A Summary of the Concerns around Star Academies Schools

StarAcademiesneoconNeolib

NOTE: I have updated this article with a sample letter than can be used by parents to send to Star Academies in order to highlight their concerns. The sample letter is available at the bottom of this article.


As years progress there does seem to be growing sections of Muslims that uncritically co-opt policies without the level of critical scrutiny usually reserved for endless, centuries old “debates” on the finer points aqida or indeed, in the context of the deformation of Islam brigade, the very essence of Islam itself.

If only this level of concern and hair-splitting was directed to the interactions of certain philosophies, policies and schemes that seek to reconstitute our sense of value of Islam, its place in our hearts and in society at large.

This indifference, or perhaps, plain ignorance of such policies, their aims, and impact on the faith of our future generation, has led many to adopt them. A post War on Terror world saw Muslim organisations and Islamic scholars themselves adopting Muslim-specific, state-defined policies around terrorism and loyalty. They engaged in identity-restructuring topics like integration, selective, British-empire-friendly history, legality of joining the army, and a plethora of assaults on the Islamic regulations. This indifference has a consequence: stripping of agency to develop and prioritise one’s own discourse and internalising a demonised identity, collective guilt and hatred which cyclically reproduces and perpetuates discriminatory treatment.

It is self-destructive.

This attitude to policies and their implications seems to be observed by Star Academies, formerly known as Tauheedul Educational Trust.

With noble intentions, Islamic principles and successful academic outcomes, Taudeedul should be lauded. However, when such schools are repeatedly thrust forth by biased media and the government through an Islam-related, agenda-driven lens to the British population as model success stories, scrutiny is not only inevitable, it is necessary.

In the case of Star Academies, this scrutiny is long overdue.

November last year, the Times reported that the CEO of Star Academies, Mufti Hamid Patel, was excited to launch a cadet unit at Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS).

Whilst many Muslims expressed consternation over such an overture, what was largely ignored was the shocking trajectory of the Trust over the years. In addition to this, the people involved, and the current activities have also escaped critical scrutiny.

This piece summarises the three detailed pieces which examine these themes and concerns.

Background – Neocon and Neoliberal Policy Adoption

PART 1 – Full version with complete references and more details can be accessed here.

Neonconservatism and its disciples like Douglas Murray and Michael Gove have long held a grip over the development of government policy in the context, especially in the context of multiculturalism, PREVENT and the “Muslim question”.[1]

According to a 2011 submission for a free schools application to the Depart for Education, the school was already embedding neoconservative policies advocated by Michael Gove et al, such as the Big Society programme and the National Citizenship Service, which mimics the cadet force.

Neocons believe that “ceremonial seriousness” (drawn from national, civic symbolism and “values”) is necessary to cultivate collectivism for a fascist “closed society” in which people become willing to self-sacrifice. The purpose ultimately is to create a people who are hardworking, believe in and worship the civic religion of “British values”, are willing to follow commands of the state and give their lives readily for the state.

The NCS is a mechanism to socially engineer the above set to of behaviours and aims.

For Star Academies, starting a cadet force was a natural progression from the NCS programme. The cadet force is a sharper implementation for realising neocon objectives, such as inculcating “high levels of respect for authority”.

Disconcertingly, there is also mention of advocating “British values”, terminology that is taken from the widely derided, academically-baseless precrime PREVENT policy. While it could be argued that the likes of Patel were unaware of assimilationist policy implication, it was noted during the same time period that,

“The neoconservative agenda… includes a securitarian drive to contain Islamism and propagate ‘British values’.”

Dr Nataliya Danilova asserts that “British values” in schools “opened the door to the militarisation of British secondary school education. This militarisation has been developing, first, through the initiatives in citizenship and remembrance and, second, through the direct intervention of military institutions into the educational system”.

These are all aspects found in Star Academies schools.

The “British values” agenda was already being implemented by Tauheedul before Michael Gove made his pronouncement to formally promote “British values” as enforced policy in 2014 off the back of the anti-Muslim Trojan Horse farce (Holmwood & O’Toole, 2018, p. 63).

