There were shots of a school, including a room where Hasidic instruction and disputation was taking place. Students went in an out till late in the day.

The conclusion of this section was very unsettling.

Dispatches contacted the schools featured but have received no response.

Hackney Council, Ofsted and the Department for Education told Dispatches their concerns date back many years and they are aware of all the schools on our list.

They say they’ve been working to get them registered.

The Department for Education, who Ofsted and Hackney say have the power to take action against the schools, told Dispatches that ‘where applications for registration are still not forthcoming we will press for a prosecution as it is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered illegal schools.’

The programme seemed to suggest that the Council, out of concern for religious and cultural feeling, was unwilling to act.

Andrew Gilligam reports,

Government documents obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Jewish Chronicle newspaper say that many of the schools are “operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks”.

Many boys in the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, London, “will stop secular studies at the age of 13 or 14 and start attending ‘yeshivas’ where the curriculum is solely religious,” the documents say.

Between 800 and 1000 boys aged between 13 and 16 are “missing” from the school system in the borough of Hackney alone, the papers add.

Undercover filming by Dispatches in and around the schools shows the boys packed more than 50 to a classroom in dirty, run-down buildings, some converted houses. More than a hundred boys were filmed going in to an illegal school in Lynmouth Road, Stamford Hill, arriving from 7.30 in the morning and leaving late at night. The establishment is believed to be one of twelve illegal schools in the neighbourhood.

In 2011, about one third of the 20,000 state funded schools in England were faith schools, approximately 7,000 in total, of which 68% were Church of England schools and 30% were Roman Catholic . There were 42 Jewish, 12 Muslim, 3 Sikh and 1 Hindu  faith schools.

The British Humanist Association says,

“Around a third of all state-funded schools are schools ‘with a religious character’ – the legal term for ‘faith’ schools. This number has grown in recent years as successive governments have increased the influence of religious groups in the state-funded education system.”

That is, with the introduction of Academies and Free Schools, this percentage is believed to have risen.

Faith Schools Undercover noted their role in encouraging  ethnic and cultural segregation.

The idea that parents have the right to run, publicly funded, education that promotes their religion, is fundamentally wrong.

Some liberals seem unable to respond to the issues raised.

There are those who claim to be on the left who find excuses for these arrangements.

They claim that criticisms of, notably, the Birmingham schools, are an ‘Islamophobic’ conspiracy.

This completely fails to look at the problems religiously-run schools create – as indicated by the Channel Four Dispatches documentary.

It indicated that concerns had a solid basis.

The National Secular Society sets out a much better position that those wishing to sweep the subject of Faith education under the carpet.,

Rather than facilitating the segregation of pupils along religious lines, we would like to see steps taken to ensure children of all faiths and none are educated together in a respectful but religiously neutral environment.

As long as faith schools are publicly funded, we campaign for an end to exemptions from equality legislation that allow them to select pupils on the basis of the religion, or religious activities, of the child’s parents.

We are concerned that the Government’s desire for greater proportion of academies and free schools, which are independent and self-governing, will see more and more control of state funded education handed to religious organisations.

Dispatches showed more than enough reasons to back this stand.

The author of many of the pro-religious education policies, Michael Gove, is now Chief Whip.

He has been replaced by even more faith-influenced minister, Nicky Morgan, a Tory MP who voted against same-sex marriage, as  education secretary. She “continues as minister for women and equalities”.

Islamophobia and Australian ‘Honour Killings’ Talk Cancellation.

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After the above talk is cancelled the Guardian publishes an article by  (Hat-tip JB)

Uthman Badar: both Islamophobia’s victim and unwilling accomplice

In the last two days we have seen an eruption of Australia’s public and moral outrage, regarding Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media spokesman, Uthman Badar, and his planned talk on morally justifying “honour” killings at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. In response to the planned event, which was cancelled after a massive backlash, we have yet again heard the typical Islamophobes scream the usual condemnation all over our televisions, our radios, our Twitter feeds and in The Daily Telegraph: “Kick Hizbut Outta Here.”

Mossi asserts that the subject of Honour killings was not the speaker’s own. In fact, “Badar wanted to give a talk at the Opera House on how Muslims are always represented as the “Other”.

“Without uttering a single word in defence of “honour” killings – not that he was ever planning to – Badar had his face plastered all over the nation’s imagination as a bigot, misogynist, and an extremist Muslim.”

Morsi concludes,

Islamophobia is better understood as a sort of unchecked energy that drives a frenzy of media scrutiny. It is marked by rituals, a sense of a story, an element of sensationalism, loaded language, to explain what is wrong with those Muslims who aren’t integrated. It is a set of questions, and a conversation with shallow answers about what it means to be us by talking about them; a ritual to purify the social space that is premised on a suspicion about the danger of those on society’s edges, on fringes defiling us; a danger that manifests itself into the face of a red-tinted Badar who is told to get out. Islamophobia is the exploiting of the Muslim for one’s own fantasies. In that sense Badar was both its victim and its unwitting accomplice.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports,

On Wednesday, Mr Badar would not tell reporters whether he believed ”honour killings” – the murder of women deemed to have brought shame or dishonour on their family – were justified.

