A report last month triggered some consternation in Muslim circles. On the 26th of November, Star Academies – formerly, Tauheedul Educational Trust – was reported in the Times as having started an army cadet force at Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS). It recorded a celebratory statement from the Star Academies chief executive Hamid Patel:
“They have recently been reflecting on the 400,000 Muslims who fought alongside the British Army for freedom during World War I…. So the launch of the cadet unit at TIBHS will be particularly poignant… We are excited that this will be the first cadet unit in the country established by a Muslim faith school.”
The report added that “local mosque leaders” had “given their blessing” to the militarisation of children and was being supported by parents and governors.
On the same day, a companion leading article with the subtitle “Cadet forces at Islamic schools could help to make the army more diverse” was also published in the same paper. Both articles framed the news with three themes:
- “improving relations with Muslim communities”
- Selective history where Muslims are only seen to die for a dying British empire
- The army’s inability to “recruit from the Muslim community”.
The report was reproduced in a regional media outlet and the Asian Image. The latter report usefully shared tweets from Star Academies and TIBHS’s Twitter accounts. Star Academies stated that they were “proud that [TIBHS] had become the first Islamic Faith School in the UK to start an army cadet force”. TIBHS’s tweet claimed it was a “milestone”. The report also showed a Tweet from the racist Home Secretary Sajid Javid sharing the Times report declaring it to be “wonderful”.
There are deeply problematic issues with the activities of Star Academies and the psychological projects it is subjecting Muslim children to. Pertinently, the Trust exemplifies a dangerous concoction of neoliberal and neoconservative policies.
In this piece, we will examine how the Star Academies has formed this troubling trajectory which has led to a disconcerting endpoint.
The trend is seeded in the period of 2011/12 when submissions were made to turn TIBHS into an academy. This was followed by waves of free school submissions. The submission forms reveal an insight into how Tauheedul has been pandering to detrimental policies from the outset.
Tauheedul states that it is “inspired by Deobandi Sunni Muslim values”. What will become apparent is that these set of values are not the only ones touted.
Last year, the hate-financed Henry Jackson Society published a report on how to spin away criticism of PREVENT. One of its suggestions was to recast the public surveillance programme as “safeguarding”. There has been an amplification of this spin by most government-paid PREVENT practitioners, promoters and careerists since then. This claim both from a historic and conceptual point of view, is woefully inaccurate and a continued demonstration of how the PREVENT industry is deceptively manipulating narratives.
Ignoring History? PREVENT’s Discriminatory “Influence Campaign”
As I have explicated in some detail, the counter-productive pre-crime approach to countering terrorism was not based on empirical evidence but the paradigmatically neoconservative military doctrine of pre-emption. McCulloch and Wilson (2015), in their book exploring “pre-crime” intervention state,
“The declaration of the “war on terror” was the catalyst for a more pre-emptive approach to threats.”
With the War on Terror aimed at Muslim countries, PREVENT’s focus from its very inception has been to control Islam and Muslims through what Ruth Kelly once called the “winning of hearts and minds” – a punch line which inherently denoted propaganda warfare and which usually accompanies hot war. The fundamental difference to normal propaganda warfare during military campaigns and the PREVENT Strategy is that PREVENT is being waged against Britain’s own Muslim citizens. In 2007, PREVENT funds were directed to those local authorities in England with 5 per cent or more of their population identifying as Muslim. In other words, funding was allocated based on the number of Muslims as opposed to risk. This discriminatory focus on Muslims has continued through the years, with the Guardian last year reporting that PREVENT was being prioritised to target mainly Muslim areas.
Muslims have been understandably expressing consternation at Theresa May becoming prime minister. Whilst the sacking of Michael Gove has brought delight, her appointment of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary is being seen as deeply worrying given Rudd’s policy council membership of the notorious hate-funded Henry Jackson Society. No doubt we will be seeing a continuation of closed society, illiberal security policies in the name of liberalism and freedom, as Muslims remain the punch bag for anti-Muslim rhetoric. May is no friend of Muslims, with animosity towards Islam articulated through counter-extremism rhetoric.
As the Conservative prospective candidates demonstrated their reality by stabbing each other in the back, dropping low-blows about not having children, and employing Machiavellian tactics against each other for once, as the leadership came to a head, it was interesting to note the prominent voices which fell into line behind May.
A number of high profile attacks on the Muslim minority have surfaced lately in a relentlessly consistent fashion. The reason for the lack of writing on these events is for the simple reason that I was awaiting a particular checkpoint at which I could interject and proffer an analysis of what is exactly taking place. However the pick axes and pitch forks of the baying neocon mob did not subside and as I write, commentaries on the now infamous Channel 4 documentary (What British Muslims Really Think) continue to percolate and David Cameron slanders a Muslim scholar from the dispatch box.
Whilst macroscopic analyses of the documentary are important, and must be challenged, it is important also to tend to the implications of the subliminal question which the Channel 4 documentary through its various Machiavellian machinations and spin sought to force upon the public.
What exactly are these grand media orchestrations attempting to achieve? Interconnected intimately with this question is, in what direction is Britain heading?
These questions will be the focus of a subsequent parts. In order to better appreciate these questions, a brief recap and analysis of key anti-Islam events are needed.
