It’s all over the news this morning, as is Michael Gove with his irritatingly nasal rallying cry, that schools in Birmingham may be being targeted by radical Islamic fundamentalists.
After an inspection by Ofsted of several schools in the area, which appeared to be alienating non-Muslim pupils and excluding them from school events, the government has launched a counter-attack on what Ofsted is calling the promotion of a “culture of fear and intimidation” within the education system in Birmingham.
That counter attack is taking the form of a drive to promote British Values in schools, in the hope that this will quell any recruitment drive disguised as a Trojan Horse. But this strategy is both ill-conceived and highly dangerous in a world where abysmal economic realities have already heightened tensions around the immigration debate.
Whilst Gove’s latest stance on “Being British” will no doubt go down well with those already wading in on the immigration row, any victory is bound to be Pyrrhic and most likely, short lived. Because this battle should not really be about restoring outdated Christian values, or trying to show them to be superior to Islamic ones. This battle should, and must, be a war against intolerance, whatever guise it takes. Left unchecked, the government’s current rhetoric will only serve to alienate large swathes of the British population and breed ill will and apathy towards any action which might need to be taken in the future. The knee-jerk reaction to as yet unproven allegations of extremist recruitment too needs to be justified or left alone, sooner rather than later to avoid more finger pointing and head shaking by already disgruntled voters.
Debate still rages around whether or not these schools were being targeted by Fundamentalists seeking to recruit children for their cause, but it is clear that non-Muslim children were being excluded from Islamic events and were even forbidden from putting on nativity plays because they were considered un-Islamic. Our government then, should be focusing on ensuring that schools teach children about every aspect of humanity, including religion, and the message should be a clear one – being British does not mean being defined by a narrow set of rules (which is exactly what Ofsted have criticised these schools in Birmingham for). Being British means being Broad Minded.