Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Socialist Worker Sticks Head in Sand Over Conservative Islamism and Education.

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SWP Reacts to Influence of  Conservative Islam in Education. 

It had to come.

It has come.

Socialist Worker has buried its collective head in the sand about the problems raised by the influence of conservative Islam in education.

Today we read,

A Tory clampdown on schools in Birmingham has unleashed a torrent of racist filth.

The government ordered investigations after an anonymous letter alleged a Muslim “plot” to take over schools. Right wing newspapers devoted pages to personal attacks on Muslim teachers and governors.

The paper of the SWP claims that there is no evidence for any of the Ofstead charges against Oldknow Academy.

Their proof? The Academy has issued this statement stating that the report’s claims are false.

They begin by rebutting the comment about ‘white women’ being ‘prostitutes’. Then that there were anti-Christian chants, and preaching – the list of denials is contained in this excerpt.

This is completely false and taken out of context. The word ‘prostitute’ was used
once by an ex-employee but in an entirely ‘non-offensive’ context. No member of
staff has ever used the term ‘white women were prostitutes’.“And urged to join in anti-Christian chants”

The Principal’s investigation found no evidence whatsoever of such chanting having
ever happened.
“Non-Muslims were banned from taking Friday assemblies so that
they could be “preached at”
All members of staff have access to an assembly rota. Non-Muslims are not banned
from taking Friday assemblies. No one has ever been ‘preached’ at. Assemblies would
usually have an SLT member present. However, in all faith assemblies, staff are
always present. This is the first time SLT are hearing of this.

For the writers of the Socialist Worker this must be true, one assumes, because the Academy says so.

By contrast Andrew Gilligham writes (Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner).

The evidence of “incendiary preachers at school assemblies” – Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an al-Qaeda sympathiser, at Park View School on November 28 2013 – in fact comes from one of the school’s official newsletters, still available on its own website (see photo above, from page 17 of this PDF).

At another of the schools, Oldknow, an official Education Funding Agency report finds that the Arabic teacher, Asif Khan, led anti-Christian chanting in assemblies (though also records his denial). I too have been told about Mr Khan’s anti-Christian assembly by four separate sources, one of themon the record. There is other on-the-record testimony that Park View’s head, Mozz Hussain, preached “mind-blowing” anti-American assemblies.

The evidence of “segregated classes” comes from both this EFA report and another one, into Park View, Nansen and Golden Hillock schools,leaked to me, which states that “teachers gave [students] seats in which to sit in class by gender to avoid having to mix” and that “students told us that they were required to sit in the places which they were given by teachers,” often with “boys sitting towards the front of the class and girls at the back or around the sides.” The relevant sections of the report are published on this blog.

At Golden Hillock, according to the EFA, non-Muslim pupils “had to teach themselves” in one subject. At Nansen, there is compulsory Arabic (in a primary school!) and no teaching of the arts for one entire year group. Nansen’s deputy head, Razwan Faraz, is administrator of a group called “Educational Activists” which also includes key staff and governors from several of the other schools and which pursues, in Mr Faraz’s words, an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham’s schools. Park View’s chair of governors, Tahir Alam, is co-author of a document which calls for the teaching of art, drama and dance to Muslims to be restricted and Muslim girls to be veiled in school.

Even if the self-assessment from Oldknow were true, Socialist Worker does not bother to consider the evidence given above from other schools, Park View, Nansen and Golden Hillock.

Socialist Worker, in short, is peddling hysterical rubbish with no concern about the facts of the case.

Its approach is on a par indeed to the false right-wing claim that ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ are involved.

The problem is clearly that ‘conservative Islam’  has influenced  some schools in Birmingham.

Unable to deal with the issues this raises, from gender equality, and the shutting down of open-minded thinking, not to mention the undue power of religious authorities, it rants about “racist hounding”.

No doubt the SWP has a unique stand on gender equality in its own organisation.

But their position is not isolated.

Socialist Unity also works by screaming at anybody who questions their support for conservative  Islam

They cynically exploit the hatred of the left for the far-right to claim that anybody who questions their position will find, Andy Newman alleges, allies in “Britain First, the BNP, Liberty GB, UKIP, AWL, EDL, SIOE, Gates of Vienna, Pam Gellar, et al.

Apparently secularism “privileges” an indigenous culture.

By not taking sides you ‘objectively’ back a particular party.

