Earlier this month, the school’s regulator OFSTED released their report on 21 Birmingham schools, after allegations of pupils being vulnerable to ‘Islamic extremism’. It was triggered by a mysterious letter stating that a small group of Islamic fundamentalists had taken over the management of the schools, and were forcing them to teach under religious, rather than secular principles.
Many staff in Birmingham’s schools have hit out against these statements. They say that the whole issue has been grossly over-exaggerated, and that there was little evidence of any Islamic takeover. Many have also said that the incident is being used as a political football ahead of next year’s general election, and that it has deeply distressed many of their pupils taking exams.
So what did happen in Birmingham? Did politicians and the media distort and sensationalise the events? And what kind of effect will it have not just in Birmingham’s schools, but in other areas with a high percentage of Muslim pupils?
Islam Channel‘s Jonathan Steele was joined by a distinguished panel to discuss this subject: Dr. Brooke Rogers, Reader in Risk and Terror at King’s College London; Asim Qureishi, Research Director at CAGE; Professor Gus John, Honourary Fellow and Associate Professor at the Institute of Education. On Skype, they were also joined by Salma Yaqoob, former Birmingham city councillor and on the phone, humanist blogger and activist, John Sargeant.