Unpacking the Bloom Review Part 1: The Network of Hate Driving Authoritarian Madrassa Regulation

Read Part 2 here: Unpacking the Bloom Review Part 2- PREVENT as Faith Sensitivity and Faith Literacy

Under Michael Gove’s auspices and support, David Bloom’s “independent review into how government engages with faith” has been published. The report ostensibly addresses how the government deals with faith issues and engages faith communities. However, a closer look reveals a picture that is all too recognisable to Muslims familiar with Gove-ian shenanigans. It is an authoritarian picture in which Islam and Muslims are painted as a threat to be regulated and controlled.

However, compared to Shawcross’s “everything is a nut, hammer everything” approach, which spells out Islam and Muslims as a threat more clearly, the Bloom Review takes a more restrained, classically British, tea-sipping approach to subverting minorities. It puts an arm around you whilst gently stabbing you in the ribs with a neocon-crafted knife.

Before we examine some of the re-heated control-Islam themes re-emerging in a more sugary, pretentious, “salt and light” package, let’s look at the author himself.

Colin Bloom

Colin Bloom is an unabashed Christian who works to push more Christians into politics. He has served as an executive director of the campaign group Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) for over two years, and the director of Christians in Politics (CIP).

As we shall now see, Bloom’s circle of influence is deeply entrenched within the ranks of neoconservative and pro-Israeli groups that share a virulent strain of Islamophobia.


David Burrowes and Tim Montgomerie founded the CCF in December 1990. 

Montgomerie has a history of anti-Islam and Muslim rhetoric. For example, he declared an article by David Aaronovitch linking grooming gangs to Islam as “powerful stuff”. The article is a shockingly vile example of anti-Islam rhetoric, with misleading claims that seem desperate to link Islam to criminals abusing girls. In 2020, the Home Office published findings that demonstrate Aaronovitch was categorically wrong that such crimes are perpetrated by “one community”. In another article promoted by Montgomerie, Aaronovitch designated the traditional Muslim practices of gender separation as an example of Islamism and equated it to far-right agitation.

Montgomerie has also shared articles by Melanie “Mad Mel” Phillips. Phillips is linked to the controversial neoconservative, pro-Israeli Middle East Forum, an organisation central to the transatlantic Islamophobia industry. She was referenced by far-right mass murderer Anders Breivik and promotes anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. One of her articles shared by Montgomerie demonises Islam by associating it with terrorism. Phillips proclaims, “It’s pure myth that Islam is ‘a religion of peace’” and urges “reform of the Muslim faith”. Indeed, it appears that, for Mongomorie, the only good Muslim is one who abandons the particulars of their faith in exchange for “liberal values” and “secularism”.

Furthermore, Montgomerie stigmatises Islam and perpetuates negative stereotypes when he claims, “Any criticism of Islam is a dangerous and even deadly act in much of the Islamic world.”

It is worth noting that both Montgomerie and Burrowes are avid supporters of Israel. Burrowes is a Conservative Friends of Israel member and is associated with the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF). In 2014, Burrowes went on a three-day visit sponsored by IAF to Palestine and the West Bank to avoid a House of Commons vote on recognising Palestinian statehood. He witnessed occupying settlers working with Palestinians and clarified that he opposed government boycotts of West Bank settlement products.

Pertinently, Burrowes was also a listed member of the political council of the hate-financed neoconservative Henry Jackson Society (HJS). We will return to Burrowes’s discriminatory treatment of Islam and Muslims in the context of madrassas further below.

Not surprisingly, CCF is very supportive of Gove, praising him for sending Bibles to schools. Meanwhile, Gove has also given a speech at a CFF conference.


CIP is a cross-party Christian organisation that is dedicated to calling the church to political engagement, to place God’s kingdom before “tribal politics”, and encouraging “Christians to get involved in public and political life”. In other words, it calls on Christians to be “salt and light”, i.e., to be believers who “bring the flavour of Godliness and the light of Christ to the most public and visible places in society.” (See also here.)

We will return to CIP in more detail in the context of the definition of “Islamism” in the second part of our analysis. However, it suffices to state that CIP believes that the separation between Church and State is false and seeks to advocate Christianity at all levels of government.

The Bloom Review – Setting the Context

Given this background and reading the report, two motivations driving the report’s framing are apparent. 

Normalising Christianity in Politics

The first is the grievance Bloom, Gove, and organisations like CIP have that Christians feel they cannot express their Christianity in the political space. These actors seek to change this.

