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com/trojan horse this my first story as a journalist.
I hadn’t planned for it.
My last story, but it probably will be given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this.
It’s about a letter that surfaced in my city and had huge consequences for Britain.
This letter launched 4 government investigations change our national policy and ended careers.
It hurt some of the country’s most vulnerable children.
A letter that many people who’ve seen it agree is ridiculous.
Undated, doesn’t it look like a serious document?
It just seemed comical like what the hell is this?
I remember looking at some time thinking why on Earth is this the infamous letter?
Was it written on parchment in blood?
So you presenting me with a document that turned our lives upside down?
I first learned of the letter in 2014.
I wasn’t a journalist.
Then I was a Doctor Who quit medicine living in Birmingham, England, making my breakfast at 1:00 PM.
Listening to the news when I heard about the discovery of a secret communique between Muslim extremists, they were discussing a plot to infiltrate our City Schools and run them on strict Islamic principles, potentially with the aim of radicalizing students.
Someone had forwarded the letter anonymously to the local government.
The Burning City Council, but it was missing the first and last page, so it was unknown exactly who wrote it.
Or who they were sending it to according to the intercepted pages.
The plot had a code name Operation Trojan Horse.
I have to admit when this story about Muslims in Birmingham first broke as a Muslim in Birmingham.
I was alarmed, it sounded possible.
Kids across Britain across Europe were flying off to Syria to join this group called ISIS, and Birmingham has been home to quite a few terrorists.
My neighbor was a terrorist.
The guy who killed 5 people and then tried to run into Parliament with a knife.
He did his planning in a flap of the Persian restaurant across the street from me.
So I wasn’t surprised watching over the next several months Operation Trojan Horse snowballed into a huge national story.
A number of schools in Birmingham have been infiltrated by hardline Muslim radical Muslim headlines like Islamist plot jihadist plot alleging a conspiracy by authors.
And the government responded with full force schools demands the Prime Minister got involved convening his cabinet to discuss the threat.
The national government sent in a bunch of investigators including Scotland Yard’s former head of counterterrorism to look into two different schools.
Majority Muslim areas of Birmingham.
Like I say, it’s all very frightening.
Until a few months later, when the various investigators finally start reporting their findings.
That found no plot called Operation Trojan Horse.
That’s in no signs that anyone had been radicalized.
No evidence of violence or planned violence.
They didn’t bring any terror charges against anyone working at the schools that looked into.
But despite all of them, despite finding no plot, investigators still concluded that something terrible was happening in Birmingham schools.
The letter helped him uncover that Muslims had influenced the schools in a dangerous way.
Government officials snapped into action things that should not have happened in our schools were allowed to happen.
Our children were exposed to things they should not have been exposed to.
The fallout has been huge.
Prime Minister David Cameron as we said, is calling a special meeting of the government Extremism Task force officials removed educators, revamped schools and renamed them.
They’re mandated all schools in the country.
Start teaching what they termed British values to make kids less susceptible to extremist ideas, they beefed up Britain’s counter extremism laws by making public sector workers like teachers and doctors part of the state surveillance operators to now inform on their coworkers and students and patients.
Today, if you stop someone on the streets of Britain and ask them what happened in Birmingham schools in 2014, if they followed the news, they’re likely tell you that a bunch of Muslims were up to no good.
There is another version of this story, though it’s one less told and far less popular that version of the Trojan Horse affair.
Is that nothing happened that these bearded brown educators were set up?
And the nation fell for it.
But it’s always seemed to me that there’s a simple way to figure out what really happened here.
Even with all the government inquiries, no authority, none of the investigators ever figured out who wrote him.
Remarkably, not let me even try it.
And that to me seemed like a pretty glaring oversight.
The reason the country was looking at these schools is suspicion.
The reason they’re investigating at all was because the dodgy letters showed up portraying the people who worked there as nefarious plotters, claiming they would sneak in Islam into schools like a Trojan horse.
The letter is what put that idea in authorities heads.
So I didn’t see how you could know what Operation Trojan Horse was or wasn’t unless you got to the bottom of the Trojan horse daughter who wrote it and why.
A few years later, I decided to go to school for investigative journalism, but my professor wasn’t completely sold on a story I wanted to report for my student project Operation Trojan Horse.
This was investigative journalism.
He wanted me to unearth something new, not rake.
Over some years, old story.
As a doctor though, I’m familiar with the concept of a second opinion, so the night before my masters was set to stop, I went looking for one.
A doctor came to see me for a second opinion.
One night in fall 2017, I’m in a theater in Birmingham.
After my podcast S town came out, I went around doing some Q&A’s.
People will sometimes come backstage to chat and so this guy comes in and introduces himself as Hamza Sayed he said he was changing careers to become a reporter.
He was beginning a Masters program in investigative journalism the next day, actually, and he wanted some advice.
He was speaking fast, like I might walk away at any moment.
To be fair, I was told that I had five minutes with Brian Reed, after which I’d be squirted out the building.
I did not know that.
Anyway, Hamza ran through the Trojan Horror Story for me.
Elevator pitch style.
I’d never heard of it, but a guy was with backstage, a producer I know from the BBC he had and he jumped in as Hamza was talking.
Yeah, yeah, Trojan horse, he said that was a big thing a while ago.
Some bad stuff went down.
Muslim educators have been up to no good, but it was cleared up.
There was something Hamza said though, which afterwards I couldn’t get out of my head.
He kept talking about a letter which had set off this whole cascade of consequences whose origins were still a mystery.
So when I got home to New York, I read the letter.
It looked like a caricature of a missive between two terrorists filled with Islamophobic tropes about conniving and scheming Muslims.
It’s missing pages, parts of it are too dark to read, like it got jammed in the Xerox machine.
