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    Summary: 

    11 Conclusions

    11.1 I neither specifically looked for, nor found, evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern in Birmingham. However, by reference to the definition of extremism in the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorist strategy CONTEST, and the spectrum of extremism described by the Prime Minister in his Munich speech in February 2011, I found clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, sympathise with or fail to challenge extremist views. Three are named in this report but there are others of significance who are not.

    11.2 The existence of a common ideological stance among key linked individuals in this enquiry, the taking of control of governing bodies and the implementation of conservative religious practices in the schools where these individuals have influence, means that there can be no doubt that what has happened has been driven by a desire to instil a particular style of religious ethos into these state non-faith schools.

    11.3 It has been suggested to me that the ambition of those who were involved was to do no more than create schools that are reflective of the communities they serve and are following the wishes of the majority of parents. I find that this is not the case. On the contrary, while the majority of parents welcome the good academic results that some of these schools produce, they are not demanding that their children adhere to conservative religious behaviour at school. On the contrary, I received evidence that it is a minority of parents who want this to happen. I have been told by many witnesses, however, that most parents do not have the confidence to argue against the articulate and forceful people who seek their imposition, for fear of being branded as disloyal to their faith or their community. 11.4 I have received evidence from witnesses who express three key concerns about the impact on children of what has happened. First, I have been told by teachers that they fear children are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity. Second, although good academic results can be achieved through a narrowing of the curriculum, it comes at a cost. The cost is that young people, instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, are having their horizons narrowed. They are not being prepared properly to flourish in the inevitably diverse environments of further education, the workplace or life outside predominantly Muslim communities. They are thus being potentially denied the opportunity to prosper in a modern multi-cultural Britain. Third, the very clear evidence that young people are being encouraged to adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam raises real concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future. I have heard evidence to the effect that there are real fears that their current experiences will make it harder for them to question or challenge radical influences. 11.5 At the centre of what has happened are a number of individuals who have been, or are, associated with either Park View School or the Park View Educational Trust. Time and again, people who have been either teachers or governors at Park View, appear to be involved in behaviours at other schools that have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. The tactics that have been used are too similar , the individuals concerned too closely linked and the behaviour of a few parents and governors too orchestrated for there not to be a degree of co-ordination and organisation behind what has happened. The clear conclusion is that Park View Educational Trust has, in reality, become the incubator for much of what has happened and the attitudes and behaviours that have driven it. 11.6 I have considered the totality of the evidence gathered during the investigation very carefully, and been careful to avoid the temptation to draw undue inferences from an evidence base that is inevitably incomplete, given the urgent need to establish what has happened in schools so that stability can be restored and children safeguarded. The accumulation of evidence from my own investigation, information received from Birmingham City Council, Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency and numerous other sources lead me to the following conclusion.

    11.7 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. This has been achieved in a number of schools through gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove headteachers who they do not feel to be sufficiently compliant with their agenda. Their motivation may well be linked to a deeply held religious conviction, but the effect has been to limit the life chances of the young people in their care and to render them more vulnerable to pernicious influences in the future.

    11.8 Birmingham City Council was aware of the practices and behaviours that were subsequently outlined in the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter long before the letter surfaced. Officers have conceded that it did not consider carefully enough nor soon enough the question of whether there was a pattern in what was happening across a number of schools. Instead, the Council persisted in approaching incidents on a case-by-case basis. Further, the officers looking at the issue from a community cohesion and education management perspective respectively did not appear to be sufficiently joined up.

    11.9 The Council has not supported headteachers faced with aggressive and inappropriate governor behaviour. This has led to the perception that the Council has relied too readily on the solution of a compromise agreement and that it has failed in its duty of care towards their employees. The Council not being proactive enough in confronting the type of governor practice described in preceding chapters has led to a perception that it has ‘appeased’ governors.

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    Parliamentary enquiry into Sharia Councils in the UK: Submission of Oral Evidence

     

  • Author(s):

    Summary: 

    Maryam Namazie: Thank you for having me here. I represent One Law for All, a coalition of organisations that includes Southall Black Sisters, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, the Centre for Secular Space and British Muslims for Secular Democracy, as well as other groups. We include Muslim and non-Muslim women who are working together on this issue. We believe that Sharia courts play a very negative role in the lives of women. We think that, in content and structure, they are discriminatory against women, and to try to find good or bad when the law itself discriminates against women is problematic. We think that women should have access to one secular law for all.

    If you look at the creation of the Sharia courts, they came in the mid-1980s. They are a result of the rise of the political Islamic movement internationally, the repercussions of which we have seen here in Britain and in Europe. If you talk to older women who were living in Britain prior to this period, none of them were required or pressured to go to Sharia court. There was no need for this sort of divorce. In the past they would get civil divorces, which are acceptable in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. In a sense, we see this as part of the rise of the Islamist movement. It is one of their projects to manage and control women. They created a problem, and then they came forward and pretended that Sharia courts were the solution to the problem that they had created. It is highly problematic.

    We need to look fundamentally at why women from minority backgrounds should have different rights and rules applied to them. Why are we not stressing one law for all? In any sort of religious law—not just Sharia courts but Beth Dins and any sort of parallel legal system where religious arbitration is at play—you will find that women are discriminated against because of the nature of these sorts of rules.
    .......
    Maryam Namazie: I also think that we can’t wait for reform and changes. That is an issue we need to think about. We need to protect women and we need to protect them right away. From my perspective and the coalition I work with, we think that parallel legal systems should be abolished.

    Q17 Mr Winnick: Abolished completely?

    Maryam Namazie: Abolished, because I think it will protect women more. I know some will say that that means that they will carry on underground. Well, domestic violence continues, but we still have laws against it. When the Government say very clearly that parallel legal systems are unacceptable, it helps to protect the most vulnerable. Some women go freely, they get their rights, but we are talking about the most vulnerable in our society

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