Gove’s 2015 article published in The Spectator is emblematic of this grievance. He takes umbrage with how Jeremy Paxman interrogated Tony Blair regarding his alleged participation in prayers with George W. Bush. The question, of course, is significant; the countries these two men dubiously invaded were Muslim. To what extent their Christian faith drove the decision to invade and kill Muslims is a matter of public interest.

Gove broods in self-pity: “But to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal. In a culture that prizes sophistication, non-judgmentalism, irony and detachment, it is to declare yourself intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward.”

This sentiment animates Bloom’s organisations. In fact, the introduction to the Bloom Review resembles the language found on the CIP website.

In his forward to the report, Bloom refers to Alistair Campbell’s statement, “We don’t do God”? (p.5). CIP’s website similarly highlights Campbell’s quote before explaining how Christianity plays a role in the political sphere. The Campbell comment is referenced again in CIP’s guide on the Bible’s position on political engagement and governance.

Hence the calls for public bodies to be “faith sensitive” and “faith literate”. 

Selectively applying PREVENT

The second motivation seems geared towards allowing a discriminatory application of the discredited PREVENT and counter-extremism strategies. PREVENT is noticeable for its absence in the report, though as we shall see in the next part, its spirit is very much alive.

Following the 2014 Trojan Horse scandal in which Muslim majority schools and Muslim teachers were targeted and demonised by the government media, there was an aggressive push to promote Fundamental British Values in schools as an ideological elixir for “extremism”. As we highlighted at the time, Christian and Jewish organisations and members of the public complained that the measures were trammelling their religious beliefs – a complaint that no media outlet painted as “extremist”.

In 2015, David Cameron unveiled discriminatory plans for Ofsted to crack down on Muslim madrassas, where he alleged children had their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”. Then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who, as we shall see later, happens to be a member of the CCF, made proposals to regulate out-of-school and home-schooling spaces. The head of Ofsted at that time, Michael Wilshaw, baselessly suggested that there could be radicalisation risks in out-of-school settings. Seemingly self-conscious of his discriminatory attacks on Islam and Muslims, Wilshaw added that Christian Sunday schools must also be vetted.

Christians were shocked that they were being treated like Muslims. Christians are innocent. Muslims, though, well, they are a threat. Former Tory Minister Gerald Howarth justified anti-Muslim discrimination by arguing that Christians presented no threat whilst Muslims presented a “very real and present threat”. He confirmed that the government had no intention to investigate Sunday Schools.

Pertinently, CCF founder Burrowes took a similar approach in justifying discriminatory control of Muslims:

“Christians are all too aware of the increasing threats to religious freedom from militant Islam. So the Government’s plan to tackle radicalisation is welcome. However, it is both ironic and wrong to catch Christian groups in a blanket requirement for registration and inspection of ‘out of school’ education of more than 6 to 8 hours a week.”

MPs Gerald Howarth and Gavin Robinson further confirmed that the “problem is confined to one religion only: Islam”, that the government is pretending there is a far-right threat to appear even-handed, and that the counter-extremism strategy is a “counter-Islamic strategy.”

Having outlined the two concerns that appear to motivate the Bloom Review, we can better understand how it is situated. The themes coursing through the Review are two-pronged: control Islam and minimise it in the political space without the associated proposals impacting Christianity.

We will, in due course, discuss how these two concerns manifest themselves in Bloom’s idea of “faith sensitivity” and “faith literacy”. We will show how these terms represent the continuation of the neocon attack on Islam and Muslims. We will also question the report’s focus on Sikh Extremism whilst omitting mention of Hindutva fascism, neoconservative hate, and “Christianist extremism”.

In this part, we will discuss the two concerns – attacking Islam without the collateral effect on Christians – but in the most pressing recommendation: madrassa regulation.

Madrassa Regulation

Bloom and his neocon, Christian, and Hindutva stakeholders agree that madrassas must be targeted for state interference.

At the inception of the catastrophic Iraq war, then US defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz described madrassas as “schools that teach hatred, schools that teach terrorism” while providing free “theologically extremist teaching to ‘millions’” of Muslim children.

This pro-Israeli, neocon thinking has since cross-pollinated over into the Hindutva fascist network in India. In 2015, the highly influential India Foundation think-tank invited anti-Islam American neoconservative hate preacher and UK far-right financier Daniel Pipes to speak at their events. Pipes and his Middle East Forum – a neoconservative organisation deeply embedded in the anti-Islam and Muslim hate network –  were cited numerous times by Anders Breivik in his manifesto. The India Foundation also promotes books authored by anti-Islam and Muslim hate-preaching neocons such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray. Worryingly, as our detailed report on the UK Hindutva organisation Vichaar Manthan shows, Indian Foundation also has connections here in the UK.

