Hamza and Brian learn that the Trojan Horse letter wasn’t the only unsigned letter alleging an extremist operation was afoot in Birmingham. An interview with a couple who lodged complaints against their school starts out cordially, but six hours later, the atmosphere is so tense that not even an offer of tea can smooth things over. And Hamza stops pretending he’s not angry about what he’s hearing.
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Is there anything else we have to put on the wall right now? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah we do we do. We need to put up there about a year before we got the minutes of the board of meeting Brian. Now we’re in HQ. It was the end of a long day reporting. It was so early in the process there were still precious about our idea of a murder war. We were reading counterterror Chief Peter Clarke report about his Trojan Horse investigation and picking out names and leads from there. And I threw this one out. Do we have the Birmingham Humanists? I don’t know. Sorry, but British Humanist Association up there. We didn’t. What is the British Humanist Society? What the hell is this? I don’t know. You never heard of this before. Never heard of this before. I have no. I just can’t believe the British humanists have been brought into this. And yet there they were mentioned a few times in the clock report. The British Humanist Association. According to the report, weeks before the Trojan horse that I went public. And Michael Gove sent investigators into Parkview, a group called the British. Humanists had been working with whistleblowers from inside the school. Former members of staff have for whatever reason, in the middle of this contribution association to complain to them about what was happening. Parkview, now, why would teachers got them? I don’t know. I have no idea why would they have a saying any of this? Why are they in the clock report? That is, I don’t know, but I don’t think do you really think they’re? I don’t think they’re worthy of putting on the wall? Alright, OK fine just hey, I’m just throwing it out there then. Then mentioned we can do it out wall over here like on the other side if you wanna just put them on a card and I’ll put it up there. Brian humid me he wrote brace humanists on a note card and banished it to a spot just above the light switch over by the door. And a humanist stayed all lonely over there in the corner. The only time they got any attention was my brother Osama made a visit home. You’re gonna follow me to HQ. Come on, I showed him in my sister-in-law what I’ve done with mom and Dad’s room and I want your immediate reactions. What the hell this is? It looks like something currently beautiful, mind. Maybe paint a picture of what I’m seeing here. Just a random series of strings. They’ve been very poorly taped together. Most of the string action wasn’t a center of the war, but Osama went straight through the door. I started pounding his finger on the card above the light switch. These guys, what do you point to? The British Humanist Association? What do you know about them? So I just had very bad things so I knew about the British humanist from his university days. There. A group that supports secularism. In the UK, the sound innocuous the website talks about promoting reason and evidence and the scientific method, but I just know that within London and within the University Islamic Society community, these guys were known it’s just organization non grata and everyone knows that they’re peddling just rhetoric of Islamophobia and doing it in this kind of intellectualized way. So it’s not the kind of Islamophobia that you associate with bigoted people. But they do it through like studies that they’ve done to show how backwards the community is, and things like that. Who is the most pervasive type around the time my brother was in school, the Humanists Honorary vice president, who been named humanist of the Year in the UK and the United States. Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins was issuing such takes as quote. I regard Islam as one of the great evils in the world. And of course, you can have an opinion about Islam without having read Quran. You don’t have to read Mein Kampf to have an opinion about Nazism. That neglected card in the corner, it would prove important to Brian in my investigation. Because when we finally did get those minutes of the February 12th meeting between Alba bore and Michael Gove, sure they made clear that Birmingham City Council had told Michael Gove police thought the Trojan horse that it was bogus, but the minutes also made clear that the meeting. It wasn’t just about the Trojan horse that are Michael Gove and his aides showed up that day with another letter. They wanted to talk about. A quote letter received by the British Humanist Society relating to Parkview Academy. Unlike the Trojan horse that this letter wasn’t murky or fake looking, it’s from identifiable people who worked at Parkview and who were vouched for by the British humanists, who said there really was a nefarious Islamization going on at the schools. These whistleblowers seem legit, and they’re coming forward. That might have been the true starting gun for the Trojan horse affair. As important, maybe more important than the Trojan Horse letter itself. Over the years these whistleblowers have mostly stayed in the background, out of public view, but when we got in touch with them, we learned that they were eager to step out of the shadows and tell us what they saw happening at Parkview School. Those of us who tell the truth. You know, we tell the truth. The people who lie tell lies, don’t they? And the truth is difficult to establish from serial productions and the New York Times I’m Hunter side. I’m Brian Reed. This is a Trojan horse affair. Do you want some water or anything? I’m OK you guys. My lucky, I might just have a bit of water as well. Yeah yeah alright thank you sorry yeah we got caught up in the SU Packer is bustling around in jeans and a jumper getting hands on me settled in her cottage out in the country where we’re setting up to interview her and her husband Steve. Can I ask you how you got our emails and how you knew about us? Just Sue and Steve Packer both used to work at Parkview School. Steve had taught there his entire career 35 years. Primarily computer science. Sue was the educational visits coordinator. She oversaw field