He also declined to outline the contents of his cancelled talk, but said he was disappointed the festival had bowed to public pressure.

”I would hope they had more courage, more backbone,” he said. ”This issue has nothing to do with honour killings. Islam does not condone any form of abuse or violence towards women.”

In a speech to reporters that sometimes sounded like a sermon, Mr Badar said the ”hysterical” response to the talk’s title was a clear example of Islamophobia. If honour killings were defended by a ”white man”, the response would have been much more muted, he said. Mr Badar hinted at the issues he would have covered in the talk by saying the Western world wanted a ”monopoly on violence” through wars, invasions and puppet governments it justified with its own ideology.

The Australian newspaper also notes,

Hizb ut-Tahrir released a statement on Monday defending the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – also known as ISIS – in Iraq, where extremist militants have seized large areas of the country. ”ISIS is being portrayed, in fantastical Hollywood style, as evil incarnate on Earth, having seemingly taken over from al-Qaeda who previously fulfilled this bogeyman role,” the statement said.

”An uprising against the systematically oppressive US-installed and backed Maliki regime is being painted as a takeover by ‘terrorists’ to justify political, and if needed military intervention whereby the interests of Western powers will be protected and furthered.”

It is not at all clear if this means support for ISIL or ISIS. Hizb have a history of essentially supporting their own affiliates – not these groups.

But some degree of sympathy would fit with the  general line of Hizb ut-Tahrir (as on their official site)

Besides, fighting to expel the enemy from the Muslims’ lands is part of the established thoughts in the Party culture. It is even one of the important rules of Islam. The party has made the obligation to fight the Kuffar, even with the collaborating rulers as long as it is a fighting against the Kuffar, thus deeming it as part of the Jihad for the sake of Allah, as part of the thoughts related to the Shari’ah rules which entail the regulating of the Ummah’s behaviour in relation to the progress of the state; it has even deemed it as one of the greatest concepts of discipline in existence. It is mentioned in the 6th concept of the “concepts of discipline” in the Party Dossier

What is the best way to react to organisations and individuals with such opinions?

Certainly not by denying their right to free speech  (an important principle for many, from socialists to liberals), even if this particular event has all the hall-marks of a stunt.

The St James Ethics Centre (behind the Festival of Dangerous Ideas) is a group promoting  debate , “broader than simply business & professional ethics..” This ,”involves the hands on examination of virtually every kind of ethical issue arising in society. Operating both in Australia and abroad, the Ethics Centre remains unique in the world for its support to the general community on ethical issues, creation and management of public debates and application of ethical principles to specific issues in public institutions, not-for-profits and companies.”

It would seem to be appropriate forum to subject the Hizbt to public exposure.

That this has not happened is obviously due the topic: honour killings are not ideas but acts of violence.

A detailed consideration of the issue of honour killings and the problematic arguments by Badar (relativising honour killings, though not condoning them) is given by Sarah AB.

There is room for analysis of the reasons why the talk has been cancelled.

But Morsi however seems have already entered this subject with the ready-made view that any criticism of Islamists of the stripe of the Hizb is “Islamophobia’.

He works himself up into paroxysms of rage describing the Australian reaction.

The Problem with Islamophobia.

There is an extremely sensitive and thoughtful piece by Shaif Rahmen on Islamophobia on Harry’s Place this morning,.

It begins by noting how the term is full of dangers, and

  • It is also unhelpful, because if left unchecked it;
  • blurs acceptable boundaries and culls debate
  • treats all criticism of Islam with equal disdain
  • equates Islamophobia with racism
  • gives a free ride to exponents of Islamism, magnifying their voices whilst countering narratives are hushed inhibits free speech which often acts as a catalyst for positive change.

Rahmen concludes,

So when does criticism of Islam become Islamophobia?

When the criticism prejudices and stigmatises Muslims rather than their beliefs.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is rightly attacked for its beliefs.

It is accused, with ample justification, of being an extreme-right wing party which aims to establish a religious dictatorship.

Its social policies are utterly reactionary.

Cod philosophy about the Muslim Other (1), melodrama and histrionics cannot deflect these criticisms.

Or silence them.

But perhaps this is Morsi’s aim?

(1) This is a brilliant unravelling  of the pretentious gibberish used by Badar  (like Morsi an adept of the Woody Allen school of Sartre and Derrida studies): The accused is the oriental other. Ophelia Benson.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Last Christians in Mosul to Pay “dihmmi” Tax

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Call for Jihad.

