Photo: GEOFF PUGH FOR THE TELEGRAPH
Jack Straw says Islamist 'plot' to take over Birmingham schools is product of power struggle within Muslim community as he tells parents to accept Christianity 'permeates our sense of citizenship'
Muslims must accept that Britain is built on Christian values, a former Home Secretary has said, in the wake of mounting evidence that a group of schools have been taken over in a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by radical Islamists.
It is “inevitable” that many Muslim communities will not integrate with the rest of British society but it must be made clear that attempts to isolate Muslim pupils from the rest of society are unacceptable, Jack Straw said.
The alleged plot by Islamic radicals to take control of a series of schools in Birmingham is the product of a little-understood power struggle between Muslim denominations, Mr Straw, the MP for Blackburn said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, is to take personal charge of the schools watchdog’s probe into allegations that radical Islamists had sought to infiltrate the governing bodies of secular schools.
It is claimed head teachers were pressurised into segregating pupils, abandoning “un-Islamic” sections of the GCSE biology syllabus and neglecting non-Muslim pupils.
An anti-Semitic preacher who sympathises with Al-Qaeda was invited to address students at Park View school, Department for Education inspectors found.
At least six of the 18 schools said to be involved in the plot will be failed by Ofsted, a measure which normally leads to them being placed in special measures and their leadership team replaced.
Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, has also been asked to investigate the claims by Michael Gove, the education secretary.
Mr Straw said Muslim parents must accept that their own beliefs cannot supplant the Christian values that underpin British society.
“The parents have to accept… that we also live in the United Kingdom and that alongside values that are religiously based, there has to be a clear understanding that this is the UK, and there are a set of values, that are indeed Christian based, which permeate our sense of citizenship,” Mr Straw told the BBC.
Society must “spell it out to them” that it is not acceptable to teach that non-Muslims and women are inferior.
He added: “We have a large Muslim population in this country, and it’s almost inevitable that people will tend to live in areas next door to people like themselves.
“We already have a number of areas where most of the children, and in some cases 100 per cent of the children, in the school are of the Muslim faith. That’s something we have to cope with.”
He added: “We have to understand that within the Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Muslim-heritage community, there are a lot of tensions going on. They are very different from those that affect Christianity, particularly in the last century and the century before that. There are power struggles which are badged and labelled in reference to different denominations.”
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the allegations of a plot were credible.
“There is most definitely a plot by a small group of individuals and the plot actually affects the majority of the Muslim community in Birmingham,” he said.
Park View Educational Trust said it had received “hate mail” after details of the DfE inspectors’ report were leaked to the Sunday Telegraph. It welcomed Sir Michael’s intervention, adding: “We do not recognise the accounts we have seen in the media as accurate or reasonable descriptions of our schools.”