trips to answer Steve’s question. We learned about him in Sue because they testified in disciplinary hearings against a bunch of Parkview teachers cases that grew out of the Trojan horse investigations. We got our hands on a transcript of the proceedings which took place in what was known as the National College for Teaching and Leadership. In the years since soon Steve have been enjoying a quiet retirement from education out here in the countryside, far from Alum Rock. Alright, so first of all, you guys haven’t done this. Then I guess you haven’t done like a longform interview about this. This will be your first. I did some. Anonymous ones OK, when it was all going on because because obviously I’d gone anonymously to the British Humanist Association, Humanists, UK because Stephenson, sue, and Steve say speaking out about Parkview was not something they did lightly. The school was important to them. Absolutely, absolutely loved our jobs. Yeah, we really did. If you ask me. That said, I had the best job in the world. And I children are absolutely wonderful. You know, I wouldn’t swap the children a part of you, but Steve was part of the Renaissance at Parkview. He was there when the school was abysmal. He was there in the 90s when Ofsted put the school on. Notice that if it didn’t improve, it might have to close and he was there, went to hear Alam took charge as chair of the governing body, hoping to set Parkview School on a new path. Bought him my first year in the school. I was his computer studies teacher. I hear it’s really so here alarm. Yeah, this was in 1983. Look good Steve, thank you. People, people are always shocked by that. Obviously Steve remembers to here being a nice kid and he remembers when he turned back up as an adult volunteering to run the governing body. What did you make of his motivations for being there and what he was doing there? I mean his he didn’t necessarily talk about the Islamic Muslim side of things. His was about. The fact that children were underachieving and that we could could get them to do better and he talked about that often. Yeah, yeah, that that would always be his main focus. I mean, I totally agreed with that because the one year we were the worst performing school in the Hall of Birmingham and something had to be done about it. Steve was one of the old guard teachers who could see the new vision for the school and he threw himself into achieving it. When some teachers formed a Ramadan committee to help integrate the holiday into the school, he was a founding member. He used to play the call to prayer from speakers in his office. He held computer trainings for moms and Alum Rock. When Parkview became what’s known as a business enterprise school where kids learn entrepreneurial skills as part of the curriculum, Steve was in charge of that. He became a vice principal and he got close with a group of guys at the school. A mix of old timers and newer teachers, Muslims and non. We’ve talked to many of them, most whose lives were turned upside down. Careers were derailed in part because of Steve’s testimony at their disciplinary hearing, but they all spoke fondly of Steve. They shared memories of traveling to China together of going running on the weekend of hiking together out in Wales. They miss him. And we could tell talking to Steve that these relationships have been meaningful to him too. But when SU joined the Parkview staff in the early 2000s after marrying Steve, she questioned how his friends were running the school. And that pushed Steve to see things differently. You know he’d worked with these people for a long, long time. I I went there with a new set of eyes and I could see things I felt weren’t quite right. I mean originally this back way back in 2011. I think it was when the first concerns happened. When there’s these worksheets that were being given to the boys, they’re just being printed one day. Sue says she and Steve got in the car to head home from work and Steve told her by something unsettling that happened that day while he’s covering for a science teacher sex Ed class, the teacher was away. I was down to cover the lesson. There’s no work left or anything, so I went in there. So the first thing I do is what did you do last lesson? And then one boy said, oh we were told that if we want our wives to have sex with us then they have to. They can’t refuse us. I thought boy said if we were taught that if a husband was having sex with his wife they have to say yes, yeah yeah they can’t say no. Well, first of all, after I thought he was having a laugh, I thought it was a bit of a joke and I said you’re joking. You weren’t told that and the kids were gone. Yes, we were. Yes, because there’s just the boys group. Yes it were. I said, well, let me tell you now that is wrong. Any woman has the right to say no. And if she says no and it goes to her, then it’s rape. And it was, you know, it’s an uncomfortable thing to talk about because it was a bit of a shock. Really. They seem to accept it. They appeared to accept it from me. I mean, I was A at that point. I was assistant head, so I was strong enough in the school, I had enough clout to sort of. Say, you know, this is wrong, I’m right, and this question doesn’t go any further. So is appalled by what Steve was telling her in the car. The fact that one of their colleagues would say something like this was bad enough, but to teach to students. Sue heard that some boys in school went out taunting girls about it, and then she says a worksheet surfaced from the lesson which she said had religious quotes on it about the roles and obligations of men and women in marriage and how women had to obey. Yeah, they shock of reading it and knowing that that had been given out to the boys. I was, you know, just horrified. I was just so enraged by it I was just. But like you said, saying it’s such a serious thing. So obviously I spoke to you about it sues turning to Steve. She says they went to the person who was in charge of the sex Ed curriculum, but she felt the school wasn’t acting fast enough. She mentioned it to us on Tom one day on the phone. Tom had worked to Parkview for a year as a teaching assistant when he’s fresh out of university. He’s a science professor now. I was mostly upset this happening in a science lesson like sex education falls under science and the content of that worksheet was was religious. Tom remembers how distressed his mum was explaining