Newspapers Cite Anonymous Photocopies As Evidence Of Islamist Plot in Birmingham

This one is being widely reported; from the Birmingham Mail:

An alleged plot by Islamic fundamentalists to take over Birmingham schools by ousting headteachers and staff through dirty tricks campaigns is being investigated by education chiefs.

The city council and the Birmingham Mail have received documents which purport to show Jihadists are targeting schools and orchestrating false allegations against staff, including non-Muslims, in an operation dubbed Trojan Horse.

…The documents claim to be leaked written correspondence from one Birmingham fundamentalist to another in Bradford and details plans to roll out Trojan Horse to Bradford as well as Manchester.

…The alleged plot is said to involve recruiting Salafi parents and staff – hard-line followers of Islam – to help spread false allegations about school leaders, including claiming sex education is being promoted to Muslim schoolchildren or Christian prayers.

…Peter Hay, Strategic Director for People at Birmingham City Council, alerted city councillors to the anonymous documents on February 10 and revealed some heads had also received them.

If genuine, the documents would provide important and sinister new information about the context of some events that have recently occurred at schools in Birmingham: the letter suggests “planting the seed” of false allegations of SAT-cheating against Tina Ireland, the head of Regents Park Community School, and we know that Ireland was forced to resign due to just such an allegation. The documents also appear to predict that  Balwant Bains, the head of Saltley Schools, would “soon be sacked”, and Bains resigned in October due to conflict with governors.

The Birmingham Mail is careful to use quotation marks in its headline (“‘Jihadist plot to take over Birmingham schools’”) to reflect the fact that the origin of the documents is currently unknown; the Daily Mail, however, goes with “Revealed: Islamist plot dubbed ‘Trojan Horse’ to replace teachers in Birmingham schools with radicals”, consigning the detail that authenticity has not yet been established to several paragraphs into the story. The earliest source, an article by Richard Kerbaj and Sian Griffiths in last week’s Sunday Times, slips from “an apparent plot” in the lead-in to “the revelation” shortly thereafter. That piece also describes the “anonymous documents” as having been leaked to the paper.

The alleged correspondence is variously described as “documents” or as just “the leaked document” or “a letter“. Several pages have been uploaded to Scribd by someone using the name wigwammer (H/T Islamophobia Watch); they are typed photocopies, and the document appears to be one continuous item.

Co-ordinated efforts by hardliners may be the key to understanding what’s happened in Birmingham, but it seems to me that there’s a good chance that such a comprehensive “smoking gun” is be too good to be true: the plot is laid bare in detail, while the author’s malice is made unambiguous through conspiratorial language worthy of a villain in a pulp thriller:

We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result now have our own academies and are on the way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools. Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember that this is say ‘jihad’ and as such using all measures possible to win the war is acceptable.

Yet the identity of the writer remains impossible to pin down.

There are also a couple of other concerns: the name “Operation Trojan Horse” is generic and again clunkily conspiratorial, and seems an unlikely title for Islamists to adopt; second, aside from the vague reference to “jihad”, the letter lacks the kind of insider religious rhetoric and self-justification one might expect to see in correspondence between fundamentalists.

Of course, the letter may indeed be genuine – but I think it’s a bit early to be pronouncing on its “revelations”.

UPDATE

Two developments:

First, one headmistress named in the document as having been ousted by the conspiracy has told the Daily Mail that she was indeed removed by “a dangerous, well-organised and sinister group”. However, the woman, named Noshaba Hussain, was dismissed in 1993 and the Mail‘s report does not address specific concerns that were raised about her at the time. The man who was chairman of the school’s governors in 1993 has now told the Times that “there was no religious issue”. I discuss all this here.

Second, the Guardian has further details of a possible motive for creating a fake document:

The teaching assistants – three Muslim women of Pakistani origin and one white, non-Muslim woman – are suing the school for unfair dismissal, claiming they were ousted after someone faked resignation letters carrying their signatures.

…They say they told Adderley they had no intention of quitting and that their signatures had been forged after they raised grievances about their treatment at the school with the local authority.

It is thought that detectives, as well as the council, are examining whether the Trojan Horse plot could have been concocted to support Adderley school’s case at tribunal… A legal source said a handwriting expert had provided a forensic report for the tribunal that strongly suggests none of the teaching assistants signed their own resignation letters.

The “Trojan Horse” document supposedly outlines the “resignation letters” conspiracy:

…These sisters are a great example of what can be achieved by only three people, along with an English woman who is their close friend, have raised an allegation of fraudulent resignation letters against the Head (even though they did actually write the letters themselves), they got the whole movement of the letters witnessed by not one but three witnesses just to be sure there was no chance of comeback on them. The letters were witnessed from the moment they were written to the time they were delivered to the school so that no one could doubt their word when they say there were no resignation letters in the envelope, only other health related matters.

This suggests to me three possibilities: (a) fake resignation letters, followed up by a bogus document created to discredit claims that the letters are fake; (b) real resignation letters (although perhaps with concocted fake  signatures) which are being denied in order to “frame” the school, but which have now been confirmed through an anonymous true document that has very conveniently come to light; (c) a bogus document created as part of a real Islamist conspiracy, as a double-bluff.

The Guardian adds that the “Trojan Horse” document “misnames senior officials at both Birmingham and Bradford councils.” Like the Times, the paper also points out that the document’s author does not appear to be aware that Hussain was dismissed as long ago as 20 years ago, and that the author seems to think – incorrectly – that Hussain has been reinstated.

4 Responses

  1. Good post – I’m just copying below a comment I left under a Sunday Times article earlier today:

    “This has been a very intriguing (as well as concerning) story which has produced some rather counterintuitive responses. Mainstream papers are presenting ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ more or less as an established fact (although using the odd ‘apparent’ or ‘alleged’) and the supposed plot has been condemned by Inayat Bunglawala, who, presumably, believes in its existence but, as someone involved with Muslim advocacy, would much rather it turned out to be a smear.

    It seems to me to be the ‘Islamosceptic’ commenters who are most inclined to be suspicious about the authenticity of the leaked documents, to note that they are almost too good to be true, too obviously self-inculpatory (like the stage villain who readily announces his evil plans to the audience). One interesting suggestion was that they might be a fabrication, but one designed to reflect what was going on accurately, i.e. written by someone who opposed what was going on in these schools.”

  2. […] Sarah AB on Newspapers Cite Anonymous Photocopies As Evidence Of Islamist Plot in Birmingham […]

  3. Excellent analysis. I have reasons to believe that the first possibility you offer is the right one: fake resignation letters followed by a very conveniently timed leaked document. Even the school’s defence team says that the document is crucial to their defence:
    http://www.cloisters.com/news-items/ed-williams-defends-school-named-in-operation-trojan-horse.asp

    Sarah,
    The comment you mention that says that the letter might be a fabrication designed to reflect what was going on in these schools might also support this view. Say, if someone created this document to imply a take over plot in order to obscure an investigation, it would be useful if some of the other claims were proved to be true to support their case.
    Furthermore, the fake letter named plotters, being found guilty of the radicalisation of state schools, are then in a very weak position to counter claim the allegations and to dispute the origins of the document.
    http://injamatt.co.uk/magazine/?p=501

    Maybe that is why the Council said that the document is defamatory.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-26653923

  4. Has anyone checked the headmistress of Adderley primary school’s involvement in all of this? I mean I don’t know much about teaching assistants but I know they aren’t that intelligent to concoct a scheme this elaborate. I think something fishy is going on with the ‘jihadist’ letter appearing at the same time as the resignation letter.

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