It has become routine now. Take a minor issue, concoct a dark, Muslim-linked conspiracy theory around it which reinforces far-right narratives of Muslim hoards taking over Europe any time soon, sell it to the public via the right-wing media which is connected to neocon think-tanks, and after thoroughly hyping the situation, push through a policy, which, to normally sane minds, would be unpalatably surreal. The prime example for this is the 2014 Trojan Hoax scenario and the resultant roll out of the PREVENT Duty. Since then, minor operations broadly using the above design, have seen Muslim governors banned and Muslim MPs smeared under bogus “entryism” allegations to form the basis of the new Counter-Extremism Strategy.
This pattern of neocon behaviour is trite but is still used.
The preceding weeks have seen trickling news around Muslims “prisoner radicalisation”. In keeping with the demonisation of Islam and the dehumanisation of Muslims, the theme of attributing every social ill to the Muslim remains buoyant.
A couple of years ago, I noted that the substantive content in the campaign of attacks against Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad designed to smear him as “extremist” were in fact normative Islamic beliefs which cut across the theological spectrum. Shaykh al-Haddad was the proxy for the attack on Islam.
Since then, David Cameron himself has interfered with religion, attacking Islamic beliefs and practices, promoting deformists as the face of Islam, all the while employing doublespeak and urging the Muslim minority to shun the “conspiracy theories” that Islam is under attack. Looking from the colonialist, Eurocentric lens, all manner of denigration has been hurled at Islam, as “mutual tolerance” and “respect” is simultaneously preached to the Muslim community.
Crosspost: Yahya Birt
Yesterday, news came of a soon-to-be-released Ministry of Justice (MOJ) report, which will argue that Muslim chaplains are part of the problem of radicalisation in UK prisons. Given that the government has trailed the report in the Sunday Times (“Most jail imams teach anti-western values”, 07/02/2016, p.7) and the Mail on Sunday (“Majority of prison imams are ‘teaching anti-western’ values that promote gender segregation, study claims”, 07/02/2016) and played the sectarian card, it is a highly premeditated political intervention. Pointing fingers at chaplains of the Deobandi Sunni persuasion, who are said to make up 140 of 200 Muslim prison chaplains, a senior Whitehall official is quoted as saying that, “It is of great concern that the majority of Muslim chaplains in prisons propagate a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic scripture which is contrary to British values and human rights. Such imams are unlikely to aid the deradicalisation of Islamists in prisons and could potentially even make them more firm in their beliefs.” And in his major speech on prison reform today, the Prime Minister promised that he was prepared to make major changes if necessary on the basis of the recommendations of the MOJ report. The appointment of Peter Clarke as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons this month, Scotland Yard’s former head of counter-terrorism whom the government has previously deployed as a counter-extremism troubleshooter in the education and the charity sectors, signals the MOJ’s intent to construe prisons in the same light: as a hotbed of “extremist entryism”, with the potential to look at Muslim inmates without terrorism offences and Muslim chaplains in the same light as convicted terrorist offenders.
The pervasion of the counter-extremism apparatus in British society is now unprecedented. Co-opted professionals across disciplines which normally would be founded upon trust and confidence have been zombified into spying rings for the state as people are purged from the civil sector through the States direction of what constitute unacceptable views. The impact continues to shake up the education sector as children are being subjected to child abuse, Muslim teachers are suspended for their views expressed in the private sphere, and Ofsted continues its political agenda at the expense of the Muslim minority and their faith. Indeed, the shaping of thoughts and political views continues to broaden. A recent report revealed a non-Muslim child was bullied by counter-terror police for planning a protest outside David Cameron’s constituency office.
The agenda ploughs on, however, and the next step in ensuring that there are “no ungoverned spaces” for the authoritarian state, is direct state interference in the religious affairs of faith groups.
Towards the beginning of this year, I covered the takeover of Golden Hillock School in Birmingham by ARK Schools, the Academy chain which had, in scandalous circumstances, taken over another Muslim-majority school subjected to spin and lies: Oldknow Academy. I also found ARK’s links to the “Christian influence” (undue influence?), how ARK has been a favoured chain by the notorious anti-Muslim neocon Michael Gove, whilst Ofsted’s head, Michael Wilshaw, not only headed the first ARK Academy school, but was an Education Director at ARK before becoming Chief Inspector.
Disconcertingly, the “old-boys network” of pro-Israel, hate-mongering neocons also extend their links into ARK. “Vanilla tax”-avoiding Stanley Fink, a major donor of the Tories, bigoted Henry Jackson Society’s Israeli-crime whitewashing project Just Journalism, became the chair of ARK in 2009.
Applying the presumptions about Muslims propagated by neocons (Muslims are untrustworthy due to Islam and their actions are to be seen as a form of sinister subversion) the Trojan Horse test set out for Muslims, there is one hell of plot here for Peter Clarke to investigate.
There was tragic irony in the recent words of the NUS President Megan Dunn. Allow me to elucidate.
Dunn, capitulating to the pressure mounted by the neoconservative lobby – constituted of William Shawcross, Peter Clarke, George Osborne, and fronted by David Cameron – pleased the gleeful “native Muslim informants” over at Quilliam when she dissociated from CAGE, perhaps trying a little too hard in the process. She stated that the dissociation with CAGE was due to NUS’s policies on “anti-racism, anti-fascism and how we define anti-Semitism”.