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Anti-Muslim suspicion in Britain has a whiff of McCarthyism about it

Birmingham Central Mosque

Anti-Muslim suspicion in Britain has a whiff of McCarthyism about it

By  (The Guardian)

Allegations that 25 schools in Birmingham are at risk of an “Islamic takeover plot” reached new levels of hysteria recently. An announcement was made that a counter-terrorism expert has been drafted in to conduct yet another investigation. The minister responsible, Michael Gove, has managed at a stroke to increase fear and suspicion between Muslim and non-Muslim in the city. The fact that the chief constable of West Midlands police, Chris Sims, has denounced the decision as “desperately unfortunate”, itself an extraordinary move, gives an indication of the scale of the concern.

So what was the evidence that provoked such a serious intervention and the accompanying media frenzy? A four-page document in which “plotters” outlined their dastardly plans to oust a headteacher for not being “open to our suggestions of adhering to strict Muslim guidelines”.

It made reference to a headteacher called Noshaba Hussain, whom the alleged plotters claim to have ousted from Springfield school only for her to be reinstated by the governors, and so “we have another plan in place to get her out”. But the school has confirmed that Hussain left the school 20 years ago. Other details point to the document’s inauthenticity and Sims – the most senior police officer in the region – has told the Guardian that it could be a hoax.

Governors at the schools concerned have strongly rejected the allegations. David Hughes, a governor at Park View school for 15 years, wrote an open letter to Michael Gove and condemned “the witch-hunt against the most successful school of its characteristics in Birmingham … under the pretext of concerns about extremism and threats to the education of our pupils”. Just last year Park View School hit the headlines for achieving an “outstanding” ranking from Ofsted despite a few years earlier being one of the worst performing schools.

Muslim governors challenging the narrative meet with accusations of denial and complicity. Many have worked hard for over a decade in partnership with teachers to turn schools around. Muslims feel under siege, while being accused of besieging an unwitting and overly tolerant majority who in turn will be fearful and mistrustful.

The real scandal is how scepticism over this “dodgy dossier” seems to have been thrown to the wind. What is more heartening is that local people are coming forward to stand in unity. The Rev Oliver Cross, who also happens to be vice-chair of governors at Regents Park school, one of the schools named as among those “infiltrated”, has categorically refuted the allegations and called the appointment of Peter Clarke a “disaster for community cohesion”. He says Birmingham Muslims are now “used to accusations of ‘Islamism’ or ‘extremism’ being hurled at them, not because such things exist, but for the simple crime of being Muslims”.

Different opinions may well exist among Muslims around schooling: the conservative-liberal spectrum of opinion is not unique to us. Since when do concerns by religiously conservative parents about teaching on homosexuality, girls and boys mixing, and the reciting of prayers, require anti-terrorist experts to get involved?

This latest investigation comes after the government announced that British affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood will be investigated, and the Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets was described in police reports as an “extremist”. When those who make criticisms of foreign policy get accused of creating the mood music for terrorism, there is understandable frustration and despair. Increasingly Muslims feel they just can’t win. On the one hand we get told we are not integrating enough and we should engage more in civic society. On the other, when we do, we get accused of having sinister agendas. There is more than a whiff of McCarthyism in the air. Chris Sims says he is concerned about the impact this will have on community cohesion. He is right to be.

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  • SarahAB

    Oh yes indeed – the Guardian. Sorry for the ambiguity.

  • SarahAB

    Absolutely. In my comment (which was deleted) I said I thought there was space for a reasonable article about exaggeration and bigotry in the way this is being reported. But I bet quite a few Muslim readers winced at the hostage to fortune provided by her misleading article.

  • sasboy

    If British authorities are so concerned about their education institutions being infiltrated by “extremists” then I suggest they stop Tony Blair, architect in chief of the illegal and violent 2003 Iraq invasion from speaking at colleges and universities across the UK and the world. His lies and fabrications caused the deaths, directly and indirectly, of thousands of Iraqis, British and Americans. While the survivors of his wars suffer in silence, this former British Prime Minister makes millions through his speaking engagements at educational institutions across the world with little or no sign of remorse for the suffering he caused.

    Nothing I see in the above articles suggests the British Muslim educators in question did anything illegal, let alone anywhere as remotely destructive as the twice elected British Prime Minister. Britain’s interests would be served better if they questioned their own domestic and overseas policies instead of perennially whining on about “extremist” from their (mostly) law abiding immigrant communities.

  • Sarka

    Salma is being disingenuous.

    While the letter may or may not be a “hoax” – that issue is not completely the same as the issue of whether what is described in the letter bears any relation to the truth. I read it carefully and concluded that it was not not genuine- though in style and tone and info it has certainly caused some strong Muslim defenders (e.g. Inayat Bunglawaya) to look very worried and say they can’t see enough to rule out the possibility that it is genuine.
    What it certainly isn’t is some crude piece of Islamophobic smear written by someone fantasising ignorantly about school politics in B’ham. It is very detailed stuff, with references and specific background that you wouldn’t get off the Internet. My guess is that it was written by someone as a way of forcing an investigation into matters and persons they were angry about. Given that several Muslim parents and teachers have complained about what was happening in some of the schools, it could as easily be a Muslim as a non-Muslim.

    So this is not just about the letter – for what has happened is that further investigation has indeed been turning up a lot of dodgy goings-on of the kind described in the letter. Just a day or so ago, an official report on one of the schools was leaked to the press, – that’s no hoax and it confirms some of the problems.

    Me, I think it is very much in the interests of ordinary British Muslim parents as well as everyone else that small groups of enthusiastic rather extreme “Islamisers”,
    are not allowed to get into dominant positions on governing bodies of schools in Muslim areas and then to bully staff (and put own friends in staff positions) so as to be able to bend or ignore basic requirements of public-funded, officially secular schools. Which is essentially what the problem is, though only pending official full investigations will show how widespread this is.

    Salma in the Guardian was rather unwise to just blithely dismiss the letter as an Islamophobic hoax. She needed to be more nuanced…i.e. to say that while the letter may well not be genuine, and whipping up a fullscale Islamic scare on this basis is not good, but there is clearly a problem here that needs investigation and we shall await the full results…She didn’t wait, and now (after the latest report leak) may be feeling embarrassed…..

  • Yausari

    ugh… people get dumber every year.

  • mindy1

    Paranoia is like cancer, it spreads

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