It instructs the recipient to destroy it after Reading.
It struck me as a funky document for a government to take seriously, especially because from what I read, the government hadn’t even looked into who wrote the letter or why.
There was a strange lack of curiosity about this instigating document.
I thought to myself it seems like somebody should try to figure out who wrote that thing, and then I thought, well wait, this journalism students doing that.
Maybe I had to give him a hand and here we are.
Years later at the end of a dizzying, farcical, and enraging investigation, in which one mystery led to another led to another.
Tracing this letters path of destruction across multiple continents, in defiance of many unhappy officials and some aggressive attempts to shut our reporting down from serial productions and the New York Times.
I’m Brian Reed.
I’m home to say it presenting to you the most elaborate student project ever.
This is the Trojan horse affair.
I got the call from Brian while I was in class.
My phone started ringing from a New York number.
I asked my professor if I could take it.
He said no.
I stop, I could go use the toilet.
He said yes.
And Brian told me he wanted in on mine vestigation but I would need a producer.
I said yeah, sure, or casual.
I had no idea what producer did.
Soon he started getting in touch with missions for me to complete.
First one had secured a recorder for me in Birmingham and said there’s something I had to do.
It was supposed to be a basic bread and butter assignment.
Go record a meeting.
They had seen an event advertised called Trojan Horse.
The facts where some of the educators who’ve been accused of carrying out the plot would be speaking publicly.
They insisted the Trojan horse affair was just an Islamophobic stitch up.
The event hashtag was Trojan hoax and they were trying to clear their names.
They’d never gotten their lives back on track after the story died down, they lost their jobs and been made into pariahs by the national media.
But afterwards, Hamza calls me and says when he showed up at the spot, the Community Center at 5:00 PM, the receptionist told him.
It’s been cancelled.
The event’s been cancelled.
Did they give you any wait?
Did they give you any other information like what do they like?
No, they just said it’s been cancelled and that was it.
I said no, this is, you know, I spoke to the organizer a few days ago, they said, yeah, I got cancelled today so I felt like an idiot to be honest.
‘cause I stand there with this big, you know, Mike stand that looks like a fishing rod.
I got my box of equipment.
This can’t be a good omen.
I thought to mess up your first journalism assignment.
But then more people started showing up, confused like me until a man in one of those safety vests swings around the corner, tells us to follow him, and takes us up the street to a wedding hall where everyone is gathering instead.
It’s a lot of people, maybe over 100, and as I explained to Brian while I’m setting up the microphone, catching all the whispers in terms of what happened.
And it turned out that the original venue had received phone calls from the national newspapers.
Specifically, this guy Nick Timothy.
He’s like a reporter or a publisher.
Or what is he?
He’s a columnist.
I think for the Telegraph.
And not just any old columnist Nick.
Timothy used to be the chief of staff to the Prime Minister.
He was essentially Theresa May’s right hand man.
I spoke to the guy who ran the Community Center who told me Nick Timothy had actually emailed, not called.
Who wouldn’t let me see the email, but according to others at the meeting, the implication was if you hold this event, I will associate you with extremists in the newspaper and the Community Center pulled the plug.
Nick, Timothy denies contact in the Community Center and says he doesn’t know who did or what they said, but he wrote a triumphant column about the planned meeting, which I had missed because I was on YouTube all day watching instructional videos on how to use my recorder, in which he noted quote when the Daily Telegraph discovered this and contacted the owners of the venue.
They rightly cancelled day.
He went on to suggest the event organizers were extremists and described the proposed meeting as quote.
A shocking attempt to deny the Trojan horse scandal and quote the people behind Trojan Horse are trying to do it all over again.
And right under our noses.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Trojan Horse or hoax.
The discussion and debates.
So here there were the teachers and school volunteers allegedly behind Operation Georgia Horse along with their defenders, academics and activists and an educational barrister and a Union Leader.
Packed in this wedding hall instead.
I am really, really concerned.
That’s simply holding a public open meeting like this.
Becomes controversial, just the fact we are holding this meeting seems to be an act of resistance right now.
The people at this meeting called for an inquiry to correct the record on the Trojan horse affair.
They believed the government had set them up, so the fact that a former chief of staff to the Prime Minister Nick Timothy went out of his way to attack a grassroots event at a Community Center years after the Trojan Horse affair.
It just reinforced their suspicion and mind quite honestly that there was something dodgy.
The authorities were still keen to hide.
And then there was.
It was like a witch hunt.
The heads were rolling this way and that way Hamza sent me the recording of the meeting.
I listened to it and I was interested to hear that one of the people who got on stage and spoke was the man named repeatedly in the Trojan Horse letter as the mastermind of Operation Trojan Horse.
The plots alleged ringleader along time school volunteer named to hear alum.
I’ve never been a danger to anyone.
I’ve never heard anyone.
I’ve never had any police case against me or anything of the kind.
Owning a plot you know we are very proud of.
What we did is I do not regret nor apologize for anything that I’ve done.
There was nothing clandestine, hidden or sinister about what we were doing.
We’re very open and very transparent.
So when I landed in Birmingham to begin reporting, that’s who we decided to go to.
1st to hear Alam.
We figured we’re looking to find the source of this mysterious letter.
Might as well start with the guy at outed as an extremist plotter.
Is this about to be the first radio interview you’ve ever done, yeah.
I need to be schooled before handling.
What do you mean like how so?
Well, I mean if this is me flying solo, I’d be like.
I’ll just do it.
My style, you know.
But this is this is, you know what is your style.
Do you have a style now?
I feel like I’m a lot.
How many of these have you done?
But I have an idea in my head of all my style.
Could be I think you’re a lot more sensitive than I am.
Put it that way, that’s what I mean.
Like you’re, I’m the more sensitive one, so don’t you think so?