what happened. She wondered if there’s anything else she could do, and I know I told her. Don’t go to the press. I don’t think we should be doing that. Tom was wary of how the British media covers Muslims, but he agreed they should do something he said to his mum. We need to have some kind of third party intermediary who can help us do this in a responsible way that is not going to have prejudice on on any any particular community. We didn’t want a Daily Mail front page we didn’t want right wing newspapers putting their own spin on this and I was scared that that might happen and I decided like the the most sensible thing to do is to go for a third party. In the end I suggested the British humanist. This is how the humanists enter the story. The humanist on immediately obvious place to take this matter, but Tom told us he’d become interested in humanism in grad school. He thought the British humanists as proponents of tolerance, equality, science, and human rights. One of the group’s longstanding missions is to eradicate religious practices from British state schools. The regulations that require a daily act of collective worship in Allstate schools. The recent Parkview School held Islamic assemblies. The humanists want those repealed, so Tom told his mom, send me a copy of the worksheets. And what I’ll do is I’ll put an email together which you did. Tom ended up on the phone with one of the humanist top people, and they came up with a plan for how the humanist would help them take the story to the press. They’re all ready to go and then. They didn’t do it. So says the teacher who oversaw sex, said Arshad Hussain held an assembly for all the boys in year 10 where he disabused them of the notion that her wife is obligated to obey Rosemond they were told, apparently that that wasn’t the case that girls were, you know, you had to be. Sex had to be consensual. I didn’t, you know, I just accepted that. OK, that it won’t happen again and we’ve got to move forward. So things that have settled down again then really the schools sort of had an outstanding Ofsted. This was the watershed moment in 2012 when Ofsted, the school inspectors awarded Parkview the highest designation a school can get people from around Europe were visiting Parkview for inspiration. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, praised it for closing the achievement gap and the Department for Education under Michael Gove asked Parkview’s leadership to start running two other East Birmingham schools that needed help through an initiative they were pushing, called the Academy program, which gave the school leaders more power. And autonomy. But according to Sue and Steve it was during this peak of recognition and success that some of their colleagues started taking advantage of the independence they’ve been given. They they wanted to. Give the children a good education. But it was just that sort of. The religious element wasn’t it that took over really. Everywhere soon Steve turned they say they saw changes being implemented that looked to them to be religiously motivated. The holiday post box where kids used to deposit Christmas cards for each other was removed. The call to prayer, which Steve had supported as a Ramadan thing, became a year round fixture. Pupils were leaned on. They say to choose Arabic or Urdu as their language elective over French. Steve chaperoned an overnight school trip and had to enforce a rule to the kids disappointment that they weren’t allowed to go to a disco. Soon, Steve, say girls and boys were prevented from mingling and dating, and they say certain teachers were telling children that if they didn’t pray, they weren’t good Muslims. The Packers felt like the school was shifting rather than merely celebrating the kids. Muslim identities Parkview was pressuring kids to practice Islam, dictating to students how to be. Most disturbing to Sue was the effects she felt the religious imperative was having on women and girls at the school. Staff members and students. There is a lot of unfairness going on. The quality had gone out the door. Everything was very strict sort of thing. Our girls couldn’t have their hair highlighted. They were encouraged to wear their scarves. Girls were being brought back from any sort of events where there was a male present. For instance says there was a tennis lesson organized for five Parkview girls and five boys at another school. When the teacher accompanying the kids saw that the instructor was a man, he brought the girls back to Parkview. Because there was a school rule that sports were separated boys and girls. She says the girls were upset they didn’t get to do the lesson that day. Sue was furious, women weren’t weren’t being treated properly. Girls were not being given choices. Girls were being dictated to. There was a blanket rule that girls were not allowed to do things. Sue and Steve had an idea of who was behind all this. I’d say that the person really pulling the strings was to hit a lamb. To both Sue and Steve, all the official fawning over Parkview seemed to have emboldened to hear they felt he was exerting more influence on the school than a governor was supposed to. He was still focused on academics, but they felt there was something else driving him as well. What do you think? Tires, ulterior motive was you’re saying, like there was something else going on that was driving him. Control of the schools to have them run the way he wanted them run. But not for the, but not to the ends of achievement to different ends. Achievement as well, yeah, but. The emphasis on doing things in a certain way the way they wanted it done. And not not according to Islam, is that what you mean? Well, that particular strain of Islam? What strain of Islam does does tie her practice? Well, it’s don’t you. The one that says that girls can’t take part in activities when there’s a man present says that good children can’t give Christmas cards to each other. Whatever that is. When the longtime head teacher of Parkview, a non Muslim white woman, was promoted in 2012, she’d now be overseeing all three schools that Parkview was trying to reform the person. The governors chose to take her place while they filled the position was a Muslim teacher who some staffers didn’t feel was the best choice to run the school, but who was close with to hear? Mas Hussein. Mas taking over meant that all the top managers within Parkview School were