Whilst the PREVENT Strategy is experiencing its pangs of death with blow after blow of criticisms hurled its way, the structure of oppression which it has embedded in the monitoring of schools continues to result in the agenda-driven marginalisation and stigmatisation of Islam and Muslims. From the expressly discriminatory, disproven Trojan Hoax fiasco of 2014, and the purge of Muslim teachers based on privately held views, to signification of Islamic beliefs and practices as “extremist”, the legacy of neocons and their social engineering agenda is a destruction of social cohesion and express institutionalisation of anti-Muslim/Islam hatred.
The recent target of the anti-Islam Ofsted is the independent school Darul Uloom Islamic High School in Birmingham.
In May 2016, Ofsted made an unannounced progress monitoring visit at the request of the Department for Education. Its findings, predictably, were sensationalised across the media with the focus being very much on a leaflet found in the entrance of an adjoining premises, which serves as a mosque. The headlines make this self-evident:
- ITV: Music and dancing branded as ‘acts of devil’ at Muslim faith school
- The Sun: MUSLIM SCHOOL SLAMMED Ofsted inspection finds Islamic faith school had leaflets branding music and dancing as ‘acts of the devil’
- BBC News: Ofsted warn of ‘music act of devil’ leaflet found during Muslim school inspection
- Daily Mail: Muslim faith school says Ofsted inspectors are racist after reports slams them over leaflets branding music and dancing ‘acts of the devil’
The report itself contains a host of criticisms. The question remains, how reliable are these reports? After all, where an institution is led and directed by a person like Michael Wilshaw who allegedly regards aspects of orthodox Islam “extremist”, but refrains from applying the “extremism” discourse to Christian and Jewish beliefs, there is much to be desired in the impartiality department. Can such an institution fairly inspect a school with an Islamic ethos in an unbiased manner?
My sources in Birmingham have been able to ascertain the claims made in the report. They have also sought clarification on the much publicised leaflet.
Jane Millward – A “Belligerent” Anti-Muslim Inspector
Sources state that the report has been largely influenced by Jane Millward, a senior HMI for schools and senior operational lead. Before analysing her latest work it is worth delving into her previous anti-Muslim efforts.
Millward was brought into the school that was at the centre of the 2014 Trojan Hoax incident, Park View Education Trust. Between 5th of March 2014 and 12th of May 2015, she signed off five Ofsted reports for the school. As was addressed at that time, inspectors behaved in a manner which demonstrated clear anti-Muslim prejudice. Commenting on the robustness and reliability of the Ofsted reports produced at that time, renowned educator Tim Brighouse stated,
“It is beyond belief that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be outstanding are now widely reported as “inadequate”, despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body.”
The Education Select Committee investigation into the Trojan Hoax also concluded “confidence in Ofsted has been undermined”.
Interestingly, she has done training seminars for the Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP). Two years ago, according to corroborated sources, it was confirmed to me that a number of evangelical Christians connected to the controversial Birmingham-based Riverside Church were involved in drafting the fabricated “Operation Trojan Horse” letter. Among the anti-Muslim heads was the lying, white supremacist Tim Boyes, the current head teacher of Queensbridge School in Birmingham. He was particularly vocal against the Muslim community in Birmingham. I predicted that Boyes would become a major beneficiary of the Trojan Hoax plot as he had established the BEP – an organisation partnered with the Birmingham City Council. Those who had taken over Park View School, and/or were vocal in making Trojan Hoax claims were connected to BEP (Pat Smart and Kamal Hanif were listed as BEP board members, whilst the opportunist Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson also held a senior position). A year later it was confirmed that, in the thick of council cuts, the BEP was to receive £11.7 million to “prevent” another Trojan Hoax scandal.
