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Scylla and Charybdis: navigating the Trojan Horse developments

Here is just one sentence from Salma Yaqoob’s disingenuous piece for the Guardian:

The real scandal is how scepticism over this “dodgy dossier” seems to have been thrown to the wind.

Yvonne Ridley deploys similar sophistry here:

If everyone can see Trojan Horse letter is a hoax how come our Education Secretary Michael Gove is so gullible?

Yaqoob seems to think that ‘scepticism’ actually means ‘continuing disbelief no matter what evidence is presented’, and Ridley creates a misleading false binary: the original Trojan Horse document must either be authentic or contain no element of truth whatsoever.

This extract from a leaked Ofsted report appears to confirm that there are real problems in some Birmingham schools. Key concerns include gender segregation, neglect of non-Muslim students, hosting an extremist preacher and curriculum restriction.

Tehmina Kazi expresses an appropriately forthright irritation at those who fail to acknowledge or engage with people’s legitimate worries.

“It is scandalous that the stick of Islamophobia is being waved as a deflection strategy in relation to very real and pressing issues. For one thing, it is an insult to genuine victims of anti-Muslim sentiment.

“In a secular democracy, schools must champion inclusivity and equality for all, whether they are academies or not. These institutions should look to the Accord Coalition Inclusive Schools Award for examples of good practice,” she added.

Ridley and Yaqoob may be trying to stave off anti-Muslim bigotry, but their approach seems calculated to increase rather than diminish distrust.  However there are some valid concerns which might be raised about the way this is being reported.  Park View may be guilty of all that it’s been accused of, and more, but I find it hard to argue with this point, made by a spokesperson from the school.

“The credibility of both Ofsted and its inspections is seriously undermined by the suggestion that the agency may be colluding with the media and breaching confidentiality. This would constitute a serious breach of protocol,” the trust said.

The Telegraph and Andrew Gilligan are not known for their Islamophilia – one might ask whether points 1-47 of the partially leaked document identify some good practice and/or cases where allegations have been judged false.

Yet the school undermines its own case in this overly defensive statement.

“From the outset the trust has argued that the pretext for these latest inspections – the so-called Trojan Horse dossier, now widely seen as a hoax – was prejudicial. We believe the inspections were approached with a pre-conceived notion of what would be found.”

Some of the puzzles raised by this case don’t yield easy answers.  Reports of rather crass questions being asked during the emergency Ofsted inspections seemed worth engaging with at first, but the latest allegations are almost too bizarre to be believed:

Mr King said that he had been told that in one school: “The Ofsted team were going to the staff of the school and saying ‘we’re going to fail you’ and some of the staff were saying ‘why are you failing us’ and they were saying ‘well, you’re not teaching anti-terrorism and therefore there’s a safeguarding issue in the school’.

Given that the alleged problems are decidedly serious, it seems counter-productive and unnecessary to exaggerate them.  The Daily Mail’s easter egg story is just a little over-egged.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2609332/Islamic-school-hardliners-confiscated-Easter-eggs-pupils-head-Ofsted-takes-charge-inquiry-Muslim-Trojan-Horse-plot.html#ixzz2zbKEe3q0

The long headline in this URL asserts that ‘Islamic school hardliners confiscated Easter eggs’.  If one hears of confiscation in a school then the natural assumption is that a teacher is involved.  A few paragraphs in we learn:

It was also claimed that roving ‘morality squads’ have been instituted at the affected schools, and would censor talk of non-Muslim festivals and smash pupils’ Easter eggs.

‘Instituted’ implies a formally approved arrangement, and it’s some time before we learn that in fact what is being claimed is that ‘groups of pupils were confiscating toys and chocolate from younger children’ and that teachers are turning a blind eye to this practice.  (Of course this in itself is not welcome, and the reports of girls being bullied for not wearing hijab are still more worrying.)

This kind of souping up should be discouraged for two reasons.  It encourages anti-Muslim bigotry and it gives people like Yaqoob and Ridley a handle for further deflection.