This kind of ‘objective’ ‘logic’ is well-known in Stalinist circles.

The Enlightenment, we learn on the authority of these thinkers, was a parochial western affair.

No doubt human rights are also parochial matters and not universal. The Sharia is just one cultural ‘option’ and who are ‘we’ to criticise it from the West?

Newman and his side-kick John Wight have been compressively demolished by Nick Wright, Sandy and Francis King, not to mention Sarah AB on Harry’s Place.

The counter-argument can be summarised: secular education,  is, as Jaurès saw it, marked the absence of religious, or other, dogma. The role of the state is to make sure that individual doctrines, faiths or otherwise, do not get between students and the full range of ideas. That each student should be educated in an environment of equality, where religion plays no part in making the rules.

As the socialist Jaurès said,

The day that socialists come to found schools, I consider that the duty of the teacher would be, if I may say, to never pronounce even the word socialism in front of the children .  Pour la Laïque (1910)

We should stand for universal values of free-thought, free-inquiry, and critical education without the interference of religious dogma.

No word about that from the SWP.

Instead Socialist Worker froths at the mouth at the entirely reasonable statements made by Labour’s Shadow Education Minister  Tristram Hunt,

The Labour Party leadership’s response to the row has been despicable.

It didn’t call for an end to the racist scapegoating of Muslims or a defence of teachers and governors.

Instead Labour condemned the Tories for not witch hunting more.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said schools had been “skewed to prevent a broad and balanced education”.

He claimed there was “gender discrimination” in schools and that children were being “exposed to extremist views”.

It would be interesting to hear Labour candidate Andy Newman’s comments on his party’s stand on this issue.

Update (Hat-Tip LS).

“Teachers forced out of schools at the centre of the Trojan Horse allegations have been gagged by the authorities.

At least 12 senior staff – most of them heads – were banned from speaking out as part of their six-figure pay-off deals, it emerged last night.

Some claim they were bullied, intimidated and threatened over the bid by extremists to target state schools in Birmingham.”

“Local MP Khalid Mahmood called on the Government and council to ensure that former staff would be released from the gagging clauses.

Mr Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said: ‘A lot of people are still not speaking even in private because they are frightened of what may happen. ”

Daily Mail. 

To those who say, that’s the Mail, will they also accuse Khalid Mahmood?


9 Responses

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  1. On Oldknow Academy which the SWP are so keen to defend.

    Just out today.

    “A Birmingham school at the centre of the Trojan Horse investigation spent £50,000 on a taxpayer-funded trip to Saudi Arabia for students and staff – and handed the contract to a travel company with links to a director at the school.

    Oldknow Academy was among five Birmingham schools rated as inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted on Monday, amidst claims children were not being protected from extremism.”


    Andrew Coates

    June 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm

  2. Andrew
    Your scattergun secularism is no use in these complicated times. It is quite possible that there really has been an attempt by ‘conservative Muslim’ forces to effect changes in Birmingham schools (not surprising given the great privileges accorded to other faith groups in subsidised education).
    If true the way this has been death with reflects rampant racism, hypocrisy and double standards by Ofsted , the DfE and the Home Office.
    Quite reactionary forces will mobilise ‘secular’ arguments for their own disreputable reasons – as is apparent with the ministerial fallout, the obnoxious assembly of AWL and Harry’s Place. Beware the company you keep and the language you use.

    And your presentation of the debate over at Socialist Unity is completely misconceived. Both sides in that debate are deploying arguments that have a definite currency, that arise from real life problems, that do not lend themselves to superficial solutions and go to the heart of what might be a progressive strategy for advance.

    Nick Wright

    June 11, 2014 at 2:10 pm

  3. As the “sole franchise” of the “mechanical and counterproductive laïcité of sections of the French left” I would ask you Nick, what you think of Jaurès’ argument.

    It is not an assertion of ‘militant atheism’ but a generous and open-minded approach to education that even refuses to give Jaurès’ own views any privilege.

    And to your Marx citations there is this, “Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school.”

    “Everyone should be able to attend his religious as well as his bodily needs without the police sticking their noses in. But the Workers’ party ought, at any rate in this connection, to have expressed its awareness of the fact that bourgeois “freedom of conscience” is nothing but the toleration of all possible kinds of religious freedom of conscience, and that for its part it endeavours rather to liberate the conscience from the witchery of religion.”

    Critique of the Gotha Programme. Karl Marx. 1875.