 

Les derniers chrétiens de Mossoul, cible des jihadistes

Libération 

Sad news for the last Christians of Mosul. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (EIIL) – Daech according acronym  in Arabic, – has ordered them  to pay the jizyah,a special tax which giving them the status of second-class citizens.

This tax, according to various first-hand witnesses collected by telephone from Mosul, obliges  Christian families to pay $ 250 per employed person, or $ 500 for a couple.

“They have a choice between paying, converting or leaving  “ said father Tahir Issa, of the small Chaldean Church.

“PACT OF PROTECTION”.

This obligation to pay the jizya for Christian dhimmi – “protected” or a non-Muslim citizens in Muslim state – is compulsory.

It is also open to any non-Muslim citizen, provided they belong to a revealed religion (Judaism, Zoroastrianism, etc..). It is accompanied by other discriminatory conditions,  restricted freedom of worship, and the loss of certain rights,  in exchange for a guarantee of security for their persons and property.

According to reports from refugees in Kurdistan the jihadists have claimed that a Moslem who steals from a Christian will be executed, while those who steal from other Muslims will only have their hands cut off.

….

There are around 500 Christians left in Mosul, amongst two million inhabitants.

Father Tahrir Issa also asserts that two churches in Mosul, one named the Holy Spirit, which belongs to the Chaldeans and the other, belonging to the Armenian community have recently been completely vandalised. A statue of the Virgin in  another church was also destroyed.

There are other reports on this, and the imposition of strict Shariah law in areas under ISIS influence. See also Les seize commandements de l’Etat islamique en Irak et au Levant.

Libération takes a much more robust line than, notably, the Guardian, on these issues.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2014 at 10:30 am

Whataboutery and Seamus Milne on Conservative Islamic Influence in Education.

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Seamus Milne Hints at Plot to Forge Trojan Horse Document.

The fallacy of relative privation, or appeal to worse problems, is an informal fallacy which attempts to suggest that the opponent’s argument should be ignored because there are more important problems in the world, despite the fact that these issues are often completely unrelated to the subject under discussion.

The word whataboutery has been used to describe this line of argument when used in protesting at inconsistent behaviour. e.g. “The British even have a term for it: whataboutery. If you are prepared to go to war to protect Libyan civilians from their government, then what about the persecuted in Bahrain?” Wikipedia.

Seamus Milne is a master of Wataboutery.

Today in the Guardian he begins an article – Michael Gove’s toxic assault on schools is based on naked discrimination – with another tactic, of ‘contextualisation’ by putting an event in terms of the worst possible context.

“The harassment of minorities on the basis of forged documents has a grim history.”

So  the official onslaught on mainly Muslim state schools in Birmingham, triggered by what has all the hallmarks of a fabricated letter outlining a supposed Islamist plot to take them over, should be cause for deep alarm.”

Left in the dark about this “history” (although we might float the words, Protocols, Elders and Zion,  around) we launch into some rhetoric before landing here,

But this extremism turns out to be a different beast from the one first trailed in lurid accusations a few months back. It is nothing to do with terrorism, or even the elastic boo-word of Islamism. The target is religious conservatism – or even just plain religiousness.

It is with interest that Milne takes so lightly criticism of Islamism (overwhelmingly from the left in countries where Islamists have murdered democrats, leftists and feminists) that he calls it a ‘boo-word’.

Milne then largely denies that there is much of a problem about the influence of conservative Islamism in schools, notes the patriotism of  Birmingham Muslims, denies that most of the reported incidents of enforcing religious norms took place, and, unable to disprove some of them admits that,

That’s not to say, of course, that there’s nothing behind the allegations, which have clearly been fed by former and current staff – or that there aren’t legitimate grievances. These are not faith schools and some have clearly pushed the schools’ religious boundaries.

He then ends with a classic whataboutery,

“There’s a powerful case for secular education. But it doesn’t exist in Britain’s schools, which are awash with religion. And unless the same rules apply to all, the result is naked discrimination.  But has Gove sent inspectors to root out anti-abortionism and homophobia in Catholic or evangelical-sponsored schools, or cultural isolation in mainly white schools where racism is rife?”

No he has not.

He has not disestablished the Church of England.

Or promoted equality and secularism.

He is a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary privatiser.

But does Milne advocate promoting the “”same rules for all”?

We await this call with interest.

This is followed by another whatabout….

But the campaign to bring to heel Birmingham’s schools and humiliate the Muslim community in the process is a wider threat in a country where war-fuelled Islamophobia is already rampant. Dog-whistling to Ukip bigotry might seem a cute electoral trick.

The problem then is not the content of the report on the schools: it’s the context in which it’s made. By this sleight of hand Milne has avoided addressing the issues

  • Is there anything wrong with the principle of religious influence in education?
  • Should the influence of conservative Islam be curtailed?
  • Should there be universal secular education?

Whatabout Iraq!

Indeed.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2014 at 3:27 pm