muhammad abdul bariPhysicist Muhammad Abdul Bari, after training as an Air Force officer in Bangladesh, received his doctorate and qualification from King’s College London, gaining a Management Degree from the Open University. He is a patron of Anchor House, a homeless charity in Newham, the National Youth Agency and the Ramphal Centre. He was a board member of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and Secretary General of Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10). Read on here.

Extracts from his article published yesterday

In recent weeks and months the breathtaking ‘Trojan Horse’ news that ‘Islamic extremists’ in Birmingham and a few other cities are ‘taking over’ British schools is all over the place. Many call this a hoax. Being a well-informed member of the British Muslim community (in fact, community of communities) and quite aware of its dynamics and weaknesses, I find this mind-boggling . . .

A wild idea has now been thrown out by right wing broadsheets, such as The Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, that a handbook (“Towards Greater Understanding: Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools”) published by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in 2007 could be behind this alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ plot. This is extremely inaccurate and misleading. I was at the helm of MCB in 2007 and I do not recognise this. I cannot recall anyone from the MCB that would prepare a ‘Communist Manifesto’ type agenda for some future ‘Islamists’ to take over British schools after seven years! The idea that MCB document was a Communist or Trotskyite-type plot to takeover all Birmingham/UK schools is laughable. This feeds into a wider ‘counter-jihadist’ (Breivik, EDL, etc) that Muslims want to “take over”. . .

The handbook was . . . compiled in close consultation with headteachers and other educationists (Muslims and others) from the mainstream education sector. It was launched by Professor Tim Brighouse, then Schools Commissioner for London, and, although there was usual disparagement from right wing tabloids such as the Daily Express, it was welcomed as useful and helpful by many teachers and some LEAs . . .

Based on parental rights given by preceding Education Acts, and by no means prescriptive, the handbook highlighted the needs of many Muslim children in the state sector so that teachers are aware of conservative Muslim traditions and can adopt them, if they so wish, in accordance with the school’s governance protocol. As many Muslim parents were new to the British education system and there were prevailing gaps in understanding between parents and teaching establishments, it was meant to help all to understand the needs of Muslim children from traditional Islamic perspectives. Disagreement on some of the elements or the tone of the Guide was natural . . .

Dr Bari’s conclusion

Having been encouraged by successive governments, the Muslim community has come a long way in making significant progress in children’s statutory education. A significant part was also played by various Government-funded programmes on the achievement of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Somali and Turkish pupils – mostly Muslims. The bulk of the community started their journey in Britain at a relatively lower level-playing-field, but many talented Muslim professionals have now adopted teaching as their career and are becoming better involved with the education system.

Government statistics show that nationally pupils of Muslim heritage are achieving results which are the same as, or higher than, the average for all pupils. This remarkable progress is due in large part to the expertise and leadership of the nation’s headteachers and their staffs, working in partnership and consultation with parents, governors, local authorities and communities.

There are of course challenges that need to be addressed, but political point scoring or sensational media descriptions should be kept out of our children’s education.

Read the Huffington Post article in full here.

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