The previous detailed pieces analysing what is being taught as part of No Outsiders demonstrate there are fundamental problems with the programme. A summary of the issues with Andrew Moffat and his civilising mission can be found here.
Much of the mainstream media response to parents questioning the materials being taught at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham has entailed spin and ultimately, a dismissal of parental rights and concerns. These concerns include PREVENT underpinning contentious teaching material that is mainly aimed at Muslim children, and the fact that the material itself seeks to actively reconfigure the religious beliefs of not only Muslim children but the whole community.
The elephant in the room is conveniently ignored: state-backed interference into the private sphere.
What dominates is spin designed to frame Muslims as backward, intolerant and bigoted.
The Homophobia Spin
The idea advocated here is that the mere belief that acting on homosexual desires is sinful, is enough to constitute homophobia. Piers Morgan was quick to make this very point, reducing the concerns of protesting parents to the “Muslim viewpoint” on homosexuality, rendering this position homophobic, before insinuating that traditional Muslims do not have a place here in “liberal” Britain through his references to “Islamabad”. Of course, let’s ignore the fact that the Church of England is split in half over the issue – presumably those supporting the “conservative” view are not part of Britain too.
Notable here is the negative framing specifically reserved for Muslims: Muslims are bigots for holding the view that homosexuality is sinful; a Christian, on the same show, albeit with different presenters, is not to be implied as such.
Placing the underpinning demonization of Muslims aside, the charge itself does not stand up to scrutiny.
It is counter-intuitive from a theological perspective for a couple of reasons. The first is that Muslims will commit all manner of sins; this does not default to an inability to coexist with other Muslims, let alone non-Muslims who engage in other “sinful” activities like drinking alcohol or gambling. This leads to the second reason: from the Islamic perspective, daily interactions outside or in the work place for instance, are not affected with those of alternate worldviews in which homosexuality is acceptable. Further, in both these cases, hatred as a response makes no sense when Islamically, Muslims are to call people to their faith with wisdom and are urged to carry themselves with good manners and character. How can Muslims hate the very people they wish the best for the hereafter?
The irony here is that this is something even Andrew Moffat, the architect of the No Outsiders mass indoctrination project, does not claim publicly. In explaining that there are two views – homosexuality is sinful, and gays exist – he says that these two views can coexist.
This is a common-sense position: the reasons for variant views on homosexuality are ultimately epistemological, i.e. how you conceive knowledge about the world and people around you and the nature of knowledge whether it is certain or speculative. This has a bearing on how you arrive at a particular conclusion. Invoking “homophobia” and “bigots” as a response to the presentation of differing views to the LGBT orthodoxy is not exactly constructive dialogue, or indeed, reasonable. Muslims are frequently told (mainly by neocons) that there is a need to be able to tolerate criticism of Islam in dialogue – and we agree – this just needs to extend to all worldviews and epistemologies, including the status quo philosophy on which the Western conception of morality rests.
As it is, however, it seems the colonial-esque effort to forcibly reconstitute religious beliefs of Muslims has been overcooked somewhat, ironically, in the name of liberalism. You must experience freedom, so long as it paradoxically complies with the liberal and postmodern pieties and ontologies whipped into implementation by a hegemonic state. All must have imposed upon them the behaviours and doctrines of equality defined, professed and proselytised by Andrew Moffat and his backers among the media and state institutions. John Stuart Mill pointed out in On Liberty that “general estate education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another” to the pleasure of the government as “it establishes a despotism over the body”.
He must have been an Outsider.
The discussion of homosexuality is a red herring – the real issue remains the aggressive state regulation of the increasingly shrinking “private sphere” and specifically, religion. There has been a substantial intrusion by the No Outsiders programme, which seeks to change the views of the Muslim community, not just children.
Under the rubric of homophobia then, what is taking place is the legitimisation of coercively making a minority comply with a specific worldview. It is a form of tyranny.
The “Ofsted Cleared Them!” Spin
This point was prominently reported: Ofsted have cleared the school in terms of “wrongdoing”.