I don’t know.
I don’t know you that well.
I wonder what we wearing?
Hello ill fitting button down shirt khakis welcome.
We’re going to be in that room there.
We kick off our shoes.
He chose us to a room at the front of his place.
Sorry you have to sit on slightly uncomfortable chairs, their homes and I squeeze behind two school desks meant for children.
Their protractors lying around a white board with sketches of geometric shapes, a creative writing workbook titled descriptive Sorace to here’s converted this room from his garage into a tiny makeshift classroom where it appears he tutor students.
Because one result of the Trojan Horse letter is that the government has banned him from ever volunteering or working officially in schools again to here’s in front of us in his office chair.
Confident, erudite framed by his bookshelf, filled with texts about Islam and British history.
I pull a copy of the letter out of my backpack.
You know it’s a completely anonymous letter, undated.
Claiming that there is a plot to take over and islamize the schools in Birmingham led by Tahir Alam, which is myself but I speak for a vantage point where I actually know the truth.
I know the reality.
To hear denies being an extremist, he denies engineering a plot.
He says the reality is that rather than corrupting schools as a radical conspirator, he a first generation immigrant from a poor Pakistani family, was responsible for one of the most miraculous school turnarounds in British education.
Until he says the letter arrived and destroyed him.
The story of this turn around.
It’s not a secret.
It’s one thing here shared with Jonas before, not that it’s done much good in terms of clearing his name.
But this back story does explain why the Trojan horse ladder was so persuasive because the hair told us some of what was in that letter was true.
The hair begins the story one night in 1993 when he’s watching TV and a show called his attention.
I just happen to be just lying on the sofa really, and the program came on.
It was a documentary part of the BBC series Panorama 9 times out of 10 I would switch to something else, but I was just sitting there and I started watching.
Britain’s new underclass is Asian and its Muslim or once tightly knit community is now in crisis with drug abuse, crime and family breakdown on the increase and the title of this documentary was underclass in purdah.
In tonight’s panorama, we investigate an underclass in purdah.
Per day meaning you know, cover meaning.
Avail if you like underclass in the veil, you know in tonight’s program we lift the veil on this new underclass.
The documentary opens with shots of brown men skulking around, dark cobblestone streets in a Muslim neighborhood in what the correspondent caused the Muslim ghetto.
At night it double s as the local red light district.
It’s a seedy world advice and illicit drug dealing.
Lurking in the shadows is a new Manningham phenomenon.
The Pakistani pimp.
He’s like a regular pimp but in 1/4.
Part of the documentary takes place in the Hills neighborhood in Birmingham called Alum Rock on the east side of the city.
It’s one of the poorest areas in England and its majority of Pakistani and Muslim.
If you’re not from Birmingham and you’re not brown, you may have heard that Alum Rock is a great place to find a terrorist.
If you’re not from Birmingham and you are brown, you have heard Alum Rock is a great place to find a wedding dress.
Admittedly, this BBC documentary is racist in a 90s TV kind of way, but it had a big impact on the hair because amidst the awkward brown gazing, some truly sobering facts emerge.
The presenter reports that Pakistani Muslims are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates.
She says that some of the highest rates of joblessness they’re suffering from devastating health issues, terrible housing, domestic violence with one underlying cause of it all.
A lack of education.
This is the number I found most shocking.
About 20% of white students were leaving school without any qualifications, meaning they failed to pass the exams that would essentially be the equivalent of a high school diploma in the US.
And that rate 20% was roughly the same for most people of color as well.
But for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and astonishing 50% hold no qualifications whatsoever.
50% half of us were basically failing score.
That hit the hair hard that the extent of education failure was so bad that we were at risk of creating an underclass of Muslims.
Who were basically uneducated, prone to crime and unemployment?
So I kind of sat there and I it made me feel guilty.
Actually guilt because I was one of the few people who made it from my family.
One of the first ones to make it into A to university and to have a good job and so on.
But there was also a sense of humiliation, really, because I was from this community.
The Harris family bought him to England in the 70s when lots of people from Kashmir were moving here, largely because the British design is huge dam that flooded swaths of land and displaced 10s of thousands of people.
And one solution the Brits got behind was to invite displaced Pakistanis over to England so they could improve the British economy by working in British factories and mills, which is what the here’s dad did.
Tear arrived in England as a 9 year old who didn’t speak any English and wouldn’t become fluent for several years.
I knew one word of English only, which was FORDI mean I don’t know XYZ, but I know that’s it.
I can relate.
I couldn’t speak any English or I first came here.
Alright, I couldn’t even speak forward.
I was just like mute football.
That’s what I knew.
So that’s how you arrived here and the first school when I came here we we arrived.
He’s growing up angry and alienated from white society.
Now they’re here.
Watched as a documentary capped at the next generation.
Pakistani kids who were born in Britain, being educated in state schools still struggling to read, not able to recall basic English words.
The camera cuts to a park in Birmingham.
He looked at the hair like Woodend Park, which is right across from where he went to school in Alum Rock.
I recognize the park because used to go and play there and then I saw some children and I said oh that’s our neighbors children.
I recognize the kids.
Yeah, even though it’s from a distance.
But I recognize who the kids are.
We filmed an encounter with two Asian lads in a park in a Muslim quarter of Birmingham.
These Asian lads we use Asian to mean South Asian, by the way.
They’re skipping school and they hear new which school they were skipping.
It’s the one he’d gone to as a kid right next to our Park Parkview School.
Another majority Muslim school with miserable academic results.
It’s a secondary school, ages 11 to 16.
There’s a school wet to here had done well enough to make it to college and then university before getting a good job intending communications.
The documentary made him realize how rare his success was and how little he’d done with it.
So to hear decided to do something, he started a tutoring program for kids in the neighborhood.
