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Islamophobia and Birmingham Schools: Stop the War Statement

Michael Gove’s recent attacks on a group of Birmingham schools where Muslim pupils are a majority are mistaken and dangerous. They are based on fabrication and are a diversion from real problems in education. The schools inspectorate Ofsted has found no evidence of any attempt at radical infiltration or conspiracy to control any school in Birmingham.

The episode is a further example of the way that, since the start of the 'War on Terror,' public life has been contaminated by Islamophobia. Politics and ideology, not concern for school children, are driving this assault from a member of a cabinet which in its majority did not even attend state schools. Unsubstantiated claims that women are being forced to wear the veil or that Islamic ideas are being imposed on children will only encourage bigoted attitudes and create anxiety in Muslim communities. People in Britain have resisted going down the one-size fits all approach to community relations which has been a disaster in France and continental Europe, leading to the government telling people what they may or may not wear. 

The scapegoating of Birmingham schools in the name of ‘British values’ is hypocritical and should cease. It would be welcome progress if the government embraced the ‘principle of tolerance’ and 'live and let live', but it would involve them learning to respect Britain’s diverse communities and ending their addiction to foreign wars.