Last year, sources at a Muslim school claimed that she viewed and treated Muslims in a discriminatory, suspicious manner. I reported an example of this in my blog, where a child had drawn a “violent” picture. It later turned out to be a scene from the children’s movie Toy Story. My sources state that Millward raised the child’s drawing as something of a concern in a deeply suspicious manner. Children were also probed with questions about their personal religious beliefs to determine radicalisation. Pertinently, I also noted that inspectors had effectively castigated orthodox religious views as “extremist”.
Former Ofsted inspectors have also confirmed to my sources that Millward’s prejudice towards Muslims is manifest in her day-to-day dealings. It is alleged that there is difference in the way she speaks to Muslims and non-Muslims, with the former being treated with sternness.
Not exactly an impartial inspector, then.
This anti-Muslim animus was on full display with this latest inspection.
The Daily Mail cites the school stating that an Ofsted inspector angrily refused to take off “their” shoes during when visiting a designated prayer area in the school, describing “them” as “extremely belligerent” throughout the visit. What is not mentioned is that this “belligerent” inspector, according to sources, is Millward. It seems the British value of respect is only meant to be imposed in a one way relationship with the establishment, where brown Muslim folk are meant to accede to whatever is hurled their way.
I am told that Millward’s disrespectful attitude was challenged by local authority representative and schools safeguarding advisor, Jon Needham (who was coincidentally present on the day of the inspection). Perhaps he felt the school needed to be safeguarded from Millward.
Millward attended the Islamic school in the capacity of a Quality Assurance Visitor. However, it is alleged that, instead of focussing on the quality of the inspection, she interfered and influenced the inspection team.
For instance, the report states that,
“Child protection and ‘pupils missing in education’ records are inadequate. Important information is missing and some actions taken by the school to follow up concerns have been too slow.”
It has been confirmed that there was a case of a pupil missing in education, however, both Needham and the lead inspector accepted that the school had correctly followed safeguarding protocols.
Despite this, an irritated and unsatisfied Millward, overruled the lead inspector’s view, forcing a change in the conclusion.
Quality of Teaching
The report also contains conclusions which are inconsistent with the perspective my sources have established.
According to the Ofsted report,
“…leaders were unable to clearly account for the difference between the number of pupils in the school on the day of the inspection and the number of pupils on roll.”
The inspector’s conclusions were based on the number of pupils he had counted in the classrooms visited. Upon raising the disparity, the inspector’s attention was drawn to the fact that he had missed out a particular classroom. Despite this the report continues to fuel the narrative Michael Wilshaw has publically fashioned in the context of Muslims and extremism.
The report also criticises the teaching. It finds that whilst there is some evidence of leaders checking the quality of teaching and progress in workbooks, there is no evidence the feedback produced is followed and further, the impact cannot be measured. It also claims that there is “little evidence” of pupils’ work in technological, physical, human, social, aesthetics and creative subjects. Evidence was not seen of “teachers providing more opportunities for pupils to write at length in English”, pupils applying their mathematical learning through activities.
According to the report, these and other comments and conclusions connected to teaching and progress are based upon the following:
“The inspectors observed learning in all classes and one lesson was jointly observed with the acting headteacher. Some work in pupils’ workbooks was evaluated during observations.”
However, my sources are strongly disputing this. Only one lesson was properly observed for a reasonable amount time (English speaking and listening), whilst a mere five minutes was spent in another. CCTV footage which demonstrates this is apparently available at the school. The team inspector observed a mere two KS3 English workbooks. In other words, broad conclusions and comments have been extracted from a minute evidence base and extrapolated to the rest of the subjects.
The inspectors were allegedly unwilling or reluctant to accept a tranche of evidence in areas which they wished to “make an issue of”, demonstrating an indication towards a predetermined agenda, perhaps influenced by Millward and her employers.
There are other criticisms in the report which are contended, however the theme is the same; the inspectors either ignored or played-down evidence presented or simply did not request it.