Championing Neoliberal Policy

Patel is a proponent of the free schools agenda, which is rooted in the neoliberal worldview. Neoliberalism is an economically and socially catastrophic ideology that is neatly exploited by neocons.[2]

In the education sphere, neoliberalism ensures a docile, subservient labour market is produced.[3]

The academy/free schools agenda is derogatorily known as “GERM” or Global Educational Reform Movement, and is strongly criticised by academics due to the problems it produces.

Michael Gove

The virulently neoconservative, anti-Muslim Michael Gove stepped down as Education Secretary after having decimated schools in Muslim majority areas of Birmingham. Despite his neocon anti-Muslim views and actions, worryingly, Patel signed a letter published in the Spectator praising Michael Gove as “a man of conviction” who would be remembered as a “greater reformer”.

Award and Grants

Since then, Patel himself has gone on to receive Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an award that evokes British colonial schemes, controlling of populations, the destruction of the Muslim world, and the loss of Al-Quds.

His Trust also became a recipient of a government grant from a £5million pot, whilst regularly being referenced by ministers advocating the free schools agenda.

Jack Straw, Kam Kothia and Hamid Patel

PART 2 – Full version with complete references and more details can be accessed here.

There is significant cause for concern around the views of individuals that belong to the leadership of the trust.

Jack Straw, disgustingly, is listed as a trustee.

Straw is responsible for demonising the Muslim minority of Britain. As part of the general Blairite/neocon assault on multiculturalism, the racist Straw attacked veiled Muslim women; expressed white supremacist concerns about how the “Asian population grew, mosques replaced redundant chapels and churches, and some Anglican schools became 100 per cent Muslim” (Straw is an Anglican himself); and declared that Pakistanis had a “specific problem” with “grooming gangs” that was caused by their culture – an academically debunked claim.

Straw’s involvement in agitating for a war in Iraq along neocon policy lines is well established. His close friend is Richard Danzig who, till the present day, mixes with neocon imperialist warmongers like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Robert Kagan.

Beyond this, Straw is as toxic and morally dubious as they come: from authorising payments for rendition operations to effectively whitewashing a brutal dictatorship; from positing a culturalist account of political violence that targets Islam to domestically advocating militarisation of society that fundamentally changes the relationship between the civil and the army.

The last point is relevant to the Trust. Straw voted to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law. The Armed Forces Covenant attempts to enforce a “moral obligation” to “respect and support” the armed forces.  This risks self-censoring or inhibiting criticism of the British Army where it is legitimate to do so.

Another trustee is Kamruddin “Kam” Isap Kothia.  Kothia’s circle is disconcerting. He is a “personal friend” of the niqab-bashing Straw, who he has known for some 20 years. More worryingly, Star Academies saw it fit to invite the Islamophobe Michael Wilshaw as a key note speaker to their 2018 annual conference. Kothia is seen at the conference smiling alongside Wilshaw.

In 2012, as a Chair of Governors for Tauheedul Islam Girls High School, Kothia was appointed (to his “delight”) Deputy Lieutenants by the Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire to assist him in representing The Queen. Kothia’s role requires him “to liaise with local units of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Royal Air Force, and their associated cadet forces”.

His Twitter account shows him promoting biased selective, nationalism-oriented militaristic nostalgia, such as images of Muslim school girls holding poppies on Armistice Day, and stories about “loyal” Muslims dying for the British empire.

Patel similarly reflects these themes, positively sharing a Cameron speech in which Muslims that supported colonialism are “celebrated”. Patel hashtags the speech with the word “inspiring”. He also shares a BBC article which argues that by recognising the contribution of Muslims who died for British colonialism, the far-right may stop being Islamophobic and make Muslims feel “more British”.  This is classic victim-blaming logic, which makes the victim the cause of his/her victimisation.

Many questions come off the back of the above.

  1. Is this the self-immolating, self-demonising thinking Patel, Kothia and Straw wish to imbibe into Muslim children?
  2. Are parents comfortable with having a man who has demonised the Muslim community and has the blood of Muslims on his hands as a trustee and “close friend” of Star Academies leadership?
  3. Is this type of indoctrination acceptable to Muslim parents who send their children to Star Academies schools?

Disconcertingly, activities already taking place at the school reflect the themes outlined above.

Army Cadet and Military Objectives

Full version with complete references and more details can be accessed here.