But what he was really interested in was volunteering at his old school Parkview on what’s known as their governing body in England.
A governing body overseas.
How a school is run like a corporate board does a company.
It’s sort of like a school board in the US, except it’s specific to one school.
They can have a lot of influence.
So anyway, here says one afternoon, a couple of Parkview parents.
He didn’t know knocked on his door.
We’re interested in becoming a governor.
They said it was like they’d read his mind, though actually to hear him talking about wanting to be a governor at a recent wedding.
And these parents got wind of it.
Resentment and frustration had been festering for years among parents in Alum Rock who’ve been trying and trying to get the authorities to do something about the dismal schools these parents at to here’s door had joined the park through governing body in an attempt to make a change, but they didn’t speak fluent English and hadn’t gone to university.
To here was a professional with a degree who still lived in the neighborhood.
We’d love to propose you, they told him.
And with that to here, found himself at the next governing body meeting of Parkview School being voted in not only as a member, but as the chair.
So that’s when I became a governor on the 7th of January 1997.
You remember the date?
Yeah, well I was.
I was to remain there for 18 years.
Went to hear.
Started Parkview was one of the worst secondary schools in the country.
Only 4% of students were passing 4%.
The National School Inspection Agency had recently placed the school into special measures, the lowest possible ranking, an emergency status, basically meaning Parkview was in danger of being shut down.
There were brawls breaking out in the schoolyard on a tour of the building to hear so vandalized bathrooms with stalls, missing locks and toilets, missing seats, but weird to hear really trained his focus.
Was on the complacent teachers and administrators.
We initially just started by saying that obviously children should be achieving higher that the achievement was not acceptable and the fact that the school was to blame for the failure.
This statement so obvious to to hear that the kids in Alum Rock were as capable as kids anywhere was met with massive resistance.
It was very difficult getting the school to accept that they were the problem.
People didn’t want to accept that because they were.
They’ve been blaming the community for maybe 2 decades.
They had such a low expectation of children.
One thing to hear noticed early on was that the staff of this school with nearly 90% Pakistani students had only one full-time Pakistani Muslim teacher.
So to here, begin searching for more Muslim staff and governors.
He gave presentations, held workshops.
He became a fixture at events around use Birmingham standing behind his little table or booth, evangelizing for people to get involved in their local schools.
I loved it.
I loved it with the children because I felt that I could make a difference.
This is Mars Hussain, the first Muslim teacher to hear hired.
He taught math.
I could use my language, my background, my understanding of where they come from to make a difference.
I knew their families.
Mars can point to a specific moment, by the way, when he decided to go into teaching, there’s a panorama program.
It’s called an underclass in Parda powerful segment.
Most Hussein says from the very beginning he encountered serious prejudices among the most white stuff.
I had a group of children come to me and they said, look this is 1 teacher in school.
He always calls us back ease.
He’s he’s calling us back, he’s he’s doing it in a jokey way but we find it offensive.
They’re not able to tell anyone else, but they’re telling me that, look, he’s he’s.
He’s swearing at us.
That’s a slum in any context but especially shocking for a teacher to say to Pakistani students.
Most of them, I think the best thing to do, have your parents write the score.
He talked them through the procedure for doing that in case their parents aren’t known.
He says eventually the school looked into the teachers behavior, and while you’re investigating, he resigned and he gave his final leaving speech in in in, in the staff room and goes.
It should be our culture dominant in this school, not the kids.
And he finish off with the words.
The West is the best, and all teachers clapped.
All teachers clapped.
The racism was pervasive.
Raswan far as a former governor and math teacher, says at one of his first governing body meetings, he was shown a list of places the students had been given work placements through a program at the school, and it was all restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores, and there was no surgery, doctor, surgery or law firm or anything like that.
And I said, you know, how is it that, like, did the children decide these and rose?
One says the vice chair told him, well, their parents want them to go and become doctors and engineers, and etc.
Reality is, these kids will become taxi drivers, shopkeepers.
So we’ve got to prepare them now and.
For a good while I was struggling to process what he was saying.
This is me a brown person and a Muslim and he’s saying to me that they deserve to have these kind of jobs.
This is this community ’s role in society, basically that’s right.
We just filed the kids.
We just filed the kids and didn’t even feel bad about it didn’t even we didn’t we didn’t even feel guilty.
John broccoli was one of the non Muslim teachers at Parkview.
He was a math teacher who’d been there since the 80s.
He was Frank with us about the bigotry that he and his colleagues held towards the students and their families.
We we we.
We thought that we were a superior culture.
We look down, we look down on these people who didn’t know about education.
You’re talking about yourself here, talking about myself, but I’m also talking about you know, many of the people that I work with.
The teachers attitudes are documented by the way.
A former headteacher of Parkview ahead teacher is what we Americans call a principal.
Did a master’s thesis while he was at the school for which he collected opinions from the staff, including from John as to why Muslim children were drastically underperforming compared to their peers.
In the thesis, teachers say the kids parents are ignorant, wrongly claim the students don’t speak English.
The teachers try for a while, one teacher said, but end up feeling like who gives a damn.
That’s a quote.
It makes John cringe to think back on it.
It’s only when you move away from a situation like that that you can.
You can realize how awful it is.
I don’t normally think about about this sort of thing, ‘cause I’m it’s too embarrassing.
Once we created the shift in the belief of the teachers, then the job became much easier.
The hair says by the early 2000s, Parkview was changing.
The school began taking basic but transformative steps, setting individualized achievement targets for each student to follow them from year to year and preparing students for qualifying exams, which, amazingly, hadn’t happened before school started awarding trophies for good marks, inviting parents to ceremonies when their kids did well.
Here in the governors, Hayden new headteacher or non Muslim woman from a girl school who embraced parkview’s new aspirations test scores started.