    In modern terms this would mean that fighting conservative Islamism is something Marxists do.

    It would also mean taking religious dominance out of schools, without exception.

    Making education independent of the public authorities is certainly not a very modern, feasible, or desirable, aim.

    Instead education should democratic, and local authorities seem a good way of helping towards that aim.

    I am not a teacher and concentrate on general principles, ‘complications’ can only be faced up to if we begin with a reasonably clear idea of where to start from.

    As for the rest, well Harry’s Place and the AWL can answer for themselves.

    I have certainly not been soft on Gove in any case: he created the conditions for this, and the faith-supporting patriotic right-wingers who exploit it have absolutely no authority, moral or otherwise, to comment.

    Andrew Coates

    June 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm

  4. We are, it seems, fighting a rear-guard battle against the consequences of policies that should have been challenged years, decades back. I don’t recall, in 35 years on the left, a campaign for a genuinely secular education system, one which would have all schools religiously-neutral. Now, not only are we facing the consequences of the extension of religious-affiliated education that has been allowed by successive governments’ policies, we are finding parts of the left refusing to campaign for secular education on the grounds that there is discrimination against members of a religious group which has activists who — as far as we can tell, as the reports all seem to contradict each other — seem to be using the government provisions to introduce obscurantist brands of this religion into schools.

    I feel that it is one thing to oppose discrimination against a religious group and quite another to endorse any obscurantist interpretations, both in theory and in practice, of the tenets of that religious group that may be promulgated. It can be, as I written elsewhere, a little tricky to do this, but when — as per Andy Newman’s blog — left-wingers actually support the idea of confessional schools, the ideal arena for the promotion of obscurantist interpretations of religions, then we have gone beyond opposing religious discrimination into defending the framework in which obscurantism can flourish. Whether or not the Trojan Horse affair has any truth behind it, I feel that it is wrong for left-wingers to do this.

    When left-wingers — Andy Newman is a classic one here — declare that opposing confessional schools we are lining up with anti-Muslim bigots, this shows that they are being dishonest. How many of our anti-Muslim demagogues call for the full secularisation of education, as opposed merely to a ban on Muslim schools? Very few, if any. A clear call for the secularisation of schools, that schools are not affiliated to this or that religious body, do not favour any religion and do not have any religious assemblies, will differentiate us from anti-Muslim demogogues.

    Dr Paul

    June 11, 2014 at 7:05 pm

  5. Surprisingly, the ‘Graun’ (whose education editor Richard Adams, has taken the same line as the SWP, Nooman et al, yesterday published a quite sensible piece by John Harris:

    …including the statement that “it is no good crying ‘witch hunt’ and averting your eyes from this stuff. It should have no place in any state school, and most is an offense to any halfway liberal principles.”

    Jim Denham

    June 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

  6. Seducation is to fit a ‘#person iurely as a socialist, one starts from teh position of what is in the best interests of the working class. Is sexual segregation and preaching of discrimination towards fellow citizens a good or bad thing? I rather think it is a bad thing. Let’s be done with liberal notions of education, education is for one purpose only: it is to fit a person into their society. Islamic education is to fit a person into a patriarchial, feudal, religiously conservative society, modern Western education is to fit them into a class divided, industrial or commerical society which is highly literate. Can those defenders of Islamic education explain how it is hastening the Glorious Day any closer?

    Sue R

    June 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm

  7. Sorry, the above is rather garbled, bloody computer is getting elderly (like me). But you get the idea.

    Sue R

    June 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm

  8. I think when Andy Newman suggests that even softer secularists are enablers of the EDL, Britain First etc, he is being about as accurate and fair as Jihad Watch types who like to call the same sort of soft secularists “Islamist apologists’.

    @Nick Wright – thanks (with reference to the Socialist Unity thread) for actually reading my post and noting that I am not a supporter of the French system, unlike Andrew of course. It is possible to think there are real problems in B’ham without supporting every aspect of the way the issue has been handled and reported, and in fact this morning I’ve just written a post about the rather Wildersesque front cover of the Spectator.


    June 12, 2014 at 6:54 am

  9. Yes Jim that’s the point.

    There are problems that can’t be wished away, or obscured by shouting about ‘Islamophobia’.

    As Paul says the reactionaries who have battened onto this will not go to the root of the matter which this undue influence of religious authorities who wish to impose faith practices on education.

    Andrew Coates

    June 12, 2014 at 10:41 am

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