For anyone interested in the Islamophobic mind-set that inspired the “Trojan Horse” hysteria about an “Islamist takeover” of Birmingham schools, today’s Sunday Times is worth reading. It features a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Islamist rant by one Jamie Martin, who worked as a special advisor to former education secretary Michael Gove during the period of the Birmingham witch-hunt.
Martin hails Gove’s “rare moral courage” in responding to the alleged Islamist threat there: “we acted to remove the individuals responsible from any involvement in education. We then moved to make sure Ofsted inspections took place without notice, and strengthened our powers to rapidly close schools that did not promote British values”. But then, it’s hardly surprising that Martin should take such a positive view of Gove’s actions – because, as he boastfully reveals, “it was my job to co-ordinate this response”.
Claiming that the UK is under threat from “an aggressive, anti-western belief system”, Martin enthusiastically endorses Tony Blair’s bonkers assertion that “the same ideology that drove the ‘Trojan Horse’ takeover of Birmingham’s schools, leaving children at risk of radicalisation, motivates Islamic extremists from Spain to Syria”. This ideology, Martin declares, “is Islamism, which rejects every tenet of our pluralistic society and will not compromise on its belief in a totalitarian theocracy”.
According to Martin, there has been an abject failure to confront this totalitarian Islamist threat: “Our governing elite, hamstrung by political correctness, has failed to understand or tackle it. Our Muslim communities have failed to confront it. Britain has been left as a weak link in the fight against global terror.”
As is usual in such diatribes, Martin makes no attempt to define Islamism, still less to analyse the very different tendencies that can be grouped under this broad heading. Organisations ranging from terrorists like ISIS to mass reformist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood – along with non-political groupings who adopt culturally conservative interpretations of Islam – are depicted as manifestations of a single ideology which aims at the imposition of a “totalitarian theocracy”.
The only examples Martin offers of British organisations that supposedly pursue this objective are the Islamic Forum of Europe and the Muslim Association of Britain, both of which promote an entirely peaceful, reformist version of Islamism. Martin fails to show how the actions of IFE and MAB demonstrate “an aggressive, anti-western belief system” or how they have contributed to reducing the UK to “a weak link in the fight against global terror”.
It was after all MAB who took the lead in ousting Abu Hamza’s supporters from the Finsbury Park mosque. As a result, that institution has been completely transformed, and “now serves as a community centre as much as a mosque, holding regular inter-faith meetings to discuss local concerns on disability, mental health and the environment”. The East London Mosque, where IFE exercises influence, plays a similarly positive role in its local community. The parallels with the practices of ISIS are not immediately obvious.
Martin is outraged that not all members of the government accepted Gove’s paranoid views. Nick Clegg and Sayeeda Warsi are singled out for refusing to get swept away by the anti-Islamist hysteria that Gove, with Martin’s assistance, tried to whip up. Clegg “refused to sign off on a tough code of conduct for madrasahs, religious schools where Islamist ideas can hold sway”, while Warsi argued that government policy towards British Muslims would only be effective if it had “credibility in the Muslim community”. Martin complains that this “chimed with a cross-Whitehall neurotic fear of appearing ‘Islamophobic'”. He and Gove of course felt no such inhibitions.
Because of this obstruction, an indignant Martin warns, the totalitarian tide continues to advance: “Across Britain, schools are threatened by Islamists, and government is too cowed by political correctness to respond.”
Although Martin is thankfully no longer employed as a special adviser, having been sacked in July after Gove was removed as education secretary, he continues to advocate the policies he and Gove implemented. Calling for “a longer investigation with a wider brief”, Martin urges that the “Trojan Horse” witch-hunt should be extended throughout the education system: “Islamic societies in universities must be a key focus – the grotesque spectacle of fascist preachers addressing gender-segregated audiences in taxpayer-funded institutions must end.”
You don’t have to be a supporter of the present coalition government to feel grateful that it includes people like Clegg and Warsi who are prepared to take a stand against this sort of ignorant, irrational, divisive nonsense.
Gove aide damns ministers for failing to halt school Islamists
By Richard Kerbaj
A former aide to Michael Gove has accused ministers and Whitehall officials of trying to block efforts to tackle extremism in schools because they were “hamstrung by political correctness” and feared being labelled as Islamophobic.
Condemning a failure in government to confront Islamism, Jamie Martin describes the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, as a “consistent source of opposition”.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Martin, a special adviser who worked alongside the former education secretary for three years, also suggests Whitehall mandarins failed to co-operate with Gove as he sought to tackle the so-called Trojan Horse scandal. The affair revealed how Muslim fundamentalists had sought to impose an Islamist agenda on some schools in Birmingham.
“Nick Clegg was a consistent source of opposition,” Martin claims. “On one remarkable occasion in June [he] asked why we were singling out Islamism above other forms of extremism.
He adds: “We succeeded in avoiding government’s usual cycle of appeasement and inaction only thanks to an unusually talented and committed civil service team at the Department for Education and an education secretary of rare moral courage.”
Martin’s anger about political correctness hampering action against extremism follows similar concerns raised in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham, where abusers of Pakistani descent escaped the attention of the authorities.
Martin, who left government in July after Gove became Tory chief whip, also criticises Muslims for failing to confront extremism which, he argues, has left Britain “as a weak link in the fight against global terror”.
The controversy over the Trojan Horse affair, which was first exposed by The Sunday Times in February, led to a rift between Gove and the home secretary Theresa May over the infiltration by Islamists of state schools. An investigation by the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood into the fallout ultimately forced the resignation of May’s special adviser Fiona Cunningham.