Prize students by heading to College Park’s reputation was turning around, but there are other changes to her institutes are Parkview, which later officials would view as suspect.
Changes that investigators would point to as a trademarks of operation.
What’s coming up?
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You don’t get labeled the leader of an extremist conspiracy simply by raising test scores at your neighborhood secondary school.
The main accusation against a hero lamb, the overarching assertion of the Trojan Horse letter, which the government supported and which is defined to hear his reputation since then, is that he was Islam Ising schools.
This is not a word I’m particularly fond of.
Islam is because Islam is in relation to what some assumed non Islamic baseline.
Has this story been Islamized by Hamza’s involvement?
Yes, it’s a word that isn’t inherently negative, but gets used that way.
Anyway, that’s what the letter said to hear was doing Islam Ising schools, and funnily enough, it’s also what to hear.
Says he was doing.
We were valuing the cultural and the faith background of the children and we were allowing that to be expressed.
If you like we catered for children so they could perform their, you know daytime prayers if they wanted to.
We made a prayer facility available for them in a room.
Religious accommodations like this or legal in British schools.
By the way, whether they’re explicitly designated as a religious school or not.
Which Parkview wasn’t it was the equivalent of a regular public school in the USA and since 98% of the children happen to be of the Islamic faith background.
We obviously are catering for the constituency that the school serves in line with the regulatory requirements to hear ascribed to an educational philosophy that the way he and other Parkview staff talk about it reminds me of Afrocentric or black excellent schools in the US that students will do better academically when their schools incorporate and celebrate.
Who they are.
And there’s research that backs us up.
So under two years leadership, Parkview allowed students to pray if they wanted.
They installed facilities for wudu.
The ablutions you do before prayers, they celebrated Ramadan and altered the schedule during that month to facilitate fasting they served to allow food and I felt that you know this was our school.
I mean we were proud to say that this is our school.
We wanted our children to say that this was their school and that they were proud of it.
In the wake of the Trojan Horse letter, government officials would declare that the way they hear and his colleagues were running.
Parkview score had undermined quote UN quote British values.
That they were limiting the children’s ability to thrive in modern Britain.
Which is an interesting charge to bring against the hair because I have to say I haven’t personally met an English Pakistani.
More confident that he’s British than to hear.
Deciding whether or not to Koi celebration is a fraud and personal thing for us speaking for myself, even though I came to England when I was eight and became a British citizen with a British passport, even though I have a British education, went to British University, worked for Britain’s National Health Service.
I didn’t call myself British.
I was never precious about nationality, so I didn’t really care what I was called, but sure, I’d also picked up on the subliminal messaging that in order to be proper British you had to be white.
The hero, on the other hand, not only calls himself British.
But do so proudly.
I got to talk into the hair by this one day.
He and Brandon I were getting tea at my favorite Chai shop on Alum Rock Rd.
This is the hangout as we sat outside in one of the main thoroughfares of Islamic Britain around the corner from where he grew up.
With double Decker buses by some by sweet shops and fabric stores, and a lot of chippies.
I told him my reason for wide finding only recently started calling myself British.
So for a long time I I never call myself British.
I was about 30.
I’ve been reading a book about the British Empire and I learned how Rich India, which at the time included Pakistan was, according to some economists.
Before the bridge took control, I believe the statistic is roughly it controlled about 24% or something like that of the world’s economy.
At the time, 3% of world economy.
Yeah, the richest nation in the world, right?
24% of the world’s economy is roughly what the US controls today.
I know this is somewhat of an apples and oranges comparison because the world wasn’t organized into a globalized economy back then, but it does show how rich India was in relation to other countries at the time.
When the British left the Indian subcontinent after some 200 years of economic exploitation, India and Pakistan were among the poorest nations in the world.
I didn’t learn this stuff in school, because Britain’s colonization of 1/4 of the planet is not compulsory part of the national curriculum, which is why I only discovered it as an adult, as so much of the wealth I saw in Britain was actually extracted from the place I come from.
Yeah, so from that point onwards I’ve started calling myself British.
I was just like, well, I’m British, I own this country.
This is my money with which you have raised everything around me.
Yeah, so I mean, that’s very similar to the position I am arrived at, except for me proclaiming on British somewhat of a finger in the eye here.
It also came to him later in life.
He says he was at an event held by a British Muslim organization, and they began saying very clearly you’re never going back to Pakistan.
Your children are never going to move back.
It’s not gonna.
It’s not gonna happen.
That’s what you had been thinking after that point because our parents spoke like that to us.
Our homes are in Pakistan.
We are Pakistani.
Our parents spoke to us like that.
My father never told me we are British because that’s not what he felt.
He lived in Pakistan most of his life.
Why would he say that?
So the people at this event were saying you live here now.
We were part of this country and that it was important.
As Muslims we should be in benefit to this country.
So ever since then, I’ve been kind of dissing the idea that we are other that we are outsiders, that we don’t belong here.
Islam is part of Britain.
It’s not alien.
I don’t accept that, can you see?
So This is why you know over here.
Not only was incorporating Islam into the school and academic strategy.
It was also a British value.
It was really nice for me.
It was during.
I’m doing something at home and at my school is.
Yeah, like I didn’t want to like to have a different life at school like if I’m if I’m pregnant at home.
I want to pray out of school to because these are two students who graduated from Parkview in 2014.
We’re not using their names because such is the stink of the Trojan horse scandal.
They don’t want potential employers to know where they went to school.
They actually keep it off their resumes.
When Holmes and I met them four years after they graduated, they were both sitting law at university.
Some of the first in their families to go on to higher education.
They’ve been best friends since school.
The kind of friends who don’t need words to communicate.
Are you talking about?
Yeah, I don’t know if I should do that.