now men. Sue also mentioned to us a focus group. She took part in with the local police about combating violence against women in East Birmingham, where she learned that East Birmingham has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse in the country. It all made her worry. My main concern is that the girls were. Just able to access as much. Opportunities as possible. To come out to school, you know as equipped as possible to deal with whatever they come across in in in life. You know my feelings were that you know girls needed to be strong. They needed to be sort of. You know, feel in control. Sewer tried to get the school to address these problems. She raised them with the headteacher Mars, but it wasn’t getting better. She was in the middle of making plans to go to speak to the governing body about these issues. When a former Parkview student named Amina told Sue about something that happened on a field trip, she had helped chaperone to a local museum and interaction with another teacher that bothered her. As Sue tells him, Amina was volunteering at Parkview. She’s just out of university. Her mom was in the governing body and her dad also worked there, and Amina told Sue on the way back from the museum. She’d been sitting on one of the buses with the kids when a teacher got on a man and said to her that she was on the wrong bus. He said it came onto the couch and said you need to be on the couch with me. Uhm, something like that. So she’s so the fact that he’s spoken to her very rudely in front of the children, and it was unnecessary. So I just sort of said well, so look, you know you need to really go and speak to most about it. Did it seem that serious or did it seem kind? ‘cause that seems like not that big of a thing to register. Yes. Because it was becoming commonplace, this sort of attitude to women. As far as Sunu Amina did mention it to a supervisor, but student here, if there’s been any follow up from management. She sent an email to the headteacher Moss and others asking what has been done about the colleague who had been rude to Amina. And then the following day after I’ve done that, I was called to mosey’s office and he was there standing over his desk with these sort of things on his papers on his desk and he just sort of exploded at me and just said, you know, you’ve been vindictive, malicious writing. These emails about a member of staff. I’m really disappointed in you. There’s going to be a full investigation, and then I was accused of. Bring this gorgeous tribute. Attempted to discredit member of staff yeah and slander thing wasn’t she? I know that you would you word slander came up ‘cause I was thinking they’ve used the wrong word ‘cause it should be liable ‘cause it’s written. I was just absolutely speechless. I just did not say I was devastated. And I just thought what have I done? I was just so shocked because I you know, I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. OK, I I was questioning the mail but I was only doing it because they’d been complaints about him. I felt as in my position as educational visit coordinator. That was my job to do that because I had to make sure that people going on the trips were qualified, competent and it felt like you were being seen as a troublemaker, as if the leaders of the school were retaliating against her for calling out their discrimination. I had a letter from the HR manager to say that the investigation was gonna start and I just. I was just in a mess, wasn’t I? Really yeah, yeah mess ever since it happened. Since yeah just now struggling with. Anxiety and just I just couldn’t handle it so I just wrote my notice. And left. Sue had quit the school, but her husband was still their friends, colleagues, students, people she cared about were still there. So Sue started contacting the authorities, imploring them to look into the creeping Islamization inside Parkview. She wrote to Ofsted the school inspectors she wrote to Perma City Council. She wrote these places anonymously because she was scared Steve might lose his job if their colleagues apart you found out what she was. Doing as far as she and Steve could tell the agencies didn’t do anything. She made several calls to Ofsted. Steve also wrote them anonymously. Still nothing. Months went by and then came January 2014 and the moment that Sue accidentally helped ignite the Trojan horse affair. Unbeknownst to sue, the Trojan Horse letter, which hadn’t yet gone public, was making the rounds in Birmingham and London, and it was at this same time that Sue sent an email to the British humanists about Parkview and Tahir Alam and her son. Tom also wrote the humanists, saying he wanted resurface. His complaint about the sex Ed lesson from three years before. More and more males with extreme religious views are being recruited. Sue wrote the humanists. The children are not allowed to choose how to live their lives. The humanist move quickly that connections at the Department for Education. So I assembled. Soon Tom’s allegations and sent them along. Within days, Sue was finally on the phone with the Department for Education official. The deputy head of its counter extremism division. This division was set up by the DFB in 2010, the year Michael Gove to control the department. Do you remember what you talked about on that on that phone call? I think I think they were just sort of clarifying, because obviously there was the sort of anti terrorism stuff. Wasn’t the relay and I said it made it clear there’s nothing to do with that. You know this is just about. Human rights girls being stopped doing things. But obviously. I think my concern was, you know when when children are sort of marginalized, they’re not feeling part of a community. I know that you know that can lead into the rope or the roads khanted, and I think that’s what they were. They were looking at really. Did they seem concerned that what did you say? They used to have said that they they had got concerns so you know, I felt it was taken seriously. The next day, Michael Gove’s, people in London wrote Sir Albert Bourez people in Birmingham to arrange that critical meeting on February 12th. If he’d had the Trojan Horse letter for months at this point it was only after hearing from Sue that they kicked into gear. When Albert bore and the Birmingham City Council arrived at the February 12th meeting, everybody was talking about the Trojan Horse letter and Sue’s