The leaked document, purportedly a letter from one Muslim extremist to another, called it “Trojan Horse” – an operation by fundamentalists to “take over” state schools in the city of Birmingham, undermine the headteachers and ensure they were “run on Islamic principles”.
They had already, they claimed, caused “a great amount of organised disruption” in the city and “as a result now have our own academies and are on the way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools. Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember that this is ‘jihad’ and as such using all measures possible to win the war is acceptable.”
The leaked documents describe how the alleged plotters stir up “hardline” parents to attack headteachers with allegations that they are “corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and [carrying out] mixed swimming and sport”.
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At the four Birmingham schools the letter named as examples of their “success,” there has indeed been much “disruption” of late. At Adderley Primary, there is a police investigation amid claims that staff resignation letters were faked. At Saltley School, the respected non-Muslim headteacher resigned last year because of a breakdown in the relationship between him and the school’s governors.
At Regents Park Primary, the head left after an investigation into the school’s outstanding test results. The letter’s authors claim they “planted the seed of her cheating in order to get the results she has”.
But it is the fourth alleged takeover victim, Park View, whose story is most interesting. Park View, the only academy of the four, whose pupils are almost 100% Muslim, is a flagship not just of Birmingham’s but of Britain’s state education system, a national poster child for the Government’s academies policy.
The schools watchdog, Ofsted, has hailed Park View as an “outstanding” example of educational success, achieving superb GCSE results in a very deprived area. In 2012, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, described its executive headteacher, Lindsey Clark, as “inspirational”.
Mrs Clark was awarded the OBE for services to education. No less a man than the Prime Minister, David Cameron, praised Park View as an example of a school that was “closing the achievement gap”.
But an investigation by The Telegraph, in parallel with the “Trojan Horse” allegations, suggests that all is not well at Park View. According to former staff interviewed by this newspaper, a senior teacher at the academy repeatedly endorsed the terrorist ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki at school assemblies.
Awlaki, killed by a US drone strike in 2011, was one of the most important al-Qaeda recruiters in the world, personally in contact with the perpetrators of at least three major terror attacks, including 9/11. Even in death, thanks to the internet, his sermons and DVDs have influenced dozens of other terrorists, including six convicted last year in Birmingham.
The teacher, who remains in a high-level position at the school, also used its computer facilities and technical staff to copy Osama bin Laden DVDs, according to the former staff.
The teacher used the word “terrorist” as a personal mobile phone identity on Bluetooth and also described non-Muslims to pupils in assemblies as “kuffar”, an insulting term for infidel, the former teachers said.
On November 28 last year, The Telegraph has learnt, Park View organised an “extended Islamic assembly” for its Year 10 and 11 pupils with Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an extremist preacher who has called on God to “destroy the enemies of Islam”. Al-Suleiman has also asked God to “give victory to the Muslims in Afghanistan and Chechnya,” to “give victory to all the Mujahideen all over the world” and to “prepare us for the jihad”.
Another teacher at the sister primary school controlled by Park View, Razwan Faraz, has defended his brother, Ahmed, a man dubbed the “terrorists’ favourite bookseller” whose Birmingham shop, now closed by police, distributed extremist literature to many involved in terror plots, including one of the 7/7 bombers.
In 2011 Ahmed Faraz was jailed for multiple terror-related offences, though he was later cleared of some of the charges on appeal. Razwan said the convictions were an attack on free speech. Before moving to Park View’s primary school, he worked at Adderley Primary.
In November, Park View was given a top award at the Global Peace and Unity conference, a London-based Islamic event boycotted by Conservative ministers because of its repeated hosting of Holocaust deniers, extremists and terrorist sympathisers. At previous GPU events, material glorifying terrorist groups was on open sale.
Last month, Park View was placed under investigation amid allegations that it discriminated against non-Muslim staff and that it organises Islamic studies classes, despite supposedly being a secular, non-faith state school. Last week Ofsted launched a snap inspection of the academy. The Counter-Terrorist Unit of the West Midlands Police is also understood to have been alerted to activity at the school.
Mrs Clark admitted that Park View had established an “all-female madrasah” giving children Islamic studies classes, though she said it took place after school hours and was done for pupil safeguarding reasons. Promotional material for the al-Suleiman talk on the school’s website suggests that “Islamic assemblies” are regular features for pupils at Park View.
She denied that any complaint had been received about the alleged Osama bin Laden incident, but refused to comment further. The senior teacher did not respond to repeated texts, emails and telephone messages asking for comment.
The chairman of governors at Park View, Tahir Alam, is a senior activist in the Muslim Council of Britain and vice-chair of the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS). His views, like the MCB’s, are hardline. In evidence for the MCB to the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 2008, he said he would “caution against advocating that desegregation [in schools] should be actively pursued” and stressed the “obligatory nature” of the hijab for Muslim women and girls.
Mr Alam is also a senior official of another organisation, the al-Hijrah Trust, which runs another successful state school in the city and trains teachers, many of whom have gone on to head other state schools in Birmingham.
Mr Alam is closely involved with national organisations for Muslim school governors and parents. On Saturday night he denied any involvement in the alleged “Trojan Horse” plot, saying the leaked letter was a “malicious fabrication and completely untrue”.
Mr Alam and the AMS say that Islamic extremism is not a problem in British schools. However, the AMS co-controls the controversial Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which has taken over responsibility from Ofsted for inspecting many private Muslim schools and has been accused of whitewashing extremist schools. The centre-right think tank, Policy Exchange, has called on the Government to abolish the Bridge Schools Inspectorate.
Critics say the Government’s academies and free schools programmes, which give schools far greater freedom from local authority control and national guidelines, creates exactly the kind of vulnerabilities alleged to have been exploited at Park View. The purported “Trojan Horse” papers state explicitly that the extremists intend to use the freedoms allowed academies to Islamicise state schools.
Park View’s future plans, according to its latest annual report, are to take over or establish another “eight or nine” academy schools. Birmingham Council and education watchdogs continue to investigate the “Trojan Horse” plot.
More from the Birmingham Mail: Head of school targeted in ‘Jihadist plot’ was forced out after opposing plans to ban sex education, claim
A head teacher whose school was targeted in an alleged Jihadist plot was forced out after opposing Muslim governor plans to scrap sex education and allow only halal food, it was claimed.
Sources claim Balwant Bains was “bullied and intimidated” in the months before he left Saltley School last November after clashing with its governing body.
The respected head, who is of Sikh origin, was allegedly undermined when governors overturned his decision to expel a Muslim pupil found with a knife.
It was claimed he was also targeted in an anonymous text message that branded him a “racist, Islamophobic head teacher”… [No reader restriction on this link]