Seriously? Is this even an argument?
Ofsted has been extensively criticised for its politicisation and unreliable judgements. This is the same Ofsted whose previous chief, Michael Wilshaw, was notoriously known for his Islamophobia, attacking the veil, and close associations with the warmongering anti-Muslim neocon Michael Gove. The 2014 Trojan Horse hoax exposed his thorough anti-Islam bias.
Amanda Spielman, who currently heads Ofsted, is also part of the anti-Muslim neocon circle. As noted by Cage,
“In 2011, Michael Gove and his then special advisor Dominic Cummings were exposed for their close links to a charity called the New Schools Network (NSN). Spielman was a trustee at the NSN, which was set up to provide advice and guidance to set up independent state-funded schools. It has several links to the Conservative Party. Spielman was also a member of the Sykes review group set up by Gove to review the school assessment system.
“Not only was Spielman part of Gove’s agenda here, but she was research and development director of the academy operator. ARK was deeply implicated in the 2014 Trojan Horse scandal.”
To say that Ofsted has a problem with Islam is understatement. It is concerted enough to take a school with Muslim ethos to court for practising sex-segregation (but single-sex schools are absolutely fine), whilst Spielman wages a crusade against little Muslim girls wearing a headscarf. Her repeated public attacks on little Muslim girls wearing headscarves was taken to task by Shabana Mahmood MP stating that it was “not right and not fair” to interrogate a child about why they wear a headscarf. The NEU criticised Spielman highlighting that her comments could fuel attacks.
When high-performing schools in Birmingham were run by a Muslim leadership that were achieving successful results, the Trojan Horse devastation took place. Where the school is despotically dealing with the “Muslim problem”, Ofsted will back the school.
Spot the trend?
But sure, “Ofsted has cleared Parkfield”. Whatever twiddles the whiskers of those who have a Muslim-attacking axe to grind.
Intimidating Parents Spin: Hazel Pulley
This old chestnut is a darling amongst those who want to demonise the Muslim minority. The “intimidation” spin frames the parents as unreasonable brutes with unreasonable allegations. Quite often, such spin is coupled with baseless claims which seek to undermine genuine contentions.
Two examples here are Hazel Pulley and Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson.
Pulley, if we recall, is the author of the infamous presentation which highlighted how No Outsiders was being used to “reduce radicalisation” in children “from nursery onwards”, demonising young Muslim children as potential terrorists. The presentation also boasted about how many Muslim children had been referred based on PREVENT.
Speaking to Birmingham live, she sought to “dispel myths and untruths”. She defenestrates the concerns of parents on the basis that some parents have focussed on lessons teaching sexual activity. The following is also dismissed as “untruths”:
- Teaching children how it’s OK to be gay and it’s OK to be Muslim
- Two dads have been used in context during maths lessons
Are these “myths and untruths” though?
An analysis of the No Outsiders books shows that these two claims are entirely feasible. Moffat claims in his book that the texts he uses as part of No Outsiders “become part of the fabric of the school”. Moffat himself explains:
“The law says you can remove your child from RE or sex education lessons but this is a lesson celebrating diversity. The lessons are not one-off sessions; the ethos is all around the school. It is not possible to shield children from our school ethos.”
If their ethos is so pervasive as Moffat himself declares, is it implausible that the mentioning of certain relationships spills into other lessons?
As for teaching children that it’s OK to be Muslim and gay, again, Moffat’s material alludes to this. One assembly story outlined on his equalitiesprimary website shows how a gay Muslim who has been living with another man wants to “show the world you can be Muslim and gay”.
Strangely, an early version of the Birmingham Live report had the following additional point being claimed:
“Books used relating to Prophet Mohammed being gay”.
This was removed later. Why was this removed? How many more claims are baseless or completely fabricated?
Intimidating Parents Spin: Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson
Hewitt-Clarkson has been frequently referenced in this affair. She has been relying on the usual incorrect invocations of the Equality Duty to force through similar themes as Parkfield. Protests have been apparently occurring outsider her school. She has claimed that parents have been using “intimidatory phrases” with “lots of shouting”. She adds that staff and parents have called the police because they felt “threatened, harassed, distressed.”