complaints in the same breath as two pieces of evidence that appeared to be corroborating the same threat. The Council told Michael Gove that the Trojan Horse letter was bogus. According to the analysis of Counter terror police and it’s interesting the minutes. Note that Gove actually said in the meeting we should try to figure out who the author is. But according to the Minutes, at least nobody responded to that. And they kept talking about the apparent troubles at Parkview until Michael Gove sent councillor bore away with an order to report back by the end of the week with a plan for how the Council was going to deal with that school. Just to say here we did consider whether Sue Packer could have been behind the Trojan Horse letter she was writing a lot of letters, a number anonymously about Muslims in East Birmingham schools. There’s one letter of sues, actually. So what are you asking now? Is that my letter? Yeah, did you read that? Yeah, which bears are curious? Resemblance to the cover sheet that came with the Trojan Horse letter that own the sign off some of the language that won’t even got Steve going? So you didn’t know she wrote this, no? I have to say this is quite interesting now. Sue reassured us and her husband. I just want to make it clear that I’m not at the author of the Trojan Horse letter because I feel as if that is the way this is possibly going. No, actually we don’t think he wrote the Trojan Horse letter, so. Not least because in all of Sue’s writings that we’ve read, we’ve never seen her mention Adderly Primary school or the resignation case. There, she says she doesn’t even know anyone at that school. Adderly is the school the Trojan horse author is most focused on and knowledgeable about, whereas Sue in her letters is concerned primarily with Parkview. So we’re left to marvel at the I don’t even know what to call it. Unhappy. Confluence, Supernatural forces tragic coincidence that LED 2 letters from completely different people, both about Parkview School to land on Michael Gove’s desk within weeks of each other containing the same types of claims and naming the same individual Tahir Alam as a ringleader. Sue said when Shane Steve first heard about the Georgia horse later they were glad for it. Another source blowing the whistle Parkview. They forget. That could only help back them up. But then they watched as journalists and politicians took the issues they had raised and conflated them with this wild allegation of an Islamist conspiracy spreading through the schools. And that frustrated them. Over the next several months, the humans start arranging interviews for Sue. They say to try and refocus attention on to what she saw as a real issues in East Birmingham equality for girls and women, and the improper inclusion of religion in schools. Parkview Academy at the center of this row since it began three former Parkview teachers, took their concerns to the British Humanist Association. One former member of its staff spoke anonymously to a former member of staff claim their claims included it’s not like Sue and Steve and Tom. We’re the only ones raising concerns about Parkview and other responding schools. They, along with the Trojan horse that are where the trigger but once the story became public, all sorts of people who’ve been involved in schools in Birmingham started bringing issues to authorities and reporters. But the Packer family’s concerns are emblematic of the kinds of complaints others were making, and soon Steve stayed active in your fair for years, playing an influential role in your authorities response. They cooperate with the official inquiries. They spoke to Peter Clark’s team to offset the school inspectors. To the Member of Parliament representing Adam Brock, who Sue met with, they traveled to London to tell their story to parliamentary humanist group. And what one Lord called stunning testimony. And finally, when the government started bringing disciplinary cases against Parkview teachers, soon Steve took the stand along with some others to testify against their former colleagues. There were essential to the government’s case, providing some of the most important first-hand testimony. So this is how Britain ended up with multiple investigations into the Trojan Horse letter that weren’t really about the Trojan Horse letter. The Packers and the Trojan Horse letter fused into an indomitable crossbreed. The Trojan Horse letter made sensational claims about a sweeping Islamic plot, a jihad, and now here were all these specific complaints from the Packers and others like them, which read like evidence that something larger and diabolical could be afoot. People took the Trojan Horse moniker, the code name of that supposed operation. From the letter and grafted that onto the Packers concerns which made allegations that might have otherwise been dealt with as employment issues or matters of school management seemed like a national security threat. Now the Trojan Horse letter had already been found to be fiction, but what about the Packers? Had they been writing any fiction of their own? That’s after the break. Hiring used to be hard. Multiple jobsites stacks of resumes. But today hiring can be easy and you only have to go to one place to get it done. Zip recruiter, in fact, 4 out of five employers who post on ZIP recruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. That’s why Ziprecruiter is the number one rated hiring site in the US based on G2 ratings. And today you can try ziprecruiter for free at ziprecruiter.com slash. Cereal that’s zip recruiter. Com serial I’m Anna Martin, the host of the Modern Love podcast. In every episode, we peek into an intimate corner of someones life and learn about what love means to them. 35 years with another person, I’ve never spent that much time with anyone else, so we both kind of said I love you pretty fast as long as they keep the dance up, I’ll keep the dance up and she felt the same way an instant connection. It’s a window into how real people navigate all kinds of love. I mean romantic, family, friendship, dog based, their stories of life. Changing moments, small joys, big revelations. My advice is that it’s OK if it’s hard, a lot of the way that you manifest your love for your children is through cooking, and I remember just looking at them in awe or almost like wow, you know so much that I couldn’t even dream of knowing about my brother, new episodes air every Wednesday. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. In the beginning it was friendly at Sue and Steve Cottage. They were excited to talk to us about their experience. In fact, right after we walked in, we learned that Steve had recently finished writing a book about it self published on Amazon, which he had laying out for us. A green paperback titled Moonrise at Daybreak, with silhouettes of a chicken and a rooster and a rabbit on the cover. This is my telling of the story of what happened to us at school. I’ve written it as a animal farm type story. Really, yeah, the book’s protagonist. Animals are two chickens, scarlet and croaker. Clearly Sue and Steve, who, with the help of the hairs, the humanists fighting elite group of goats, Muslim men who are controlling the sheep, Muslim women, while scheming to operate the farm, to quote the blurb according to their own doctrine by manipulating the other animals and grooming the youngsters. I mean, we’re obviously going to get you to sign a copy for us that I’ve signed one. I’ll give you 2, OK. Who is this fiction? Is it nonfiction? Like? How would you describe it? It’s a difficult one. It’s fiction, but it tells the story. Before we met with Sue and Steve, we not only read their testimony in the disciplinary hearing against Parkview teachers, but also a bunch of other stuff from their involvement with the Trojan Horse affair emails. They’d written letters, transcripts of interviews, and we’d noticed in the way they spoke and wrote about Parkview, that their worries about what was going on at the school seemed to be shot through with this kind of discomfort about the way that certain teachers and governors were expressing their Muslim Ness, and we wanted to interrogate how much that was coloring what they saw happening around them. And the way they represented it to authorities. As we question Sue and Steve, we fell into a precarious pattern. We’d pushed them on the particulars of their account, like, say, Steve suggestion that there was something shifty about the fact that he saw Muslim men, members of staff spending a lot of time in the headteacher Maz Hussain’s office. What’s threatening about men speaking to each other? And why does it carry this sinister kind of edge to it? That here’s a here’s people filing into master room and speaking, and they’re all men. There must be something dodgy going on. OK, I get your point. There’d be hums and long pauses and lots of circling around soon. Steve would say they weren’t sure they wanted to continue the interview. Then we’d pull back, talk about something easier. They’d propose a beverage. Can we have a committee? We’d say yes please. Then we’d never get the cup of tea because things would get uncomfortable again. It went on like this for seven hours. There are some things you can’t describe in solid facts. You know there’s you know when you talk about the atmosphere in a place when we talk about the you know how oppressive it was. There’s not necessarily anything tangible about that. I thought I thought you coming here. We were gonna. Give an opportunity to put our side across, but that’s what they say. There’s a microphone under your chin and you’re talking into it. Is that not putting your side across? It is, yeah. Somewhat soon, Steve told us was corroborated by the staff and students at Parkview, like the sex Ed class, for instance, pretty much everyone agrees, something happened and all. Remember that the school did hold an assembly for the boys in that grade to tell them that sex without consent, is rape. That incident is perhaps more disturbing than soon. Steve could even have known, though, because in March of 2021, after our interview would soon Steve and years after Parkview ceased to exist. That same teacher who’s been teaching the sex site class of Parkview, was convicted of sexual activity with a child from another school. He’d gone to work out. He’d convinced a 15 year old girl that she was his quote UN quote wife. He was sentenced to three years and three months in jail. We asked leadership of Parkview and others, teachers and students, whether an allegation of this kind surfaced about this teacher back when he was working at Parkview and they all told us no. But it does seem from talking to people that while the school took the sex Ed incident seriously enough to hold a special assembly, they did not do a formal investigation into this teacher and his conduct in the class. Which seems like a horrible red flag mist. The Packers wanted us to know that what they’ve done in the Trojan horse affair this year, long effort that embarked upon was lodged to protect this group of people they believed were suffering Muslim girls and women in the disciplinary hearing transcript so testifies forcefully on their behalf, to hear sutallee, she sacrificed her career, defending a Muslim woman. That’s how committed she was to their well being. But let’s consider that incident, which suicides as the impetus of a timer Parkview coming to an end. She testified about it Underoath at the disciplinary hearing. The incident on the bus where a Muslim woman colleague Amina was spoken to brusquely by a teacher, a man who told us this interaction was indicative of the wider issues at the school where sexism was going unchecked and women and girls weren’t being respected. And she says that’s how Amina saw it too, that the atmosphere of the school had changed since she’s been a student there. What we mean is other specific things. She told you that she saw as issues at the school. Just this sort of pressure to behave in a certain way you know not to be individuals, girls not to be individuals. She said that yes, yes ‘cause she was. She was very much an individual perform teacher. And yeah yeah, I mean there. So I know I knew really well. Yeah, beautiful girls. Why did Amina then what you go through this investigation without commit to defense? She just went quiet at that point. She climbed up like what happened. Well yeah, I mean no. No one would speak out. Did you go to her and ask her say, like can you? Can you back me up here? I was. I was speaking on your behalf but I didn’t knowing what had happened to me. I didn’t want to possibly ruin her future. I mean just at the time, even when when when Mars said after visiting Sue and Steve I got in touch with Amina to ask if this was how she remembered things she didn’t want to do an interview but she