Clarke, Gove and Wilshaw: Singing off the Same Neocon Hymn-Sheet

goveofsteddfeQuilliam

Wait, another leaked document?! And this of a report written by a former counter-terrorism chief? With someone with skills in the counter-terrorism profession, who works as an advisor for major war-profiteering outfits, this is some seriously poor level of security on his part, and the people he has carried out the work for. Surely, an inquiry is in order?

Reading the piece in the Guardian which sumarises the findings of Peter Clarke’s leaked report, I couldn’t help but note the similarity in the narrative between Clarke, Michael Wilshaw and Michael Gove. Gove conflates religious conservatism as extremism, as a Whitehall official confirm:

“Michael Gove’s views are so incredibly black and white. It’s either his way or no way. He seems to think that anybody who strictly follows Islam is not really integrated… And he thinks anybody who holds conservative Muslim views is a bit of an extremist. He has been using Birmingham to pursue an ideological agenda that he’s had for many years.”

In submitting his evidence to the Education Select Committee, Wilshaw stated,

“What we did see was governors going into the school and deciding they would move head teachers out of the school… to promote their own ideas…  [there was a culture which] “made children vulnerable to extremism”

The theme of “unchecked” orthodoxy is recurrent in both Wilshaw’s and Clarke’s statements. The culture was the beliefs of Muslims as gauged by the personal questions Ofsted inspectors have reported to have asked (which mosque do teachers pray at, for instance). Now we have Clarke’s statement:

“…sustained, coordinated agenda to impose segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline, politicised strain of Sunni Islam” on children in a number of Birmingham schools. A draft of the report, marked as sensitive, states: “Left unchecked, it would confine schoolchildren within an intolerant, inward-looking monoculture that would severely inhibit their participation in the life of modern Britain.”

In fact, the statement sounds like Maajid Nawaz’s definition of extremism in the context of the Shari’ah, which he trotted out in a BBC interview:

“A desire to impose any given interpretation through law.”

The question therefore remains then, how much input did the DfE’s counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam have on this report? And how much ideological collusion is there in this fiasco between Clarke, Gove and Quilliam?  This will be addressed in the next blog.

A psycholinguistic analysis of the wording of Clarke’s statement highlights dogwhistling: “politicised strain of Sunni Islam”. That’s a seriously verbose way of describing Quilliam’s favourite obsession – the Islamist. The mention of “Sunni” in a climate of Sunni-Shia tensions in the Middle East is also revealing.

Clarke in Guardian’s other piece states,”

“Essentially the ideology revealed by this investigation is an intolerant and politicised form of extreme social conservatism that claims to represent and ultimately seeks to control all Muslims. In its separatist assertions and attempts to subvert normal processes it amounts to what is often described as Islamism.”

Social conservatism plus public activism equals Islamism! That’s pretty much most practising Muslim professionals!  Throw in “subversion” and you have the Trojan Horse threat, which the right-wing/neocon extremists linked to terrorists like Anders Breivik regurgitate.

Extremism?

The reports raise more questions than they answer. The desire to want collective worship in schools has been given a negative tone. My question is, apart from regulations/procedures the schools may have transgressed, why the negativity for the legal right to want collective worship with an Islamic ethos? Does having anti-Western, anti-Israel opinions now classify you as an extremist? That’s pretty much most of the world apart the US, UK, France and Israel! And even within these countries there are large blocs which strongly oppose the foreign policies of the West and Israel. The implications of the stretching of the already controversial definition of extremism is damaging to British values. The Syke-Picot agreement, Balfour Declaration, the colonialism of the Muslim world, the PREVENT policy and Channel Programme today, incoherent foreign policy which ends in support of Bashar al-Assad and Israel against Muslims and the Palestinians, and the pervasive attitude to the rise of the far-right and its extremisms certainly indicates to a perception that there is a disconcertingly growing anti-Muslim sentiment. Does me analysing history, existing domestic and foreign policies and then coming to this conclusion make me an extremist? According to Clarke, Gove and the Quilliamites, it does.

Ironically, Clarke’s language does not help in removing such a sentiment either; his description of various Islamic groups as “strains” highlights an inherent negative bias through the usage of a word which is usually used to refer to variations of bacteria and viruses.

Concluding Remarks

It is interesting to note that Ian Kershaw’s report, though damning in its findings related to procedural and governance-related issues, finds that there was no plot by extremists to takeover schools, whilst using a more biased mindset Clarke, does, despite no solid evidence. Kershaw’s report, concluded that there was

“…no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism, or radicalisation in schools in east Birmingham”

The leak suggests that Clarke and the DfE wanted to out-manoeuvre and undermine Kershaw’s findings. The leak is not the only problem. Inconsistencies are already apparent in Clarke’s statements. For instance, the report claims that Clarke did not interview parents, yet he is able to claim “that most parents did not approve of the culture imposed in the schools”. How did Clarke conclude this? Did Khalid Mahmood and his interpretation of “extremism” inform him?

The methodological aspect of the reports are also interesting. Aside from statements from media social networks, most allegations are based on… allegations. The chorus emanating from the alleged architects of the Trojan Horse letter does cast some doubt on the validity of these statements.

Nevertheless, I maintain my argument; there are problems, however these exist in other non-Muslim majority schools, yet the level of government and media scrutiny of these cases is non-existent. This is tantamount to Muslim minority discrimination.

Over the coming blogs I will continue to expose the Riverside Church-linked, Christian evangelical teachers and Head teachers allegedly involved in cases of intimidation, racism, misuse of funds and an “aggressive” effort to involve Churches in schools.

I await to see whether the allegations which surface offer up the same level of media fervour, or lead to any form of inquiry.

 

 

 

 

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