Investigators in England announced this week they had found proof of deliberate “Islamization” of schools in the town of Birmingham. The investigation responded to a March letter leaked to the press detailing Islamist plans to use schools to teach extreme ideology to students in Birmingham and to expand the scheme to other areas of the country.
The four-page manifesto for the scheme, called Trojan Horse, stated: “The process behind ‘Trojan Horse’ is simple. It is about people seeing our intentions as respectable and our being accepted by the key stakeholders such as the Director of Education and the City Council. … This is a long-term plan and one which we are sure will lead to great success in taking over a number of schools and ensuring they are run on strict Islamic principles.”
Though the origin of the Trojan Horse letter remains uncertain, it spurred the Department of Education to investigate. The ensuing probe into 21 schools found credible evidence to support the allegations.
The affected schools included traditional public schools and faith-based schools. Faith-based schools are public schools supported by state funds that are overtly religious in nature. Not unlike charter schools in the U.S., they take applications from interested students and provide an option for families seeking an alternative to their local public school. Unlike U.S. charter schools, though, these public schools are free to use a faith-based curriculum. The arrangement attempts to carefully balance interests of the state with those of private individuals and communities.
The Trojan Horse letter described a plan to upset that balance by imposing a narrow, extremist ideology on schools. “Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things, you must remember that this is a ‘jihad’ and, as such, using all means possible to win the war is acceptable,” it stated.
Of the 21 schools investigated, 5 were immediately declared inadequate, 12 were declared as needing improvements, and 3 were found to be adequate. One school had already been declared inadequate prior to the Trojan Horse investigation. To determine adequacy, the schools were ranked in teaching quality, student performance, behavior, and leadership.
The investigation found evidence of schools’ inviting extremist speakers to present at assemblies, discouraging girls from participating in extracurricular activities and sports, marginalizing highly effective non-Muslim teachers, and, in one case, arranging a school-sponsored strip to Saudi Arabia just for Muslim pupils and staff.
Faith-based schools make up about one-third of England’s 20,000 state-funded schools. That number includes more than 4,000 Church of England schools, more than 2,000 Catholic schools, and a dozen Muslim schools. In a statement released Monday night, the British Department for Education said: “We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
The schools deemed inadequate have until July 4 to address the investigation’s concerns. The department stated individual teachers who bring in extremist speakers will be banned from their profession.
The affected schools rejected the findings and said they plan on taking legal action.