The army cadet is the foremost example of this. The cadet force is pushed by the government to fulfil specific Ministry of Defence/Government objectives. These are:

  • Controlling opposition to the Iraq/Afghanistan wars
  • Indoctrinating Muslim children with “British values” to prevent “extremism”, as if Muslim children are virally in a state of potential terrorism. This is constitutive of the effort to re-shape the Muslim identity through a nationalist, state compliant lens.
  • “Benefit the military” which includes recruiting from the Muslim diaspora.

To combat low recruitment rates, the army targeted Muslims areas of UK and even rolled out a £1.6million recruitment ad campaign. The ad implies that Muslim recruitment directly links to notions of loyalty, synthesising the aims of the military and PREVENT.

Star Academies is in effect assisting the Army’s targeting of children from poorethnic minority backgrounds. The common, colonialism-esque strategy of using domesticated “natives” from the target population to sell an agenda is utilised.

The Trust, however, is not the only actor in this colonial dynamic.

Militarisation of Muslim Children

The Trust is frankly obsessed with associating with the military to the obscene insensitivity of the countless Muslim victims of British imperialism, both old and new.

In September 2018, the Trust invited Major General Duncan Capps CPE of the British Army as a key note speaker for their annual conference. He provided “many anecdotes from this time leading operations in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Children at Star Academies schools have been extensively exposed to the military.  Pupils have been taken to the Lord’s cricket ground to be interviewed by the Armed Forces radio whilst veteran soldiers are posited as a “role models”. In Birmingham, Eden Boys School works with the Royal Navy to deliver educational sessions.

At Tauheedul Islam Girls High School, Muslim girls are exposed to express military propaganda presented as “humanitarian work” by the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

In another example, Muslims girls effectively promote the British Army and its achievement, with the army shaping how women empowerment is framed in the process.

This is gross militarism and an exploitation of vulnerable young children that exposes them to potentially life-changing psychological and moral injury.

The leadership of Star Academies are responsible for exposing children to the possibility of being recruited into the army. This career is fraught with issues such as high rates of mental health problems, developmental issues, a compromised moral compass due to moral injury and a lack of adjustment to civilian life.

Major Naveed Muhammad

To help normalise military engagement, Muslim pupils are insidiously targeted via a Muslim representative of the Armed Forces: Major Naveed Muhammad. He has visited TIBHS and Eden Boys school to deliver his military propaganda.

Naveed whitewashes British invasions and killing and believes that joining the army is consistent with Islam – a fundamentally problematic notion (Deobandis are no exception to this).[4]

He tries to further justify joining the army by promoting the graves of Muslims that appear in British military cemeteries, and how the British army is deployed in countries other than Muslim ones – points which are poor distractions rather than reasons to join the army.

British Futures and the Link to the Deformation of Islam

One means of forcing a deformation of Islam is to fracture the Muslim identity, dilute its relevance and forge a new nationalist one. British Future (BF) is one such think-tank which contributes to this agenda. The army/WWI propaganda project is a collaborative product of both BF and New Horizons for British Islam (NHBI) and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. NHBI explicitly declares itself as working to deform Islam. It hosts a plethora of neocon-linked deformists on discussions about Islam.

In a recent article by Hirra Khan Adeogun, project manager for NHBI, a blueprint is articulated to deconstruct, Christianise and render into irrelevance “Sunni Islam”. Consider the following post-modernist mumbo jumbo:

  • The Ummah is a myth[5]
  • Everything beyond the belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is beyond common agreement.[6]
  • Reference to Islamic groups should be Christianised (an “ecumenical approach” should be taken and groups should be referred to as “denominations”).[7]
  • Popular experiences, culture and personal flaws change religious beliefs.[8]
  • Beliefs Islamic groups consider fundamentally heterodoxic “should be recognised”.[9]

Naveed has spoken at a BF event and uses BF material to promote his military propaganda targeting Muslims.

Worryingly, BF has also worked with Star Academies schools. Eden Girl’s School is featured, along with BF personnel and neocon-based-CVE promoting Qari Asim, in this video published last month.  Its theme: WWI and the Muslim contribution.

Do parents at Star Academies schools want their children interacting with such a person and organisation?