Basically, the students told us about these assemblies they would have in the mornings, which included religious teachings and sometimes prayer.
So there was this one.
This is something that as an American made me do a double take when I first heard about it.
The idea of teachers in a public school leading prayers during assembly is not normal to us.
But in Britain, there’s no separation between church and state.
The Queen is head of both.
So not only is prayer allowed in schools, some form of worship is legally mandated in all schools that are publicly funded.
Schools don’t always adhere to this, but students are supposed to take part in what’s called a daily act of collective worship.
By default, it’s supposed to be broadly Christian in character, but schools can apply to change it to other faiths if that better suits their students, which is what Parkview did.
It got approval for its worship to be Islamic.
The students told us at Park views assemblies they would sit in the main hall and a teacher would tell parables or lessons, usually from Islam, but other faiths to do you guys remember actually learning things in these assemblies or did they make you think or were they just kind of boring teachers blah blah blah blah blah.
I really enjoyed those employees because I didn’t learn this from anywhere else, like they still remember this one assembly all these years later about charity, talking about charity, and they say when you’re giving charity, put your hand in your pocket and take you out.
Don’t look at how much you’re giving and just put it in.
Don’t count what you’re giving and what you have left, because when you give you receive tenfold.
And Charity does not make you purple.
Quite literally, like sometimes when I like see somebody who’s like asking for money and things like that.
I’ll put my hand in in my place.
I’ll take it out and I don’t look at it.
Yeah, I do that all the time I remember that one once he literally said it like that like that Dave saw that you left hand doesn’t even know what your right hand gave.
With her became chair of Parkview’s governing body.
In 1997, four percent of students were passing by 2010.
That number was 71%.
A 17 fold increase.
We had not changed the children.
We had not changed the parents but slowly but surely we took the results so that they were consistently in the 70s, which means the school actually is kind of guaranteeing an outcome.
Parkview is now actively preparing its students for the eventuality that their academic success would lead them out of East Birmingham.
Something that a lot of teachers said to me.
You live in a bubble again.
The formal part of your students.
And I was like, what do you mean that they were like you live in an Asian community?
You go to an Asian school.
Yes, you’re very safe.
You don’t know what it’s like to breathe branchout.
I remember we learn about the population and how it’s divided in UK and I think it was something like 2% of the population in the UK is Asian and I was like.
Wow, only 2%.
I was like 2%.
How is it 2% like everybody I know is Asian every every person that I’ve come across his proud yeah how is that possible?
It was so odd the UK is actually 2% Pakistani 7% Asian.
But point being those are vast majority of the population that these students and their classmates were not bumping into day-to-day in Alum Rock.
The school organized visits to Cambridge University.
They took them on camping trips.
They visited the Houses of Parliament in London.
Some students went on a weeklong trip on a sailboat with kids from all over, including a bunch of white kids.
Certainly we weren’t used to our mingling with people who would not, Pakistani.
So they were exposing us to you guys.
OK, you’re looking at me.
This is what they were preparing for us.
For, you guys, parents clamored to get their kids into Parkview.
The school had a waiting list.
We were, you know, given all kinds of accolades nationally in the press, we had officials coming in and out of our school.
Really, they’re saying, what are you doing?
You know, perhaps we can learn something.
And they invited us actually there.
Why don’t you support other schools they hear, became well regarded in education circles and over the years he expanded his reach beyond Parkview.
He was certified as an inspector for Ofsted, the agency that monitors and grade schools in Britain.
The Bone City Council hired him to train other governors throughout the city.
The National Department for Education even asked the here and his colleagues at Parkview to take over two other troubled schools in East Birmingham, which they did.
The hair was invited T at 10 Downing St and my Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Back in Birmingham, though some people resented him, he had made enemies of lot of schools in the area.
He became like hated amongst a lot of people.
Mostly sane who became parked.
His acting headteacher around this time was the full support of tears, but still he and other former colleagues told us they wished they here was a bit more circumspect in the way he went around to other schools advocating for reform.
It was self assured, blunt and particularly inspiring would lay enough for head teachers and other school leaders the way their schools were failing Muslim students.
To tell other schools look park, you can do it park.
You can do it.
You can do it.
Same family, same children that you got.
They can do it.
That’s not an excuse.
We used to tell tire off for this a lot.
Stop using us as beating the stick because it’s isolating us amongst other schools.
He was actually pointing the finger and saying directly to headteachers.
You’re not doing a good enough job here for these kids.
Jackie Hughes used to be in charge of school improvement for the Birmingham City Council and she says she can name headteachers as she knows that her made enemies with many of them were used to having the final word on academics.
And then here was to hear this volunteer with no professional teaching experience, waltz and gain and criticizing their work.
I mean actually, people come to me and say I can’t understand why you give tie.
The time of day is a terrible man.
He said to me, blah blah blah blah and they would go sounding off.
Colleagues and friends want to hear.
You might want to consider softening your approach, but the hair wasn’t having it.
You have to fight for justice.
Justice is not going to be handed to you on the plate.
You know you have to make space for yourself.
So the fact that some people may not be OK with that he’s a different, it’s a is irrelevant to me.
You know, that’s their problem.
In 2012, Parkview received the ultimate validation and what was probably its proudest moment in the hair is nearly 18 years.
There offset arrived for an inspection and deemed the school outstanding.
The highest rating possible among the many things inspectors praised a Parkview or the quote wide range of opportunities for spiritual development, including voluntary Friday prayers.
In his time as Chair of governors they had taken Parkview from the lowest ranking.
The verge of closure to the very top.
The person in charge of Ofsted Chief Inspector said, quote every school in the country should be like this.
Less than two years later, on November 27th, 2013, an envelope arrived on the desk of the leader of Birmingham City Council, a man named Sir Albert bore.