British Values, “Extremism” and the Leaflet
Ofsted’s penchant for labelling Islamic beliefs and practices “extremist”, thereby violating freedom of belief and coercing assimilation of thought, is well-established. Just over a week ago, it was reported that a judicial review had been launched into an Ofsted report which alleges lack of pupil protection from “extreme views”. The judge decided to block the publication pending legal action and added,
“[the Ofsted report] has the capacity to be seen as an unwarranted attack on aspects of the school’s Islamic religious ethos which have in the very recent past been acceptable to Ofsted…”
As I highlighted in the beginning of this analysis, effort is expended to demonstrate that pupils were not protected from “extremist views”, and that the school was not “practising fundamental British values”. This was premised upon a leaflet being found which articulated the view that music is prohibited.
Firstly, the school said the leaflets were not found on its premises but at the rear door of an adjacent mosque, which the pupils also used to exit from.
Secondly, the leaflets were present without authorisation of the mosque and “ironically next to the sign where it is clearly signposted ‘Strictly no posters or leaflets’”.
Thirdly, my sources state that it is normal school practice to have teachers situated at the exit points of the school to monitor pupils, therefore, students being exposed to the offending leaflets would not have been a possibility.
The final point to note is that the leaflet itself articulates the orthodox Islamic perspective. It was widely reported in the media that the leaflet branded music and singing the “acts of the devil”. Having seen the leaflet, the content is aimed at boycotting an event at a local park. In laying out its justification, it cites verses of the Qur’an on lewdness and its associated punishment, a famous Hadith (saying of the Prophet) used to prohibit musical instruments, and a concluding section which calls on abstaining from such events. In short, there is nothing out of the norm from an Islamic perspective, though the language employed is somewhat unrefined. Indeed, the prohibition of music is by far the majority opinion across the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. One of the most significant figures in Islam, Sayyiduna Umar bin Abdul Aziz (d.101 AH), commonly referred to as the fifth rightly guided Caliph, is recorded to have said,
“their (musical instruments) beginning is from Shaytan (Satan) and their end is the anger of Al-Rahman (the Most Merciful)”.
The early Sufi master Fudhayl ibn Iyadh (d. 187AH), said,
“Ghinaa’ (singing with a melodious voice) is the charm of fornication”.
Another early, eminent Sufi Shaykh al-Harith al-Muhasibi (d. 243AH) wrote,
“Ghinaa’ is prohibited just like the meat of carrion”.
If the Sufi tradition, which is the preferred PREVENT “version” of Islam, has scholars whom enunciated views similar to that espoused in the leaflet, then why is Ofsted, which is implementing the PREVENT Strategy, censoring such views through the “extremism” discourse? If the contention is that musical events are being categorised as “acts of the devil”, then a difference and even an aversion to the statement can be understood, but to class it an “extremist view”, which means that it can lead to terrorism, is preposterous.
A Department for Education spokeswoman, in response to the Ofsted report, stated that action would be taken against schools “promoting twisted ideologies”. The implication here is that aspects of orthodox Islam are now not only labelled “extremist”, but ideologically twisted too. This is simply an untenable position.
What significantly accentuates the level of discriminatory treatment at the hands of Ofsted, is the refusal to categorise the views of other minorities “extremist”. In September last year, a London Haredi school informed parents that they would expel any child whose parents gave them unfiltered access to the internet. They asserted that it was strictly forbidden “to be exposed to non-Jewish films”, which included “BBC iPlayer”. Indeed, classical rabbinical authorities also prohibit musical instruments on a similar basis.
Despite this being reported last year, the last inspection report is dated May 2012, and the Haredi school is rated “Good” across the board.
It is well-known that Michael Wilshaw has a major problem with Islam and Muslims. There is evidence that Jane Millward has been behaving like Wilshaw’s anti-Muslim henchwoman without much accountability. How these two individuals can remain in their positions despite such blatant discriminatory tendencies and views is anyone’s guess.
 Quoted in al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, tafsir Surah Luqman, verse 6
 Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Dhamm al-Malahi, no.22 p.42
 Al-Qurtubi, Kashf al-Qina’, 51
May the mercy of Allah be upon the righteous scholars. Ameen.