Does Mufti Patel approve of working with deformist organisations like BF?

Ignoring the violent impact of colonialism on Islam and Muslims, Muslim children are being brainwashed by Star Academies with a biased, selective history that emphasises empathy with British soldiers and the “Muslim contribution” to propping a colonial Empire. The extent of this brainwashing across most if not all Star Academies schools is frankly nauseating.[10]

PREVENT, Quilliam and ISD

Legally, schools do not need to implement the dangerous PREVENT/British values policy – it is not a duty but guidance which does not need to be followed. Schools however, under the sceptre of an ideological Ofsted, are being coerced into implementing PREVENT and its concepts.

There is a distinction between minimally implementing the policy to limit the damage it is causing – namely the internalisation of Islamophobia and collective guilt over crimes, heightened sense of fear and self-censorship –  and actively promoting it at every level of the school and championing it to children.

Aside from promoting PREVENT training for staff on Twitter, Pupils are imbibed with faulty PREVENT logic, effectively creating child spies. This significantly exceeds the demands of PREVENT.

Schools also conduct PREVENT workshops with Reveal Theatre.

Reveal Theatre was listed in a leaked Home Office documented titled “Prevent Strategy – Local Delivery Best Practice Catalogue”. Targeting school children aged between twelve and fourteen, the organisation uses neocon-oriented source material that demonises the Muslim Brotherhood, cites the foul Quilliam Foundation, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue – ISD chair of trustees was the man who influenced Michael Gove’s anti-Muslim book Celsius 7/7.

Again, should parents allow their children to be brainwashed by such organisations?

Concluding Remarks

Parents must recognise the manifest risk to young Muslim pupils is the destruction of both Deen (religion) and Dunya (worldly affairs). Free academies were sold on the basis that parents could pick and choose the schools that were the best for them. It is hoped that these concerns are taken seriously, and changes made to ensure that the schools are the best for our children.

Parents should start to – cordially and respectfully – raise the concerns outlined in this article to their schools and demand changes:

  1. Remove Jack Straw as trustee and publicly distance the academy from him.
  2. Remove the cadet force initiative.
  3. Remove the NCS programme.
  4. Stop turning pupils into child spies by exposing them to PREVENT logics.
  5. Reduce the impact of the nationalist “British values” agenda.
  6. Stop exploiting and militarising young children. This includes stopping engagements with military and selling WWI nationalist propaganda.
  7. Stop working with toxic neocon-oriented/PREVENT-supporting organisations and individuals like British Futures, Reveal Theatre and Major Naveed.

Enquiries can be made using a contact form.

Below are key Star Academies key contact details:

Tel: 0330 313 9800

Email: info@staracademies.org

Star Academies Twitter handle: @StarAcademies

Mufti Hamid Patel’s Twitter handle: @MuftiPatel

“Kam” Kothia’s Twitter handle: @kamkothia

If changes are ignored and not made, parents should consider alternatives to such indoctrinating and militarising schools.


Sample letter addressing Star Academies

Dear [enter as appropriate],

Some disconcerting issues have come to my attention concerning Star Academies.

  1. I am concerned about the trusteeship of Jack Straw. I do not believe such a person, his past actions and views expressed concerning Muslims and Pakistanis are conducive to the Academy and the welfare of the children. Could you please confirm whether you are taking steps to remove Mr Straw as trustee?
  2. There is further concern about the militarism promoted to children in Star Academies schools. This includes interactions of children with the Army and Royal Navy, the cadet force and the NCS programme. We consider this exposure to the military to be exploitation of children who cannot fully comprehend the reality of war and associated violence and therefore object to it. Will the trust/schools continue to promote and engage the military?
  3. British Future is involved with Star Academies schools. The organisation promotes selective, pro-empire histories about Muslims and colonialism. Linked to this is the seemingly one-sided, nationalist promotion of WWI and poppies. I believe this is tantamount to political indoctrination and unhealthy for the development of our children.
  4. I am concerned about the PREVENT material being used. PREVENT has been widely criticised by the Muslim community, National Union of Teachers and hundreds of academics as a baseless and racist policy.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/29/anti-radicalisation-strategy-lacks-evidence-base-in-science

