LONDON (Reuters) - A British government inquiry has found that hardline Muslims tried to impose an “intolerant and aggressive” Islamic agenda on some schools in the city of Birmingham, including separation of boys and girls in lessons and banning Christmas celebrations.
Some of the majority-Moslem schools invited speakers with known extremist views to assemblies and promoted organizations that would be categorized as ‘extremist’ under government classifications, according to the report by Peter Clarke, former head of London Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.
Hardline Muslims also tried to force schools to install governors and teachers who would support a conservative Islamic religious agenda.
“There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham,” Clarke said.
He said he had not looked for evidence of terrorism, radicalization or violent extremism, and he had not found any during the course of his investigation.
But he found “a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, endorse or fail to challenge extremist views.”
Birmingham, in the English Midlands and the country’s second largest city, has a substantial Muslim population due to immigration from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. The report, released on Tuesday, cited instances where pupils were banned from singing and listening to music, and forbidden to draw faces in art classes.
It also gave evidence of lessons being segregated by sex and discrimination against non-Muslims. Some schools had canceled Christmas celebrations.
Transcripts of electronic conversations between a group of male teachers at the schools showed evidence of homophobia and anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israeli attitudes.
The report said one of the schools at the center of the claims, Park View School, denied most, if not all, of the allegations against it. The school could not be reached for comment but last week issued a statement saying it had been the victim of a co-ordinated offensive from government bodies.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told parliament Clarke’s findings were “disturbing”.
“His report sets out compelling evidence of a determined effort by people with a shared ideology to gain control of the governing bodies of a small number of schools in Birmingham,” she said.
The so-called Trojan Horse allegations were first made in an anonymous letter to Birmingham City Council, prompting the government to launch a series of investigations.
A report by schools inspectors last month found a culture of “fear and intimidation” existed in some Birmingham schools, but was criticized by the Muslim Council of Britain, who said the inquiry could be viewed as a witch hunt.
Editing by Angus MacSwan