The Muslim Council of Britain is calling for an independent public inquiry into the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ affair following damning revelations in a New York Times podcast by investigative journalists Hamza Syed and Brian Reed.

The Trojan Horse affair centred around allegations of a ‘plot’ by Muslims, including a step-by-step plan, to take over schools and impose extremist or hardline views of Islam. The claims were based on an anonymous letter, later leaked to the media, which was widely discredited by Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police.

At the time, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) warned education authorities “not to be sidetracked by culture wars initiated by divisive commentators“, as it rejected many of the findings of the government-commissioned Clarke report into the claims.  However, Sir Ian Kershaw, who authored an independent report for Birimingham City Council, found “no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation in schools”.

Similarly, the Education Select Committee’s report into the allegations found only one incident of extremism and also said there was no evidence of a plot to take over the city’s schools.

The MCB said this week: “The New York Times/Serial podcast shines a light on the impact this letter has had on Muslim communities. It has fuelled false tropes about Muslims, re-enforced regressive counter-terror strategies and has denied a generation of young people access to quality education.  No child should have to push past reporters on the way to sitting GCSEs or others striking the name of their school from their academic record for fear of the stigma it brings – as these children had to.

“The extraordinary actions taken by the UK government point to a pervasive extremism determined to see Muslims as suspect communities. They must now be held accountable for their actions; for the effect this had on Muslim communities across the country at the time, and since. Trust needs to be rebuilt and only a truly independent public inquiry will shed light on the truth of the matter.”

There are also serious points of reflection for the British media which struggled to scrutinise the narrative put forward by government.  The MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring, in its report ‘British Media’s Coverage of Muslims and Islam (2018-2020)’ concluded that media commentators consistently cited the alleged ‘plot’ as a “function within media reports as an index for ‘Extremism’ and ‘religious intolerance’”.  This fuelled a pervasive narrative of Muslims which persists to this day; reflected in hate crime statistics and attitude surveys which show how negatively Muslims are perceived in society.

The New York Times/Serial podcast reveals how the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and senior officials dismissed concerns that the letter was ‘bogus’. The resulting action from this national hoax has been used to justify government policy and vilify Muslims, casting suspicion and aspersions on those who wish to participate in public life.

Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, said: “This podcast reveals the deep-rooted nature of institutional Islamophobia in the UK. Each episode is a damning indictment of how narratives and tropes were perpetuated to feed a story of moral panic, in which Muslims are centre stage. The consequences of the  ‘Trojan Hoax’ not only ruined the lives of those directly involved but punished a whole generation of Muslims across the UK.  This series reflects the hostile political environment in which British Muslims still find themselves in today, suspect communities and not quite British enough.

“The truth now needs to come out. Who was behind this hoax? Why did decision makers dismiss crucial evidence presented at every turn? We know who the victims of this hoax were, but who were the beneficiaries? We call for an independent public inquiry into the Trojan Horse case, and a public apology from those who ignored the truths presented to them. Communities deserve the truth.

“We commend the New York Times and their journalists for forensically reporting the facts; basic things all journalists should do. Their findings are an indictment on British policymaking and the media echo chamber they rely on.

* Listen to the podcast here.

Source: Muslim Council of Britain