A brand new podcast collection from the New York Instances is prone to rekindle curiosity in “Operation Trojan Horse”: an alleged plot by “hardline” Muslims to “take over” round 20 state faculties within the metropolis of Birmingham in 2014. Regardless of quite a few investigations being undertaken on the time, no proof of a plot was discovered.
Throughout eight episodes, journalists Brian Reed and Hamza Syed search to find the creator of the nameless letter that triggered the scandal. As somebody who has lived in Birmingham for greater than twenty years and has undertaken intensive analysis into town’s Muslim communities for many of that, I used to be conflicted. Whereas it was attention-grabbing to analyze who was behind the allegations, I used to be involved that this might deflect consideration away from the very possible way the scandal has had a detrimental influence on the lives of many extraordinary individuals. It’s vital for me that others perceive how the legacy of the affair remains to be felt right this moment: each town of Birmingham and its Muslim communities persevering with to be perceived as issues.
Accusations of extremism in faculties
The allegations have been made in an nameless letter printed within the Sunday Telegraph. This alleged that academics and governors in sure faculties have been being systematically overthrown and changed by individuals who would run the colleges in keeping with conservative Islamic ideas.
Michael Gove, then minister for training, appointed the previous counter-terrorism chief Peter Clarke to look into the allegations. This choice signalled an vital shift. By bringing in a counter-terrorism chief, Gove was making it clear that this was not simply seen as an academic problem – it was an investigation into potential extremism. West Midlands Police even voiced issues about this despatched to town’s Muslims.
And, certainly, no proof emerged. Not of terrorism, violent extremism or radicalisation in any of the colleges examined.
But the response from the federal government was that extra wanted to be finished to sort out the issue of extremism in faculties. The UK authorities’s resolution was to embed the educating of “elementary British values” in faculties, successfully attributing the “downside” to Muslims. Whereas most have since carried on as regular, native faculties and the communities they serve have continued to undergo the implications.
In a telling second from the podcast, former pupils of a Trojan Horse faculty clarify that they worry saying which faculty they attended due to the potential detrimental influence it may need on their future training or profession prospects. They worry guilt by affiliation – that they are going to be seen as extremists or at the very least sympathetic to extremist views. For me, the shadow of Trojan Horse has the potential to stigmatise an entire era of Birmingham’s Muslims.
The reality is that this stigma began lengthy earlier than Trojan Horse. When the story broke, I had already been doing analysis into “Mission Champion”, which noticed greater than 200 CCTV and ANPR cameras –some overt, others covert – put in round two of probably the most densely populated Muslims areas within the metropolis. These have been initially defined as an initiative to cut back road crime however it will definitely emerged that each West Midlands Police and Birmingham Metropolis Council had lied. The cameras had been funded utilizing counter-terrorism cash.
By the point they have been dismantled in 2011, town’s Muslim communities have been feeling more and more anxious and ever extra marginalised. Others within the metropolis concluded that there was no smoke with out hearth – a theme that can resonate with anybody coming to the Trojan Horse story by way of the podcast.
A ‘hotbed of extremism’
Earlier than the podcast, many individuals outdoors of the UK may have had their introduction to Birmingham when so-called terrorism skilled Steve Emerson described town on Fox Information as “completely Muslim the place non-Muslims merely don’t go in”. He was rightly mocked however there’s something within the suggestion that Birmingham and its Muslim communities have develop into synonymous. This was evident after Khalid Masood killed 5 individuals in London in 2017.. Regardless of having lived in Birmingham for lower than a yr, Masood by some means grew to become a symbolic illustration of town. The Monetary Instances described Birmingham as a “hotbed” of Islamist extremism and the Unbiased referred to a “breeding floor for British-born terror”.
Asking “how did Birmingham develop into the jihadi capital of Britain?” the Day by day Mail added that just a few miles from the place Masood lived was Sparkbrook, the place 26 of the nation’s 269 “jihadis” had allegedly been “produced”. Simply as with the Trojan Horse scandal, a collection of dots was linked to succeed in a handy conclusion with apparently little thought for the broader repercussions. For these taking a look at Birmingham, town’s downside was town’s Muslims.
Because the podcast explains, the proof underpinning the Trojan Horse allegations was extraordinarily flimsy. That they have been taken so critically is in some ways completely bewildering. So, too, the influence the nameless allegations have had – regardless of being confirmed to be unfounded. The assumption that there’s no smoke with out hearth has had a really actual and really detrimental influence on Birmingham and its Muslim communities. This will probably be true lengthy after any curiosity within the new podcast has waned.