We can also find neocon tentacles in the New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). VIF is a think tank founded by the Hindutva RSS, with leaders of the BJP as its directors. In 2016, VIF hosted Pipes to elaborate on how the “political version of Islam is far more threatening than the violent form of Islam practiced by the Islam State”.

The anti-Islam and Muslim sentiment coursing the tributaries of the Hindutva network means that Hindutva ideologues openly call for bans and even the bombing of madrassas. Meanwhile, the fascist regime oversees their demolition

There are also those within the UK who vilify madrassas.

Notorious anti-Islam Assadist Bishop Nazir Ali has a history of regularly attacking madrassas, which he believes are places where there is a “constant teaching of hate” (see here, and here also).

Tony “God told me to go to war” Blair has stated, “This Islamism… [is] taught and preached every day to millions, actually to tens of millions, in some mosques, certain madrassas, and in formal and informal education systems the world over.”

In 2015, David “Jesus invented the Big Society” Cameron exclusively attacked madrassas as places that “incubate divisions”.

In 2015, then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, whilst overseeing the Trojan Horse assault on Muslims, issued proposals to regulate madrassas through the British Values social engineering programme. It is worth noting that Morgan is a Christian who, in her own words, is in parliament “to remember the Word of God and serve the Lord”.

At that time, she was also a trustee of the CCF.

The Bloom Review takes a more cloaked approach to all this anti-madrassa hostility and suspicion. Nevertheless, the discriminatory treatment of Muslims is palpable.

Perpetuating the anti-Islam “madrassa myth”

The section on madrassas begins with the usual ceremonial “there are some benefits” proviso before bringing in the concerns.

To set up the targeting of madrassas to the exclusion of Christian Sunday schools, Bloom begins his demonisation, slowly focusing on the number of hours children spend in these spaces. Bloom cites a 2011 report to claim that children in madrassas are “tired and unable to learn” after a long day at school (p.81). However, the same report also states that children “learn to adapt to this daily routine”, something Bloom chooses to ignore curiously.

Bloom’s feigned concern seems incredibly disingenuous, particularly since he reinforces the flawed PREVENT policy, which has been harmful to Muslim children – a fact he conveniently ignores.

Bloom is careful enough to mention that in 2018, the Department for Education “noted some public concern that children attending them may be more vulnerable to the risk of extremism”. Yet, these unsubstantiated hyperbolic concerns contradict the 2011 report Bloom selectively cited to claim that Muslim children are too tired to learn in madrassas:

“Radicalisation was not raised as an issue during the research and often madrassas were discussed as forums for children to strengthen their understanding of citizenship. Our findings indicate that it is unlikely for this to be an issue for the vast majority madrassas (sic) and that there is no role for government to intervene on the activities of madrassas.”

The report is clear that madrassas are not a radicalisation concern, and there is no role for government intervention.

For Bloom, though, there is a cause for concern. The only “evidence” the Review references from over 2000 madrassas in the UK is a 2017 Charity Commission case that has since been withdrawn. Among other allegations, a teacher is said to have shown ISIS videos to children.

There are a few points to note. The first is that the Charity Commission was regulating the madrassa. Secondly, the Salman Abedi case demonstrates that a person can slip through even highly regulated PREVENT spaces such as schools, colleges and universities. Abedi was even known to the security services. Government control of Islam is not the silver bullet Bloom is touting it to be. Finally, the single, anomalous case does not justify state interference in the private sphere of religious learning, especially when weighed against the harms that emerge from precrime counter-extremism.

Aside from guesswork and a single anomaly, Bloom has no grounding for his recommendation.

Research on madrassas and their link to radicalisation paint a very different story to the madrassa myth constructed by Bloom.

According to Sageman, in the international context of political violence, only 18 per cent of Muslims had an Islamic religious primary or secondary education; 82 per cent went to secular schools. Concerning UK madrassas, multiple research studies show:

  1. Fears about radicalisation are exaggerated, and madrassas are not havens for extremism
  2. Madrassas play a significant role in developing a sense of identity
  3. Madrassas have similar experiences and characteristics to students attending Bible study classes and Hebrew schools

Having outlined these studies, Professor Andrew Silke cites an evidence review of the drivers of radicalisation and presents its conclusion:[1]

“[The evidence review] concluded that it was an error to regard madrassas as a significant driver of radicalization, arguing that ‘the problem of madrassa-based radicalization has been significantly overstated’.”

A sincere effort to deal with political violence would interrogate broader socio-economic factors, including hawkish foreign policies that support war, invasions, oppressive regimes, and exploitation of resources.