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/06/east-london-muslims-prevent-strategy

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/17/society-of-mosques-to-boycott-anti-terror-prevent-programme

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/mar/28/teachers-nut-back-motion-calling-prevent-strategy-radicalisation-scrapped

  1. There is no legal duty to implement the PREVENT policy. There is a duty to stop people from being “drawn into terrorism”. This can be done without implementing the PREVENT policy, teaching young children to spot signs of radicalisation and exposing children to collective guilt over attacks around the world. Can you please confirm any steps Star Academies is taking to mitigate the dangerous effects of PREVENT?
  2. There is evidence to suggest that Reveal Theatre uses toxic neoconservative materials in their “Game on” sessions. Will Star Academy schools continue to use this third-party organisation?

I look forward to your response.

Regards,

 


Footnotes:

[1] Following Irving Kristol, Douglas Murray attacked on multiculturalism and rights (Murray, D., Neoconservatism: Why we need it, p.191). The society-wide implementation of PREVENT, militarism and the neo-imperialist, assimilationist British values agenda practically achieves the solution to multiculturalism. As Murray declares in his book, “our fight should be prosecuted not only by the army and police forces, but by the general public, intellectuals, politicians and all those with any sense of civic responsibilities” (p.197). Murray is of course, the associate director of the Henry Jackson Society which has thoroughly shaped the government’s security discourse in relation to Muslims.

[2] Professor Shadia Drury observes,

“It is corporate capitalism that the neoconservatives champion – and corporate capitalism is compatible with conservative and Straussian vision of society because it requires authority, discipline, conformity, and hierarchy.” (Drury, S., Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, p. xxv)

[3] “Under neoliberal strictures, schooling is being diminished to a form of job training as reflected by the routinized forms of standardized testing and GERM”. (Kalin, N., The Neoliberalization of Creativity Education: Democratizing, Destructing and Decreating, p. 123)

[4] I have in my detailed pieces deliberated on the moral-spiritual and philosophic reasons as to why this is problematic.  Drawing attention to Mufti Patel’s Deobandi background, it is worth elaborating the views of Shaykh Hussain Ahmad Madni, a noted scholar of the Deobandi tradition known for his resistance to colonial occupation. Shaykh Hussain Ahmad Madani wrote a fatwa declaring the service in the British Army “Haram”.  This was adopted at the Karachi session of the All India Khilafat Committee, held on July 8-9, 1921, corresponding to 1-2 Zil Qa’dah 1339 AH.

The Shaykh presents verses and ahadith to demonstrate how and why joining the British army was haram. He references Shah Abdul-Aziz, Maulana Abdul Hay Lacknawi and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanawi to further assert that seeking jobs in the army is haram. He further adds that the occupation of Bayt Al-Maqdis is another reason, i.e. there is an attack on Islam and Muslims and thus this would not only be sinful but disbelief. (Mian M, Prisoners of Malta, p.117-129)

[5] She states, “…the idea of some unified ummah was a myth”

[6] She states, “Though we can agree that Muslims believe in one God and Muhammad as the messenger of God, there is so much diversity beyond those beliefs.”

[7] She states, “…calling different understandings of Islam ‘sects’ goes to reinforce the idea that Sunni Islam is the norm, against which other denominations are pitted. The group agreed it would be much better to take a more ecumenical approach and use the more neutral term ‘denominations’…”

[8] She states, “religious beliefs and practices evolve with time and with people’s understandings.”

[9] She states “How inclusive can we make our understanding of Islam without compromising its essence… the basic assumption that all Muslims use the 5 pillars of Islam framework to understand their religious obligations betrays a Sunni bias. Whilst there are lots of similarities and agreements between the denominational frameworks, there are also differences that should be recognised such as the 7 pillars of Ismailism or 10 ancillaries of the faith used by Twelver Shi’is.”

[10] Examples:

https://twitter.com/TauheedulGirls/status/887099604851806208

https://twitter.com/edengirlsWF/status/1060065189863792641

https://twitter.com/TauheedulGirls/status/1060109607375319041

https://twitter.com/olive_bham/status/1060909190665986052

https://twitter.com/edenboysbolton/status/1060809626747371520

 

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