Martin also suggests an “ingrained culture of appeasing” resulted in poor decisions in Whitehall. He suggests Peter Clarke, a former anti-terror chief at Scotland Yard and the man asked by Gove to investigate the Trojan Horse affair, should be commissioned to lead a broader inquiry into possible extremism in schools across the country.
“Islamic societies in universities must be a key focus,” he writes. “The grotesque spectacle of fascist preachers addressing gender-segregated audiences in taxpayer-funded institutions must end.”
Martin also laments a failure of “our governing elite” to tackle Islamism which, he says, “rejects every tenet of our pluralistic society and will not compromise on its belief in a totalitarian theocracy”.
He says the extremist ideology “bears no more relation to the peaceful religion of Islam than Stalinism did to democratic socialism”.
A source close to Clegg said the deputy prime minister had not heard of Martin and had no interest in his views. “He sounds like a former adviser trying to show off and make a name for himself now he doesn’t have a job,” the source said.
Quivering Sir Humphrey leaves it to parents to fight Islamism in schools
By Jamie Martin
Britain’s Muslim communities, built on peaceful and industrious values, are under threat from an aggressive, anti-western belief system. As Tony Blair has said, the same ideology that drove the “Trojan Horse” takeover of Birmingham’s schools, leaving children at risk of radicalisation, motivates Islamic extremists from Spain to Syria.
Our governing elite, hamstrung by political correctness, has failed to understand or tackle it. Our Muslim communities have failed to confront it. Britain has been left as a weak link in the fight against global terror.
This ideology is Islamism, which rejects every tenet of our pluralistic society and will not compromise on its belief in a totalitarian theocracy. It bears no more relation to the peaceful religion of Islam than Stalinism did to democratic socialism.
Its appeal in Britain is not driven by western foreign policy or poverty, but by a 30-year failure to challenge beliefs and practices that have no place in a liberal society. In Birmingham this led to state schools where children as young as four were taught in segregated classrooms, music lessons were banned and radical imams preached hate in assembly.
Michael Gove, the then education secretary, for whom I was a special adviser, asked not only Ofsted but also Peter Clarke, the former Metropolitan police anti-terror chief, to investigate the Trojan Horse allegations.
Once we had received their reports, we acted to remove the individuals responsible from any involvement in education. We then moved to make sure Ofsted inspections took place without notice, and strengthened our powers to rapidly close schools that did not promote British values (as already defined in the 2011 Prevent strategy).
It was my job to co-ordinate this response. To my amazement, the rest of Whitehall offered not encouragement and support, but recalcitrance. We succeeded in avoiding government’s usual cycle of appeasement and inaction only thanks to an unusually talented and committed civil service team at the Department for Education (DfE) and an education secretary of rare moral courage.
Nick Clegg was a consistent source of opposition. His office worked to weaken our response, and on one remarkable occasion in June asked why we were singling out Islamism above other forms of extremism. He refused to sign off on a tough code of conduct for madrasahs, religious schools where Islamist ideas can hold sway.
On seeing Clegg shaking his head when reading our proposed statement, one senior DfE official remarked “that means we have got the tone right”.
Baroness Warsi was a further roadblock. When a DfE official gave her evidence of a state Muslim girls’ school refusing to allow men on site (including Ofsted inspectors), she replied, “Well, it is a girls’ school”, as if this was also policy at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Her first test of any policy, that it had credibility in the Muslim community, chimed with a cross-Whitehall neurotic fear of appearing “Islamophobic”.
The refusal of the (usually white) political elite fully to condemn the exposure of Muslim children to Islamism reminded me of their defence of educational standards for poor children they would never accept for their own. Investigations into the hideous events in Rotherham should ask hard questions about whether similarly invertebrate attitudes were at fault there.
While Clegg’s opposition was probably driven by his increasingly desperate political calculations, for civil servants it reflected an ingrained culture of appeasing, not confronting, extremists.
This often meant funding and working with Islamists. Tahir Alam had called publicly for state schools to ensure girls were covered except for their hands and faces, and for Muslim pupils to avoid activities that celebrated other religions. Yet Birmingham city council appointed him to train their governors, and central government (including the DfE) consulted him. He was employed by the government’s favoured Muslim political group, the Muslim Council of Britain, as its education officer.
How exasperating for British Muslims – imagine seeing people with extremist views being funded by government to speak on behalf of the white community. Nobody, however, asked the really tough question – why do so few Muslims come forward and challenge the likes of Alam? Trojan Horse was anathema to their values, yet the power of extremist governors came in part from the lack of alternatives.
When I asked officials to recommend an exemplary Muslim-run school, it turned out there was not a single one in the country they were confident in.
The problem is not confined to Birmingham. Across Britain, schools are threatened by Islamists, and government is too cowed by political correctness to respond. Whitehall and local government still adopt the bizarre practice of funding groups and individuals who oppose British values.
The prime minister’s brave 2011 Munich speech set out a clear approach for dealing with Islamism. The time has come to follow and build on it.
All government departments should copy the strong lead of Nicky Morgan, Michael’s successor, and fund only organisations that promote British values. Groups such as the Islamic Forum of Europe or the Muslim Association of Britain must not receive taxpayers’ money.
Clarke, or a figure with similar authority, needs to lead a longer investigation with a wider brief. Islamic societies in universities must be a key focus – the grotesque spectacle of fascist preachers addressing gender-segregated audiences in taxpayer-funded institutions must end.
Government cannot be the whole solution. We began to tackle Britain’s educational failure by giving control of schools to teachers and parents, not politicians. British Muslims must become governors at, teach at, and found more of these schools. To defeat extremism, we must look not to Whitehall but to academy schools such as King Solomon or Burlington Danes in London, where Muslim pupils get wonderful results and become model citizens.