Bloom’s argument for the regulation of madrassas is shoddy. Indeed, on his basis, examples of “Christianist extremism” can also be identified to justify state intrusion in Sunday Schools.

Justifying anti-Muslim discrimination

And we know Bloom does not want Sunday Schools regulated. To this end, Bloom proposes that interference in the private sphere of religious learning and beliefs should indirectly discriminate against Muslims:

“In light of this, this reviewer urges government to formalise its approach to faith-based out-of-school settings. There is a big difference between a group meeting for a short period of time after a religious service [i.e., Christian Sunday Schools], and a group which meets five or six days a week after the school day and continues into the late evening [i.e., madrassas], or a group which operates during the school day but just below the legal threshold for full-time education, preventing the possibility of providing full-time education elsewhere (for example, in a registered school). It is the opinion of the reviewer that the combination of narrowly defined terms and the fear of upsetting some faith groups means the potential for unintended consequences is high, and appropriate measures.”

In other words, Christian Sunday schools do not require mandatory registration and regulation, whilst madrassas and perhaps Jewish yeshivas do. Furthermore, political correctness is the only thing stopping government intrusion upon the private sphere of Muslim religious learning.

Is Bloom mimicking Hindutva tactics?

The Bloom approach is strikingly similar to the policies of the Hindutva fascist regime. The BJP has been widely for the Citizen Amendment Act, which indirectly discriminates against Muslims. But more relevant to the context of madrassas is how madrassas have been targeted under the sceptre of fearmongering and demonising rhetoric. Late last year, the hatemongering BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, revealed plans to survey “unrecognised madrassas” under the smokescreen of terrorism and a Hindutva hijacked child’s rights commission. This is the same Adityanath who is on record to have stated: “If given a chance, we will install statues of Goddess Gauri, Ganesh and Nandi” [Hindu gods] ‘in every mosque’.”

The British government may not go to the extent of demolishing madrassas. However, given how counter-extremism, PREVENT, and the British Values discourse has operated against Islam and Muslims, it is entirely conceivable that the freedom to teach Islam will be curtailed and controlled. The theology taught would have to comply with “British values”. Imams and Islamic scholars teaching beliefs contradicting a state-imposed ideological standard would face a ban. They would be required to spy on children for “signs of extremism”. Regulatory regimes employing non-Muslims and deformists would ensure this Orwellian nightmare (pp.78-79).

In other words, Muslims would have to contend with authoritarian persecution for imparting their faith.

State intrusion into the home

The same concerns apply to Bloom’s proposal for the state intrusion into people’s innermost private space: their homes. Targeting home-schooling, Bloom suggests that the government should redefine the notion of full-time education to bring in any setting that is a pupil’s primary place of education.

As we have noted before, the basis for such a recommendation is plain suspicion of parents and what they may be teaching. However, given that the UK government sabotages inquiries into Westminster child abuse and harms Muslim children through the PREVENT regime, it can hardly be trusted.

Such interference is nothing short of an abuse of power.

Concluding Remarks

Improving the government and society’s engagement with different faiths is a significant concern. As Muslims who have endured over two decades of neocon cold war tactics marked by callous political and media engagement, we only know this too well.

However, the Bloom report cannot achieve a fair analysis or outcome – it is discredited without even having to outline its shoddiness and rehashing of old anti-Muslim tropes. 

Colin Bloom is drenched in bias, and his views and the views of his questionable circle strongly show that he cannot present a fair view of faith in Britain. The organisations he has been involved in are marked by anti-Islam fingerprints that lead to the darkest corners of the global Islamophobia industry.

Those linked to Bloom and this hate industry have also expressed the need to target Muslim places of religious learning without affecting Christians. It is an approach that resembles the demands of fascists: the neocons and the Hindutva regime of India.

Bloom merely regurgitates their persecutory, authoritarian proposal.

Madrassas physically embody Isnād in that they preserve and transmit the tradition. We must ensure that we defend our mechanisms of transmitting Islām by rejecting all efforts of the government to interfere with and regulate our religious learning.

Imām ʿAbd Allāh bin al-Mubārak said:

“The Isnād is part of this religion, and had it not been for Isnād, then anyone would be able to say whatever they wanted.” (Tirmidhī)


[1] References to the studies and statements can be found in: Silke A. (2019). Physical facilitating environments – prisons and madrassas as mechanisms and vehicles of violent radicalisation?’, in Richards, A., Margolin, D. and Nicolo Scremin (2019). Jihadist Terror. London: I. B. Taurus, pp.173-174.


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