UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 24 JULY 2014
Ill-informed snap judgements by media and politicians about the Trojan Horse schools investigations are already causing serious harm to community cohesion in parts of the West Midlands, a study by Birmingham City University found.
Local Muslim residents living in areas close to the schools, interviewed by researchers, reported early examples of community hostility and expressed serious fears about pupils at the schools facing discrimination in later life.
Describing the impact on relations with neighbours and friends, a parent whose child attends one of the schools implicated in the Trojan Horse plot said: ‘Some of my neighbours have stopped talking to me … in fact we have seen rubbish thrown in our front garden.’
One young person interviewed said they were ‘really worried now, because if I apply for a job, then someone is going to look at my CV and think he must be a terrorist.’
The report’s author, Imran Awan, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University, said: “At present Muslim communities in Birmingham feel vilified and that they are being unfairly labelled as extremists.
“To me the most significant outcome of this whole affair is the damage caused to community cohesion and diversity, which was one of Birmingham’s key strengths.”
The study involved 50 interviews with a diverse range of Muslims in Birmingham, including teachers from schools at the centre of the furore, Muslim community leaders, school governors, parents and young people.
Almost all participants (90 per cent) felt that the media had created an unnecessary level of hysteria over extremism and radicalisation, in the wake of an Ofsted report into fears that a number of schools in Birmingham were being infiltrated by exponents of Islamic extremism.
Parents were particularly concerned over the sensationalist headlines that depicted their children as would-be terrorists, referring to a cartoon in ‘The Spectator’ magazine showing a Muslim child with a sword in one hand and a Quran in the other, captioned ‘Taught to Hate’.
Ninety-five per cent of participants expressed frustration at being described as extremists.
The study, Operation ‘Trojan Horse’: Islamophobia or Extremism? offers an on-the-ground snapshot of community feeling in areas affected by the Trojan Horse controversy in Birmingham.