Head Teachers Reveal How They’ve Been Bullied, Smeared and Driven from Their Jobs for Resisting Islamic Extremists
Sue Reid and Lucy Osborne, Daily Mail (London), March 18, 2014
Erica Connor’s eyes widen as she reads the four-page letter purportedly outlining a plot by Muslim fundamentalists to take over state education.
It brings back terrible memories for the former headmistress who won £400,000 in compensation after religious zealots forced her out of the primary school she loved in the English Home Counties.
‘It’s a letter that makes me realise nothing has changed in our schools,’ she tells us with a sad smile. ‘Muslim extremists used an identical strategy to get rid of me and nearly ruined my life.’
At the height of the vicious campaign to oust petite, impeccably dressed Erica as head of New Monument school in Woking, Surrey, she faced vile abuse from school governors and was smeared as a racist hater of Islam in a parents’ petition.
She was even advised by police to carry a personal alarm in case she was physically attacked. One evening, she only narrowly escaped a skirmish with youths who surrounded her threateningly in the playground at the school, which is a few yards from the first mosque to be built in Britain, in 1889, called Shah Jahan or ‘King of the World’.
Erica has added her own concerns about the Islamisation of state schools in Britain to those of dozens of teachers, classroom assistants and school staff to whom we have talked following widespread reports of the letter in the media.
The document — entitled Operation Trojan Horse — originates in Birmingham and was leaked anonymously to a Sunday newspaper.
It purports to outline a strategy of identifying schools in Muslim neighbourhoods, ridding them of non-Muslim heads and parachuting in strictly Islamic teachers and removing those who are not, as well as frightening Muslim parents into believing Western education is dangerous for their children.
The letter says that Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester — cities with fast-growing Muslim populations — should lead the strategy: ‘We have an obligation to our children to fulfil our roles and ensure these schools are run on Islamic principles.’
It declares that hard-line Muslim parents should be identified and turned against head-teachers who are ‘non-believers’.
‘The way to do this is to tell each parent that the school is corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and [taking part in] mixed swimming and sport.
‘If you can get them to be very vocal in the playground as they drop off or pick up their children, that will stir up other parents.’
The provenance of the document is unknown and it is impossible to say if it is authentic. Nevertheless, Birmingham City Council and the Department for Education are taking it sufficiently seriously to have launched an investigation and have passed on the contents to West Midlands Police.
The letter has been dismissed as a hoax by Tahir Alam — a Birmingham school governor, and prominent member of the Muslim Council Of Britain, named in it — who sees it as a ‘dirty trick to feed anti-Muslim sentiment’.
Others have suggested that the document was written by worried teachers opposed to Islamisation as ‘a cry for help to get the council’s attention’ — believing it was the only way to have legitimate fears taken seriously.
Whatever the truth, the leaked document crystallised genuine concern within the teaching profession that Islamic hardliners are targeting schools.
It must be stressed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims want schools that offer their children the best chance possible to advance as valued members of British society.
But the teachers we have spoken to say radicals are routinely infiltrating governing bodies and senior posts in multi-faith or non-denominational schools in order to take control of them.
They tell of demands for strict dress codes, including long sleeves and wearing of the hijab for women teachers and girl pupils, and calls that Christmas celebrations, Easter eggs and any reference to Christianity in morning assemblies should be banned.
At one Midlands’ primary school — and, reportedly, many others — the boys’ lavatories have been turned into washrooms so they can clean their faces, hands and bodies before Islamic prayers during the school day.
Papers relating to the court hearing of a teacher battling against strict Muslim governors to keep her job show that some children at her South of England school were barred from listening to any Western music — even the staff playing the piano.
A moderate Muslim former headmistress told us how she was driven out of her job by a ‘well-organised and sinister’ group of extremists operating in Birmingham — where Operation Trojan Horse is said to have been conceived.
Noshaba Hussain revealed that she was ousted from her position at the city’s Springfield Primary School following a campaign against her by a ‘sinister group of extremist Muslims’.
