Thursday, Sep 20, 2018 | Last Update : 10:30 PM IST

How some schools in Britain are busy radicalising young minds

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Feb 3, 2018, 12:37 am IST
Updated : Feb 3, 2018, 12:37 am IST

The attack against Ms Lall and Mr Qawi was led by five Muslim councillors, the elected local government officials of Newham.

God knows Theresa May’s government needs some popular domestic initiatives, and propositions by Muslim MPs along these lines would be one. (Photo: AP)
 God knows Theresa May’s government needs some popular domestic initiatives, and propositions by Muslim MPs along these lines would be one. (Photo: AP)

“Narcissus was a bloody fool
He saw his face in the rippling pool
And fell for it as lovers do
With selfies and on Snapchat too
Imagery on phones has turned
A generation to unearned
Self regard like Narcissus
Hai Bhagwan, deliver us…”

From The Case of the Ashamed Vahu
by Bachchoo

Amanda Spielman, England’s chief inspector of schools, has issued a strong warning against schools being used to radicalise young minds. Her team of inspectors reported overt and subtle forms of Islamist indoctrination in schools across England.

This is not to say that mad mullahs are entering schools and recruiting suicide bombers but that some practices under the guise of religion are alienating youngsters from integrating into the society in which they live.

She chose the moment to speak in order to support the head teacher of St Stephens, a state-owned school in the East End of London. St Stephens, whose head is Neena Lall and whose chair of governors was Arif Qawi, was named by the Sunday Times as the best primary school in England.

The school is almost 100 per cent ethnic, with the pupils from the ages of 4+ to 11 mostly from third or even fourth-generation Bangladeshi and Mirpuri immigrant families. With the support of Mr Qawi and the governing body of St Stephens, Ms Lall ruled that girls should not wear hijabs in the classroom and that children under eight should not keep the Ramzan fast during school times to prevent them feeling unwell.

Her ruling stimulated a severe backlash. Fundamentalist activists began preaching in the mosques and community gatherings against it and 20,000 people from the largely Bangladeshi community signed a petition against these school rules.

The issue was taken up on social media and Ms Lall was portrayed, absurdly, as Hitler and Mr Qawi as a satanic Stalin. The victimisation of these two reached such a pitch that Mr Qawi offered his resignation from the governors and Ms Lall was compelled by the protesters, who had put in place a new governing body, to retract the rule. Girls would wear hijabs in class and children under eight would, if their parents wanted them to, observe religious fasts during school hours.

The attack against Ms Lall and Mr Qawi was led by five Muslim councillors, the elected local government officials of Newham.

It is yet to be seen whether this week’s intervention in support of Ms Lall by the chief inspector of schools results in any action by any higher authority — the education ministry or even the freshly created Commission for Countering Extremism.

This new body has as its first chief officer Sara Khan, who is a renowned activist and the founder in 2008 of Inspire, an organisation to counter extremism and promote female equality, both noble aims which led to her appointment. She hasn’t had time to get her feet under the table yet but it is hoped that Ms Khan will use her publicly proclaimed ambition to inculcate proper integration into the society in which Britain’s three million Muslims live. She could even recommend legislation to support the liberal perspectives of Ms Lall and Mr Qawi for all schools.

Ms Khan’s appointment has already drawn, even before announcing any policy, the antagonism of the Labour Party. Labour MP Naz Shah, elected from Bradford, a constituency with an electorally-determining Mirpuri population, is the vice-chair of the British Muslims all-party group. She has expressed her disapproval of Ms Khan’s appointment. She claims that Ms Khan “does not accept the concerns in the community”.

I choose to read between the lines of this objection. What Ms Shah means is that Labour MPs such as herself have been elected on a pro-Islamist ticket by a substantial section of Pakistani or Bangladeshi immigrants who retain the rural prejudices of their origins and are swayed by fundamentalist preachers and by attitudes in their communities. This same Naz Shah was last year reprimanded by, but not dismissed from, the Labour Party for attempting to spread anti-Semitic nonsense.

The present British Parliament has 13 Muslim MPs. Nine of them are Labour, three are Conservative and one is from the Scottish Nationalist Party. All these Labour MPs have been elected from constituencies in which large numbers of Muslims vote Labour because they identify with the working classes and support the selection of Muslim candidates whose appeal is very often the espousal of trans-national Muslim positions such as an anti-Israeli stance or denunciation of Britain’s role in the Iraq war.

The Tory MPs are elected from constituencies that don’t have significant numbers of Muslims but are safe Conservative seats, which inevitably vote for professionals, of whatever race or colour, who profess ideological leanings towards capitalist values.

In a sense this distinction between Labour and Conservative constituencies, which elect Muslim MPs, is a reflection of the history of immigrants to this country. All 13 MPs are the progeny of immigrant families, eight of them women. All of them have, through education and the determination to rise above the station of their parents, gone into the professions, almost all through the law.

Most of the three million Muslims in Britain live in relatively enclosed communities and remain a class within the working class. They elect the likes of Ms Shah who dare not support the appointment of Ms Khan or the attempt by Ms Lall and Mr Qawi to preserve secularity and express concern for the health of their very young pupils. No doubt the Labour leadership will count, not its ambivalent blessings, but its Muslim votes and back Ms Shah in her attack on the new counter-terror commissioner and the Muslim councillors who initiated the attack on Ms Lall.

So, regretfully, one has to perhaps look to the three Conservative Muslim MPs to initiate practical even legislated support for the perspectives that Ms Lall and Ms Khan represent. God knows Theresa May’s government needs some popular domestic initiatives, and propositions by Muslim MPs along these lines would be one.

Tags: theresa may, arif qawi