Imagine the following scenario: parents who previously were unaware of their Islamic faith start researching their religion. They to fill in their spiritual void they perform Hajj as a family. Mother and father, spiritually charged through their experience of the pilgrimage are inspired to practice their faith more. The father begins to lengthen his beard and starts to wear the jubba along with his hat more often. The mother, having understood her duty towards her Lord, chooses to cover up and dons the niqab and jilbab. Their daughter, inspired by their parents also starts to wear the hijab, whilst their son, Ali, jubilant about his trip to Makkah starts to wear his hat more regularly. He starts reading books on prayer, the Day of Judgment and the accounts of the hereafter. In doing so he chooses not to associate with his previous group of friends who perhaps were engaged in activities he is now no longer uncomfortable with. He ecstatically talks about his faith in RE lessons and even tries to dispel myths about his faith often portrayed in the media. On non-uniform day, he chooses to, like his father, wear a jubba to school.
The school witnessing this “change” notifies the Channel police. All of sudden Ali is referred under the Channel programme for “screening” and is assessed for radicalisation. His phone is confiscated. A CD by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on the purification of the heart which he was borrowing to his friend is also confiscated. Channel police visit the parents and personal questions are asked. Questions around terrorism, 9/11 and 7/7 are queried about. Whilst the father is out, the police visit the home again to tease out further questions. Enquiries are made with Ali’s GP regarding his “vulnerability” to radicalism. In all this Ali feel angry and frustrated as to why he has been treated like this.
Michael Gove has sent a letter to schools urging them to read the latest guidance on keeping children safe in education and spot signs of “radicalisation”. Included in the guidance is a reference to the “abuse” of “radicalisation” (the insinuation of abuse, if we recall, was first made in mainstream media by Borris Johnson), which links to the Channel programme guidance document. According to the anti-Muslim BBC,
“A guide to Channel on the Department for Education website lists signs which may indicate that someone may be becoming radicalised. These can include changing their style of dress or personal appearance and loss of interest in other friends and activities.”
To write these letters off the back of investigations into the fabricated and spun Birmingham Trojan Horse plot, shows that Gove’s intervention and hyperbole on the matter served as a pretext to justify this spotlighting and to continue if not worsen the erosion of rights of the Muslim minority. The guidance is meant to protect children against abuse; who is going to protect against Gove-santioned child-abuse in the form of the Channel Programme?
His dictatorial stances emanating from his neoconservative understanding, and his manoeuvring-in of neocons into strategic positions in the Education sector has not gone unnoticed. Gove is further tightening his grip on the education sector with regards to Academy schools, by appointing Regional Schools Commissioners who will be responsible for monitoring performance and “intervening” to secure improvement of underperforming academies. As a concerned individual wrote to Gove in the Guardian,
“You’ve abolished the “cohort”. There is no democratically elected overview for the benefit of all the children in a given locality. There’s a league table, Ofsted inspections with no organised advice or help coming in afterwards, a choice of schools that may well turn out to be not a choice, secret systems of selection and exclusion, offsite referral units where the “bad” kids go…
Apart from the joy derived from bullying, what is the purpose of an inspection system that isn’t locked into an advice system? …You told us that the benefit of all this was that you were getting rid of “bureaucracy”. What you forgot to say is that this would now mean that the bureaucracy was you: you in your office sending out commands, making up policies, cherry-picking advice on the basis of your own party’s ideology and, as the ship has started to revolve and sink, cooking up a new tier of “bureaucracy”: the Regional Schools Commissioners.
Excuse the deja-vu, but I can remember when Bertrand Russell and his colleagues revealed the fact that the governments of the time had secretly created “Regional Seats of Government” to come into power if we were under threat of a nuclear attack. No one had voted for this system… I’m coming round to the view that your Regional Schools Commissioners have loomed out of an imagination not dissimilar to the one that created the Regional Seats of Government; the same authoritarian, top-down, we-tell-you-what-to-do way of thinking about millions of parents, pupils and teachers.”
The scathing criticism of Gove indicates to his unpopular stances amongst the general public. It is interesting to note that Park View School in Birmingham is an academy, as are the various schools under its responsibility. It seems the heat on schools in Birmingham and subsequently elsewhere is only set to rise.
Gove’s dictator-esque (neocon) ideological push into the Education sector includes smearing Muslims, eroding Muslim minority rights, and pushing educational reforms which will only lead to his grip being tightened. It is no exaggeration to say that he is a menace to society.