She said: ‘They ruined my teaching career and made life hell for me and my family. They have done this to dozens of other teachers since and are still doing it.
‘The group are strongly anti-women. They want women in the home, not working. I do not wear a headscarf and have always campaigned for women’s rights to education and I am against forced marriage.
‘They want pupils segregated by sex, girls to cover their hair in primary school and for no career guidance to be given to women.’
The 69-year-old — who is a respected former adviser for the government’s Equalities Commission — said the hardliners have been operating in Birmingham for more than 20 years under various guises, including a grouping known as the Sacred Sect.
‘They have the potential to destroy our school system, people’s careers and the reputation of our Muslim community,’ she warned. ‘Most people are too afraid to speak out because they know what the Sacred Sect is capable of, but at last I feel this may be taken seriously.’
Indeed, so scared are they that it is all but impossible to persuade current victims of hardline Islamic infiltration in schools to talk of their plight.
Mrs Hussain lost her job 20 years ago, but she is nevertheless named in the leaked document as an example of how heads can successfully be dismissed by the infiltrators. She told us that what happened to her reflected exactly the strategy outlined in the Operation Trojan Horse letter.
‘It is almost by the book,’ she explained. ‘First, there were parents complaining that I didn’t wear the headscarf and that I wasn’t a “real” Muslim because I did not do so. Then began the campaign of intimidation and bullying against me.’
Two months after beginning her job, the three governors who had appointed her were forced out and replaced with Muslims sympathetic to the ‘fanatics’ agenda’, she remembers.
‘The new governors made up all sorts of things about me and kept asking the council to investigate me, which eventually they did.’
Mrs Hussain, who grew up in the West Indies with English as her mother tongue, was accused of not speaking English properly, financial mismanagement and making up her qualifications.
Eventually, she was sacked by Birmingham education chiefs, not for specific wrongdoing but for what was described as a ‘loss of faith and trust in the head by the governing body’.
Her story has parallels with that of Michael White, a former head of maths at Park View academy in Birmingham, which two weeks ago was subject to a snap visit from education inspectors investigating claims that non-Muslim staff are being treated unfairly and girl pupils are bullied into wearing headscarves to hide their hair.
Mr White, 63, says he was forced out after a sustained campaign of ‘bullying and intimidation’ when he tried to stop completely unqualified or inexperienced Islamists being appointed to teaching roles and onto the governing body. He tried to block the governors’ attempts to ban sex education and stop the teaching of non-Islamic faiths in religious education classes.
Mr White alleges that his problems really began after the appointment of Tahir Alam — the member of the Muslim Council who dismisses Operation Trojan Horse as a ‘trick’ — as the chairman of governors at Park View in 1993, a position he still holds today.
‘When I started at the school, hardly any girls covered their hair. Within months of Mr Alam arriving, almost all did. The school also started transporting the girls to and from the school gates in minibuses, while the boys were allowed to get home on their own.’
Mr White was sacked for gross misconduct after raising his concerns of creeping Islamism with the governing body.
His teaching career in ruins, he has since retrained as an electrician.
‘It was a highly-organised, clever operation that I was powerless to fight,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if this Trojan Horse letter is real, but I don’t believe a word of it is a lie. This is happening in our schools right now.’
Another head teacher, who used to work at a primary school in Bradford, also spoke to us. Beryl Powell said that her pupils regularly attended after-school madrassas, which teach Islamic law and theology from the holy book, the Koran.
She had no quarrel with that, she said, but became worried when the children going to these extra classes appeared the next day with bruises as though they had been hit by their teachers at the madrassas. She reported the matter to the child protection authorities on a number of occasions.
Miss Powell, 66, who took early retirement from her school, where 99 per cent of the children are Muslim, said the retaliation was brutal.
