Source: NY Times
Author: STEPHEN CASTLE and KIMIKO DE FREYTAS-TAMURA
A dispute over how to combat the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism in British schools has provoked a political crisis, prompting the personal intervention of Prime Minister David Cameron, a public apology from one senior minister and the resignation of an adviser to another.
The rift followed allegations that Islamic fundamentalists had plotted to infiltrate and take over schools in Birmingham, home to a significant Muslim population. The claims are as yet unproved, but they have divided ministers on whether they should concentrate on tracking suspects thought most likely to commit acts of terrorism or wage a broader cultural battle at the community level against the spread of fundamentalist theology.
The disagreement within government underlines the sensitivity of the issue in a country in which Muslims radicalized in British cities have committed acts of terrorism, including the murder last year of a soldier, Lee Rigby, on a street in south London.
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In Britain, School Report Cites Division Over IslamJUNE 9, 2014
Like many European nations, Britain has debated how to assimilate minorities while maintaining freedom of religion. One issue is the extent to which schools should tolerate symbols and clothing associated with religious beliefs, such as Muslim head scarves. In British schools, much discretion remains with head teachers.
Michael Gove, the British education secretary, criticized the department of the home secretary, Theresa May, on Islamic extremism. Credit Joe Giddens/Associated Press
Last year, the Birmingham City Council received an anonymous document outlining a plan called Operation Trojan Horse, in which fundamentalist parents would raise concerns about the staff and curriculum — particularly over issues like sex education — infiltrate the governing bodies of the school and then promote a leadership sympathetic to their views. It is unclear what steps schools took in response to the document, and several government bodies are looking into the case. In all, 21 schools are being investigated over claims that male and female pupils were segregated, that sex education was banned and that, in one case, a cleric linked to Al Qaeda was praised in a school assembly.
While one leaked report from school inspectors appears to have flagged concerns, evidence of a conspiracy is scarce. According to news reports, the leaked report from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, or Ofsted, detailed several criticisms of one school, Park View, and said it had done too little to warn pupils about the dangers of extremism.
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