wrote back pretty heated. This was a routine outing where a colleague was a little short. She wrote if this incident was as serious Asus Fantasy I would naturally have raised a formal complaint. And ensured there was a reported outcome. This was a professional school with all the normal accountabilities and procedures. I am perfectly capable to raising the issue if that was my intention. Remarkably, in all the years Sue has been talking about Amina and this bus aftermath, Amina told me no one, not the British humanists, not any official investigator looking into Sue’s allegations. Not a single lawyer from the legal teams litigating the Trojan horse cases has ever contacted her to ask if what Sue was saying about her was accurate. Amina had no idea till I reached out to her that Sue had spent years pointing to this incident as an example of endemic sexism at Parkview School, Amina said she never personally experienced sexism there or at any colleagues tell her they did either. Honestly, I got the sense from Amino’s response that she was a bit annoyed with me for taking sues account seriously enough to write a whole email asking her about it. Quote the account stipulated by Sue comes across as nonsensical. In summary, she’s implying she has lost her job as a result of taking it upon herself to represent the collective rights of all women suffering such strife at the hands of male persecutors in a World War like setting, and has been martyred by the oppressive regime for absolutely no reasons of around. If anyone believes such prepubescent notions, they are clearly cut from the same cloth. By number means most Parkview School devoid of sexism or patriarchy. Women we’ve spoken to from Parkview been clear. There were problems. Just maybe not the way Sue has been portraying him. I think what sues done is sued, taken the more sensational. Loot. This is Nazarene Kumar who joined Parkview as his acting head of English. A year and a half before the Trojan horse affair. You know she’s saying we’re oppressed. Females are being shouted down by these men, or you know, the girls in the classroom are not given their opportunities. She’s gone for more. More of a sensational. Which is the word of oppression? Parkview had been led by woman head teacher for about a decade, but when Nazarene was there, it was all men at the top. And as we saw how that influences schools culture, a chumminess that she felt disadvantaged women. She found out some of her colleagues were an all male WhatsApp group, for instance called the Parkview Brotherhood, which eventually shut down but Nazarenes. Main complaint was a RV’s. Leadership had a blind spot when it came to elevating women into senior posts. Of course, this wasn’t just true of Parkview, it’s true in secondary schools across the UK. It’s not a uniquely Muslim problem, but Nazrin says, at Parkview, a certain faction of staffers was seeing things through that lens. You know, Muslim men don’t include women. We don’t have discussions with women. Other women are second class citizens. Extreme ‘cause that’s their perception of Islam. So it came under that kind of umbrella that anti Muslim anti. You know men? Sue told us she wasn’t part of a group of any kind, but as rain or others from Parkview have described this, contingent as a sort of click. Instead, it included Sue and a handful of other staff members, mostly women, and a few of them Muslim women, to give a sense of their energy. Nazarene referred to one of the more vocal participants as PP poison planter. That row each other up. That would just come into the office and openly discuss things. They would sit around the table and they would openly discuss it. Look, there’s more, there’s more Muslim that’s coming in. There’s more Muslim this and did you know they have this WhatsApp group? Oh look, he’s just got promoted and oh, did you hear what happened today? And it was very draining. As Rain believes, her coworkers were reading too much into things. The tennis issue, for instance, when the girls were brought back from the lesson because instructor was male. Tonight’s rain not a big deal. OK, it’s been brought back. They want a female teacher. Fair enough. Cousin P naessens in this country. He lessons for girls or boys, females and males about males. So I’m asking every school. But to them, it’s a big, massive thing. I remember she had a big issue with this. And it wasn’t just students at Parkview. This poison group was concerned about one of Nazarene colleagues in the English department, a teacher named Sidika be married. Another Muslim Parkview teacher. He was later suspended because of the Trojan horse scandal. When Sedika showed up after summer break newly wearing a hijab, Nazrin says Assumption started flying. Said her, he’s oppressing her. He’s forced her to wear the scarf, the brainwashed, her. Was that word used, brainwashed, next, brainwashed, interestingly, another Muslim member of staff as well said it. It forced her to do it. I was just, you know, finding that I was so comfortable in this school and I always wanted to embark on wearing the hijab. Here’s Sedika and I just talked myself. You know what I mean? Such a work environment that it just made me feel like I was welcome to be who I want to be. So to be in a place where it was OK to not have to quietly hide. I was like I’m just trying to have my own journey in my own little bubble in my own little place and you’re telling me I was forced. If anything, I was feeling nervous about putting scarf on because of those opinions because of the likes of Sue. Sue says she’s never had a problem with women choosing to wear a headscarf. She told us she knows there are a variety of views among Muslim women and she respects that she and Steve assured us that they were reflecting the views of many Muslim women at Parkview. But one thing we’d noticed reading through the records from the disciplinary hearing against Parkview’s leadership were Sue and Steve testified. Not a single Muslim woman from Parkview School came to testify alongside them to give evidence against the schools leadership. The Muslim woman who did appear from Parkview. Spoke in support of the school. We asked Sue about this. Why are there no Muslim women from Parkview who kind of testify saying we were discriminated against? We were oppressed. Do you know why? I think it’s just because. The women aren’t very good at speaking out. I shouldn’t say the women, sorry. A