‘I discovered some of my pupils had been taken into a room during the madrassa sessions and asked leading questions about whether I had ever physically assaulted them. They were suggesting to my seven, eight and nine-year-olds that I had at one time lost my temper and pushed or hit them, which is, of course, totally untrue.’
Soon afterwards, Miss Powell arrived at school to find children surprised to see her there. They said they thought she would ‘be in prison’ and that a new head — a man — was going to be running the school from now on.
She remembers: ‘They were getting back at me for exposing what was really going on in the after-school madrassas. They believed hitting children for not being able to read the Koran was all right.’
What is remarkable is that the teachers each told us very similar stories. Many provided recent evidence of power battles in schools between Islamist extremists and moderate Muslims or teachers of other faiths.
While the majority of Muslim teachers and parents in Britain will surely be disturbed by the actions of these hardliners, it has to be said that a large number (many of whom do not speak English) are very worried about their children — and especially their daughters — receiving a secular or broadly Christian state education.
They would prefer girls to be segregated from boys, don’t want them to have their heads uncovered and are offended by many aspects of Western culture — such as the use of alcohol and drugs, and sex outside marriage.
One example of the growing tensions is a crude text message circulated in Birmingham last September just before the respected headmaster of Saltley School, Balwant Bains, was allegedly forced out of his job for opposing plans by Muslim governors to scrap sex education lessons and introduce only Halal meat, from animals killed in line with the Koran’s teachings, for school meals.
The text, announcing a demonstration outside the school, a specialist science college, said: ‘Racist headteacher! Racist white staff! He suspends Muslim pupils and doesn’t suspend non-Muslims. He suspends not-guilty Muslim teachers and doesn’t suspend guilty non-Muslim teachers.
‘Are you going to let this racist Islamaphobic (sic) headteacher, Balwant Bains, get away with it? If you believe in justice and that everyone should be treated equally, join the demonstration.’
A few weeks after the demonstration, Mr Bains, of Sikh origin, was sent on ‘gardening leave’. Meanwhile, five non-Muslim governors at Saltley have resigned in recent months and 12 of the current 14 governors are now Muslim.
A report by Ofsted into the crisis at the school and the attitude of the head concluded that Mr Bains had a ‘dysfunctional’ relationship with the governors.
However, a friend of Mr Bains says: ‘The governors demanded that the head get rid of sex education and citizenship classes because they were un-Islamic.
He was also told to introduce Islamic studies into the curriculum and Halal food, even though Saltley is a non-faith school. He said no, and that is when things began to go wrong for him.’
In response to this, Ahson Mohammed, Saltley’s interim head teacher, has confirmed halal food is now on the menu at the school, although sex education and citizenship studies remain part of the curriculum.
So what of Erica Connor, from Woking? She has never returned to teaching and now runs her own successful business making ski gloves.
Yet she will never forget the fight to get rid of her by New Monument school Islamists, some of whom she says received advice from Mr Alam.
‘It [the parents’ petition] said that I didn’t respect their language, their values, their culture, that I was out for myself and to make money. They said I was Jewish, then that I was Roman Catholic, and that I brought Christian missionaries to the school. It attacked the staff’s dress and my own. It was a string of made-up stories.’
Meanwhile, governors’ meetings at New Monument were hijacked by hardliners who only wanted to discuss religious issues.
‘Instead of talking about the education of children, we were tackling whether the meat in the school canteen was Halal, whether there should be a code of dress for staff to ensure their forearms were covered,’ remembers Erica today.
‘The governors wanted special showers in the changing rooms for washing before prayers. A few parents pulled their girls out of physical education because we requested that they only wore a short hijab — with long flowing headscarves it was impossible to guarantee safety in the lessons. It just went on and on.’
Today, she is still consoled by the words of the judge who awarded her compensation after a five-year battle through the courts.
In a damning account of the activists who forced this wonderful teacher from her post, he declared: ‘They sought to monopolise the governors’ body to impose their own agenda . . . which was to convert New Monument to an Islamic faith school.’