Speaking to Sky News she also claimed that parents were forcing other parents who didn’t agree with their protest, saying they were “sworn at”.
Similar themes of “it’s the law” and “intimidation!” were repeated in the Times. This intimidation theme sharpened with the most recent report. Hewitt-Clarkson claims that some “really nasty tactics” had been used to coerce parents into adding their voice to the protests:
“Some parents have been harassed and intimated into signing letters they didn’t want to sign… Or if they don’t take a leaflet they’re being told horrific things, like you’re ‘rot in hell if you don’t take this leaflet’, ‘you’re not a proper Muslim’.”
Here is my simple contention: where is the evidence for all these bombastic claims?
This question is important given the person involved.
Trojan Horse Beneficiary
The Trojan Horse scandal has been disproven, with nearly all the teachers/governors previously banned due to baseless claims, having their bans overturned. The basis for the demonization of Muslims were unproven accusations and allegations.
Ironically, and somewhat disgustingly, given the Islamophobic nature of the Trojan Horse conspiracy theory, Hewitt-Clarkson likens what happened during the Trojan Horse fiasco to what is happening now. (Interesting to note, the discriminatory Wilshaw did the same in the Good Morning Britain show, regurgitating the usual “intimidation!” Trojan Horse tropes.)
I am glad she did.
In 2015, The Birmingham Mail published an article reporting that the police were “supporting” Hewitt-Clarkson, who claimed that parents petitioning against what they deemed objectionable teaching material, dead animals in schools and a death threat (received as a text message in one report, and on Facebook in another), were evidence of the Trojan Hoax lies resurgent.
Tired of the incessant, baseless allegations which had torn up Birmingham’s Muslim community, I publicly requested for evidence for these claims. The Guardian, in a puff piece that mainly supported Hewitt-Clarkson, questioned her about these claims. Buried in the articles somewhere near the bottom, perhaps in the hope that no one read it, was the following:
“Hewitt-Clarkson admits there is no evidence as to why the dead animals were left at schools or who was responsible, but fears that the aim was “to intimidate heads, cause misery”.”
As I wrote at that time, the link between the dead animals and the disproven and academically criticised Trojan Hoax was cooked in the mind of a deluded head teacher who seemed hellbent on burying her heel into an already floored Muslim community.
This is not surprising; Hewitt-Clarkson is said to have been involved with a group of teachers linked to the Birmingham Education Partnership, most of whom harped on about the Trojan Horse conspiracy theory. As I had predicted, the BEP became the beneficiary of £11.7 million to implement as a response to the Trojan Horse scandal – including a £500,000 spend on training school governors. It is also not surprising given her contributory support of Michael Gove’s anti-Muslim cold war stating that “the biggest issue that needed to be addressed was how governors linked to extremism were dealt with”. She even threw in “relentless questioning” by governors whose role it is to question, as evidence of Trojan hoax allegations.
Hewitt-Clarkson, thus, has a habit of stoking anti-Muslim hysteria in the community through accusations, speculations and spin.
She tells the press that she is “passionate about all equality”. The above shows, however, that this is the type of “equality” that is weaponised into demonising the Muslim community once more.
The spin will continue. There are a number of mechanisms of state repression at play here with a number of actors in the media and state. And this is to be expected. If the Trojan Hoax taught the community one thing, it is that these repressive tactics will happen, but as ever, they must be resisted and a principled position maintained. A capitulation will result in increased state authority over children with an implication being cemented that Muslim parents are not best for their children. This cannot happen. Indeed, these are the same set of authorities (central and local government organs) which gutted successful schools in Birmingham and turned them into failing ones, damaging the future prospects of Muslim children.
 The Prophet peace be upon him said, “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.” (Bukhari)
 Moffat, A., 2016, No Outsiders in Our School, London: Speechmark Publishing, p.33