Inside was a cover sheet addressed to him, marked very important confidential.
Mr Bore it said.
This letter was found when I was clearing my boss files and I think you should be aware that I am shocked at what your officers are doing.
You have seven days to investigate this matter, after which it will be sent to a national newspaper who I’m sure will treat it seriously.
Behind that note was the Trojan Horse Letter 4 poorly copied pages, shadows at the edges, instructions to destroy after reading the letter was written as if from a collaborator of to here’s describing a conspiracy to hear had been running to take over and Islamist schools by deception.
It took weeks for it to here to learn about it.
He heard rumors there was a mysterious letter making its way around Birmingham around the City Council and to headteachers in town, which named him as the orchestrator of a plot.
Wanted to hear his friends rushed to his house to tell him that he’d been getting a haircut over on Washwood Heath Road, and afterwards his friends Barber had beckoned him into the backroom of the shop and showed him a copy.
To hear did not know what to make of it.
Finally, he got ahold of the document himself, you know, obviously I was thinking what is the source of this letter?
Who wrote this letter?
Why was this letter written?
Is was ringing in my head?
The front page was missing, so there was no dear whoever.
It just started as if it had been going on for a page or more ready and the letter ended mid sentence two with the phrase I would also like.
So there’s no sign off, which meant to hear.
Couldn’t tell exactly who it was supposed to be, 2 or from.
But whoever wrote the letter said explicitly to hear and I it’s supposed to be from somebody who knows me well in Birmingham, and he’s talking to somebody in Bradford, another British city that’s home to a lot of Muslims.
He’s talking about to hear what he’s done here.
We can do it over there and he’s your friend, or your associates supposed to whoever it is, yeah, can you keep reading just the first few paragraphs?
OK, Operation Trojan horse has been carefully thought through and is tried and tested within Birmingham.
To here and I will be happy to support your efforts in Bradford.
This is a long term plan and one which we are sure will lead to great success in taking over number of schools and ensuring that they are run on the strict Islamic principles.
The benefits the main tactic of Operation Trojan Horse is to target head teachers at the schools.
You want to take control of to make their lives so miserable that they’ll resign or else be fired at which point.
You can install your own people who will implant Islamic extremism in the school.
The author gives several examples of schools in Birmingham, where to here and his cronies were supposedly in the middle of doing this.
We have caused a great amount of organized disruption in Birmingham, the letter says and are on the way to getting rid of Moorhead teachers and taking over their schools.
While sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things, you must remember that this is a jihad and as such using all means possible to win the war is acceptable.
What was your feeling or your attitude were you laughing at it?
Were you actually kind of taking it seriously and frightened what I wasn’t laughing?
Actually, because I knew the serious nature of the allegations that were being made.
But as far as the claim does the themselves were concerned they were laughable.
So I knew that there was something not right about what was going on here to here.
Contacted the Birmingham City Council where the letter was first sent.
He done training for them for years and I said, look, I work for you, and this letter apparently is going around.
Claiming certain things, and I’m surprised that you haven’t spoken to me to at least to get my view on the matter.
At least ask me to explain or if I know anything or whatever, or something.
And the gentleman there actually from the City Council, he said.
Mr alum, to be to be very honest with you.
We don’t think anything of the letter.
We think it’s a completely bogus hoax letter and we don’t believe there is any truth in it, and therefore we didn’t take any action.
We didn’t do anything with it.
Did you feel reassured by that, or had not really know?
Because then the letter began to be printed in the national media as well.
Someone leaked the letter to The Sunday Times of London.
And from there it became a frenzy.
One story turned to two, turned to dozens in the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the spectator, Sky TV, many of them giving credence to the letter saying that extremists like the hair had allegedly been infiltrating UK schools for years.
Reporters camped outside Parkview.
They stalked the hair down the street.
We tried to put these allegations to the academy’s chair of governors.
But to hear alarm turned up at his house.
Hello Mr Lam.
Mr Lam hello.
The government kicked into Gear 2.
Investigators swarmed Parkview Ofsted, the school inspector arrived for two surprise inspections and then we have the Education Funding Agency investigation, which was about 10 days.
I think they were in there for 10 days.
And soon as they left, we had the PwC Pricewaterhouse Coopers big outside auditing firm looking into the Financial’s affairs of the school.
So then we had them for five weeks in the school as well.
I said, what are you looking for?
I said please, what are you looking for?
You’ve been here three weeks.
You must have a family.
There was more.
The Secretary of State for Education called and England former counterterror chief from Scotland Yard, a man named Peter Clarke and the Birmingham City Council, appointed its own special investigator and they scrutinized Parkview along with 20 some odd other schools and Muslim neighborhoods.
In the middle of the melee, some politicians and journalists were saying that the letter itself was likely a hoax.
There was some obvious factual inaccuracies.
Yet the government believed it still warranted this action.
Honestly, I don’t think any authority explain this logic with much clarity at the time, but my understanding of how the thinking went is that even if the letter itself wasn’t an actual communique between two real life conspirators, it could still be pointing at a real problem, even if it was fiction, the thinking went.
The letter could have been fabricated by someone who had legitimate concerns about Muslim extremists scheming and wielding influence in schools, and maybe the letter was their creative way of raising an alarm.
So rather than look into who wrote the letter and why, instead, the government put out general public calls for information about these schools and people started coming forward, mostly anonymously with complaints.
Again, investigators found no evidence of radicalization.
No evidence of violent extremism and no plot what emerged instead was a kind of grab bag of Islam adjacent allegations.
Many of the same things authorities had celebrated up to that point.
But apparently now we’re seeing in a different light.
Like these educators weren’t merely allowing students to pray, they were pressuring them to pray they weren’t innocently recruiting brown Muslim staff.
