Modernist as well as conformist Muslims are relieved that some action is being taken against hard-line and backwards Wahabi Islam in schools. In our own little madrasas, boys and girls are programmed to accept doctrines and instruction meekly.
The Government still keeps Saudi Arabia sweet, but at last, ministers seem have understood the perils of religious laissez faire. School inspectors have expressed serious concerns about six private Muslim schools and one Church of England school with mainly Muslim pupils in the East End of London. The so called “Trojan Horse” inquiry into school governance at some Birmingham schools is under way. Yesterday it was reported that two Hassidic schools in north London have been threatened with closure after Ofsted inspectors found children spent hours on religious instruction in Yiddish or Hebrew and were said to be not getting a broad enough education. Pupils were allegedly regularly slapped and controlled. All religious schools, in my view, distort and shrink young minds. For too long some of them have been able to get away with mis-education and intimidation.
Two years ago, a devout Muslim man I once worked with told me he had decided to send his daughter to a school with an “Islamic ethos”. He has just moved the child to a state school. “They were teaching her that a woman could only be a wife, nothing else,” he said. “That music and TV were haram [forbidden by Allah]. She started saying this at home and at the age of eight was telling us we were bad Muslims. We had to rescue her. I learnt my lesson.”
Other parents are learning lessons too. Since the rise of Isis and news of British jihadis joining the murderous “army”, Muslim parents are frightened and starting to ask themselves if anti-Western discourse in their communities and families has led to youthful militancy. Just at this point, when British Muslims are finding common cause with their adopted nation, we find that state and other institutions mistrust us more than ever before. All Muslims are presumed to be heinous and treacherous.
The anti-terrorism laws and investigations thwart plotters – for which I am grateful – but are also used to cow those of us who have done no wrong. That is both unfair and counterproductive. When Labour was in power, it tried to make Muslims spy on each other and put pressure on educational establishments to inform on students. Its “prevent” strategy deserved to fail, and did.
Today, measures are more secretive and opaque. I was shocked by revelations this week that the Charity Commission has marked more than 50 Muslim charities as “radical” and was investigating them secretly until an independent think-tank, Claystone, used the Freedom of Information Act and forced the commission to admit these activities. They are probably on the list now too. The overseer of charities is supposed to be politically neutral. But is that the case with its chair, William Shawcross, a known and uncompromising Neocon, and Peter Clarke, previously of the Met, who pushed for detention without charge and sits on the board?. Michael Gove, another neocon, sent in Clarke to investigate the Birmingham schools.
Shawcross, when speaking at a charity law association conference, said that although the proven cases of “terrorist activities” were few, Muslim radicalism was the biggest threat facing Great Britain. Elsewhere he even claimed that money sent to refugee organisations was “undoubtedly” going to terrorists. This surely means that for him and other power merchants, all Muslims are guilty of subversion, are the hidden peril. Millions of Britons are thereby encouraged to think the same. I regularly get emails and letters accusing me of being the ‘smartest’ radical of the lot, seemingly well integrated and so able to undermine the country without raising suspicion. One said this: “I worry about you more than I worried about Abu Hamza, because he was out there, while you disguise your intentions.”
This is what Catholics must have felt like in the 16th and 17th centuries. They too had religious terrorists who tried to bomb and burn places, cause mayhem and bloodshed. But iniquitously, after the separation from Rome, all believers, including the harmless, were watched and terrorised by the monarchs, parliament, spying networks and the established church. The result was more underground worship and, I suspect, more recruits to Catholic insurgence. The results of that history are seen in Northern Ireland to this day. Once more, no lessons at all have been learnt from history.
So let me say this once more: I belong to this country and would not wish it harm. London is my place, my home, a city I love. I am intensely worried about Saudi Islam spreading around the West. Muslim radicals and extremists are a threat to all of us. But I will fight the pernicious idea that Islam and all Muslims are malevolent. To be a Muslim is not a criminal offence. Those who think it is need to be roundly denounced.
The real ‘plebgate’: how the Government has snubbed our social heritage
Money talks, walks, sings, dances and dominates this land. The British caste system is now inescapable. The present belongs to the cabal of Eton, Oxbridge, the City, royalty and big business. Unions are neutered, protests treated as riots. But at least the past was sacred, showed us what was possible.
Working-class agitation and middle-class champions brought in fair wages and decent factory conditions, universal suffrage, the welfare state, prison and criminal justice reform. Millions of conscripted men who fought in the First World War died for a nation that exploited and dehumanised them. There was a time when a starving peasant could be hanged for catching a hare and when men, women and children were deported for breaking unfair rules.
The People’s History Museum, in Manchester, and the Working Class Movement Library, in Salford, shed light on these neglected strands of British history, going into cold cottages and examining small lives. Only two British museums are dedicated to working-class stories. From April, the Government will no longer fund them. “Plebs” don’t matter in its kingdom. The sum of money is pitifully small – £300,000. The Cabinet between them will probably spend that on champagne, canapés and diamonds for Christmas.
Alan Johnson MP, Sheila Hancock, Maxine Peake and others have started campaigns to save these cultural assets. If the Government can subsidise the many palaces used by the Windsors, it can pay for these museums – and must.Reuse content