Britain’s Trojan Horse: A hoax that still harms Muslims | Religion

In 2014, sensationalist headlines circulated in the UK about an alleged Muslim plot to take over faculties. The so-called “Trojan Horse” concerned “extremists” infiltrating Birmingham to “sow terrorism” in younger minds. Because the then chair of the Park View Academic Belief, which ran three of the colleges in query, I immediately discovered myself within the centre of a media storm, subjected to a large number of presidency inspections and inquiries trying into alleged improprieties. It was a traditional ethical panic.

Subsequently, all of our faculties have been deemed failures, regardless of having been ranked as excellent earlier than. They have been positioned below “particular measures”, which created the potential for eradicating senior management within the accused establishments. In fact, we rejected the supposed findings of those inquiries and protested the injustice and abuse of energy.

As time rolled on, it turned more and more clear that there was no proof of “extremism and radicalisation” going down within the faculties, nor was there any proof of a plot. But, the harm was completed. Years of laborious work, creating high-performing faculties in extremely disadvantaged areas, was destroyed by way of these interventions. Within the course of, your entire British Muslim neighborhood was vilified and solid as suspicious outsiders in their very own nation.

As one Muslim pupil succinctly put it to a trusted instructor, “Why are they in opposition to us?” The Trojan Horse and the response to it framed participation by Muslims in faculties, and notably these in management positions, as “infiltration”. This was regardless of Muslims constituting 98 % of the scholar physique. Infiltration certainly.

Podcast revelations

Quick ahead to 2022. A latest podcast by The New York Occasions, “The Trojan Horse Affair”, has highlighted severe flaws within the authorities’s response to the unique letter that sparked this entire mess. It’s surprising that it took greater than 5 years, and a international media outlet, to research the malpractice that ran rife by way of native and nationwide governments, the courts and swaths of the British media. The podcast reveals incompetence so outrageous that it’s hardly plausible.

To wit: following the arrival of the Trojan Horse hoax letter on his desk in January 2014, the then secretary of state for training, Michael Gove, leapt on the alternative to steer an Islamophobic witch-hunt in opposition to the Park View Academic Belief. On the time, it was a extremely profitable multi-academy belief that was the truth is developed on the request of the Division for Schooling (DfE). The podcast makes abundantly clear that Gove, from the very begin, was knowledgeable that, in all probability, the letter was faux. But Gove determined to push on however. No have to let proof get in the best way.

The media, in the meantime, was more than pleased to play alongside, fuelling an ethical panic that sought to “defend” youngsters from extremist views and evil Muslims. Because the podcast reveals, not a single confirmed incident underpinned the assertions within the Trojan Horse letter. The plot to take over these faculties – the true Trojan Horse – was not my very own, however as an alternative led by Gove.

On the time, I wrote to the DfE and ministers in regards to the fallacious nature of the letter, asking them to research its origins and objective. It fell on deaf ears, as did my request to Peter Clarke, a former counterterrorism chief appointed by Gove to steer an inquiry on behalf of the DfE. Extremely, discovering the reality in regards to the origin of the letter was not a part of his temporary. The assertions that the letter made, nevertheless, have been to be diligently investigated.

Trojan-induced trauma

It is very important recognise that the impact of the hoax and the next witch-hunt shouldn’t be confined to an occasion prior to now that affected just a few folks. It’s a lived actuality within the current, which is skilled by Muslim youngsters, dad and mom, academics, and college leaders alike. Moreover, it’ll have lasting implications for future generations of British Muslims. Rules, legal guidelines, in addition to instructional and safety insurance policies just like the Stop technique, which seeks to cease folks from turning into extremists, have been enacted or strengthened with Muslims in thoughts.

Like many different academics and governors of colleges, I suffered private {and professional} hurt. I used to be unable to work within the vocation I really like and stay barred from operating faculties or working as an inspector of instructional requirements. Being labelled an extremist additionally wreaked havoc on my private life. My very own pals would request that I take away the batteries from my cellphone of their presence, in case any bugged recordings would affiliate them with me and destroy their very own careers. In lots of instances, they have been additionally compelled out of training.

On account of the Trojan Horse hoax, some  20 schools have been inspected by the state. Unsurprisingly, these have been all predominantly Muslim faculties with Muslim majority instructional management. Their supposed crime, after all, amounted to nothing greater than their Muslim-ness. Inevitably, the investigations discovered nothing untoward.

The Trojan Horse hoax served to legitimise, legalise, and institutionalise a discriminatory tradition in opposition to Muslim youngsters, the place their religion is seen by way of the prism of extremism and terrorism. A easy request for prayer amenities within the faculty is put below the microscope and evaluated by way of the false paranoia of radicalisation. “We don’t need others making this request,” one head instructor defined to different members of employees (who then knowledgeable me in my capability as governor) when refusing permission. There’s something very fallacious with this strategy in a supposedly open, tolerant, and inclusive society, which must respect freedom of spiritual perception and follow.

Finally, the impact of the Trojan Horse hoax will likely be felt lengthy into the longer term. The specter of related hysteria-driven offensives stays actual so long as classes are usually not realized. It is because of this that the scandal should stay unfinished enterprise. I endorse the decision of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) for an unbiased inquiry into the travesty, and for an investigation into establishing the origins of the Trojan Horse letter. Those that abused their energy and authority in inflicting a lot hurt must be held accountable. These unjustly and wrongfully maligned must be absolutely exonerated.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.