They were hiring their buddies who thought the same way as they did, and possibly discriminating against non Muslim candidates in the process.
School governors, including to hear they weren’t holding headteachers to a high standard.
They were pressuring them, harassing them and exercising more power than a governor was supposed to.
Investigators also said they’d found instances of intolerance towards LGBTQI people and unequal treatment of women and girls.
They said Parkview had held assemblies and invited speakers with anti western views and that to here and people align with him allegedly subscribed to quote an intolerant and politicize form of extreme social conservatism that claims to represent and ultimately seeks to control all Muslims.
All of this as the then Secretary of State for Education, put it as she presented the findings on the Trojan Horse letter to Parliament.
Meant that students, instead of enjoying a broadening and enriching experience in school, young people are having their horizons narrowed and are being denied the opportunity to flourish in a modern, multicultural Britain.
We see them face individuals as it is for this reason and with deep sense of injustice and sadness that today we are announcing our intention to resign our positions at Parkview Educational Trust and allow new members to assume responsibility.
After months of scrutiny in early July.
2014 to here looking tired and stressed stood at a lectern.
Outside park views Gates, and resigned to here told us he and the other Parkview governors only agreed to do that because the Department for Education promised that the head teacher and other on the ground leadership of the school would be kept in place.
But soon as school opened in September, all of those people were suspended.
All the leadership was basically sacked.
Ruthlessly they went about it, destroying their careers, destroying their reputations.
And they did that systematically.
We had worked for 10-15 years really to build this school.
They destroyed it within months.
The government renamed the school.
It’s no longer Parkview.
It also notified nearly every teacher in governor you just heard from Tehir included that it was bringing proceedings to ban them from education for the rest of their lives.
In the years since student achievement has plummeted at the school formerly known as Parkview for more than 70%, passing 2 in recent years from the low 40 to mid 50% range.
So that’s the story at the here told us that first meeting in his makeshift 2 junk room.
That this letter, which was never fully investigated that described a plot called Operation Trojan Horse, which is never found to have existed.
Inspired all of this.
The ruining of careers and an educational movement.
The fear mongering headlines against Muslims that continue to this day.
The government instituting policies that encourage us to spy more brazenly on each other.
We’ve been talking with the hair for a couple of hours by this point.
What time is it?
I know you need to leave at some point.
I don’t want.
I mean, I’m I’ve to go to Friday prayer now.
So one o’clock I’m there really.
I understand a lot to talk, so if you wanted to, there’s a lot to know.
I don’t get tired of talking these things, really.
I mean, you probably could tell.
Obviously when I talk about that, you know you begin to relive it, isn’t it?
And I have to say that you know it does.
It does sadden me actually as what has been lost for the children for the community, the irreparable damage that has been done.
For absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Anyway, can I get you guys some tea or something?
At that event I went to where we all got redirected to the wedding hall.
One of the speakers, a columnist named Peter Alborn, put it well.
He said Operation Trojan Horse has become a social fact in Britain.
But even though within weeks at the Trojan horse that are hitting the news, people acknowledged it was probably a hoax.
That’s never seemed to matter.
Were the Muslims in Birmingham or conspiring or not?
Doesn’t matter the intimation that they were has persevered.
To the extent that Prime Minister’s former chief of staff was outraged that some people in the Community Center would dare to say otherwise.
But we don’t need to settle for a social fact.
Because there are actual facts.
Why up to this point?
Has no one cared about who wrote this letter and where this letter came from?
Well, that’s my question.
That’s my, this is what I’ve been arguing.
This is why I went to the police.
To see what they could do, this is what I said wrote in my letter to the Birmingham City Council that you need to get to the bottom of who wrote the letter.
This is what I wrote to the Department of Education as well.
You need to get to the bottom of the letter.
Who wrote the letter?
Because they will then unravel why the letter was written.
You see, so this is what I’ve been arguing, but the Department for Education is not interested.
The police are not interested.
The Birmingham City Council is not interested in answering that question.
Because they have used this letter.
And on this hoax, they’ve built so much policy, do you think now they want to launch an investigation into the letter to have it proven that it was written for completely different reasons?
Yeah, how would that make them look like?
A bunch of monkeys?
As I’ve been saying, if you could just find out who wrote that letter and why, that’s the only thing that might change brain’s understanding of Operation Trojan Horse.
But whoever wrote a letter, they they they they knew.
You know they knew me, I think, and I like to think that I know them too.
Does that mean you?
I have a strong hunch as to who wrote the letter.
You know, I strongly believe that I know who wrote the letter, and I strongly believe that I know the why was the letter was written as well.
So you think you know The Who and the motive, yes.
That’s next on the Trojan horse affair.
The case of the four resignations.
The Trojan Horse affair is produced by Hamza Saeed and me, along with Rebecca Lacks.
The show is edited by Sarah Keineg.
Additional editing by IRA Glass and buyer contributing editor Aisha manager.
Sticky fact checking in research by Mark Raleigh and Ben Flynn.
Original score by Thomas Miller, with additional music by Matt McGinley and Steven Jackson.
Sound design, mixing and music supervision by Stephen Jackson and filled a michalski at the audio non visual company.
Julie Snyder is our executive editor.
Neil drumming is managing editor.
Supervising producer is in day.
Chubu executive assistant is Alberto DeLeon.
Sam Dolnick is an assistant managing editor of the New York Times.
Audio is provided by NBC.
Special thanks to my journalism professor, my Yoda, Richard Danbury, Kimberly Henderson.
The Barclay Agency Kenneth Pomeranz, Greg Clark and John Homewood for along with Teresa Auteur authored an in-depth book which was very helpful to us called countering extremism in British schools.
The truth about the Berman Trojan horse affair.
The Trojan Horse affair is made by serial productions and the New York Times.
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