lot of women perhaps aren’t confident to speak out. In that community, especially female Muslims, I think they just sort of fear about speaking out. The Packers wouldn’t put us in touch with any of the colleagues they say they were testifying on behalf of. They told us these people didn’t want their names passed along to us. Holmes and I have heard criticisms of Parkview from some women who attended. As students once said, even though prayer wasn’t mandatory, she felt there was a social pressure from some staff to take part and that the atmosphere could be strict. She said she couldn’t wait to go to college. Other students told us they really appreciated having prayer at school and the other religious elements, but they did remember one or two moments from their time there that bothered them. In retrospect, like when a male teacher told a girl that her skirt, which was fine for the dress code, should be longer. They agreed these were things that should have been addressed, but nearly all the women we talked to, staff and students were uncomfortable with Sue being their emissary. As one student, put it after we render some of Sue’s letters and writings about the school. That’s a white person’s view of Islam. And they told us they were offended by the suggestion that they couldn’t speak for themselves. Do you think it’s possible that you’ve misread some of the things that were happening at Parkview or the way that women felt there? Absolutely not. It was really hard because you you didn’t you know you would we not prejudice, you know at all? I mean we know my closest friend is a female Muslim girl. And I’ve got lots of friends and we both have. You know you just afraid that your your your be made out of your racist that you don’t understand the cultures and I feel that we do understand the cultures. But I mean it was just about you know this group of men forcing one sort of. Form of Islam on a whole community. Can I ask you about your Ofsted complaint Sue? At one point at Sue and Steve’s, I pulled out a copy of the letter Sue sent to Ofsted and Birmingham City Council about Parkview School in the summer of 2013. I just want to confirm that this is what this is. Can you confirm? Do you recognize that? Yeah, and this was sent anonymously, yeah? OK. In a story littered with letters, this one stands out. Sue wrote it to Ofsted while she was in the thick of her dispute with Parkview leadership over what had happened to Amina on the bus, which led to Sue’s resignation. She wrote this months before she went to the British Humanist and then to the Department for Education. And then all the other officials and journalists and investigators she spoke to. In this letter, it’s pretty raw. I see it as kind of a cast mold of Sue’s mindset. During this time, before lawyers and officials had an opportunity to maybe sand down the edges of her account. So in this letter to Ofsted, so you say that children said in a class that homosexual should be thrown off a Cliff or burnt alive and that the teacher who was head of that year agreed and said that’s what we believe. It’s what we believe. Yeah, you said the entire staff was told not to compliment girls in the school. In this letter I said you said that young girls from Parkview are being taken away to get married and that staff are not stopping it. In this letter to Ofsted, yeah. And then you say that there’s a Sharia Council promoting Sharia law in Alum Rock. I never saw Sue bring up these specific allegations again, the ones I listed to her. Also interesting, I never saw her use the word Sharia again, either. You don’t make these allegations again. Why only here? In this anonymous letter. If it’s true that children said in a class that homosexual should be thrown off a Cliff or burned alive. And a teacher agreed. You never mention it again when you’re when you’re understand or in giving evidence. Because I I wasn’t witnessed to that, but I know other people were. So the reason is because it was hearsay. Is that why? Yeah, I mean. A lot of things are hearsay, aren’t they? But the. The concerns that I sent to Ofsted were. Legit, legit legit legitimate truthful concerns, but you didn’t want to stand by it in a sworn witness statement. It sounds like. Is that what I’m gathering? Try I try to and that’s OK I’m just I just wanna understand why. If there were these serious things there in an anonymous letter but not in sworn witness statement. I think with the witness side of it, I was trying to stick to facts. The things that I had actually. As much as possible, you know. Witness myself. OK, so that’s the difference here. How come you just didn’t do that here? Why not always stick to facts? Because I was trying to raise an alarm here, right, right? Is that why you use the word Sharia? Possibly. But it was, but it’s true. Draw Sharia councils in that area. You say I feel what is happening there at the school now can only be likened to Sharia law. This is what you tell Ofsted. This was an anonymous letter that I did. After having had the allegations made against me, I certainly wasn’t being treated properly. I wasn’t being treated fairly. And obviously. I was just doing some research into Sharia law. One last part of Sue’s letter. That’s worth mentioning in the middle of her 4 pages anonymously written. There are a couple of paragraphs about and I’m getting deja vu. As I say this an employment dispute. Sue goes on a tangent about the acting vice principle and how he had applied for a job. But the school said they weren’t going to give it to him. She writes it’s because he’s not Muslim. Quote The leadership team promoted themselves into their new roles and they have created jobs for male Muslims. The acting vice principal who got passed over. Though Steve. Those who doesn’t say in the letter that she has any relation to him. Sue told us again that she wanted to end the interview and this time it was for real. It had been dark for hours goodnight. Anyway, thank you guys. Thank you Mike West. Yeah yeah, we’ll be alright. Thank you so much, Brian. I shuffled at the cottage and jumped in the car and get out of here please on it. I told him as I lined up the crooked driveway in my rearview mirror, geez. I may have run over some bushes. We collected. What struck me by suing Steve was how this mild mannered couple with their anonymous letters and gold filled animal book had been taken so seriously by government agencies, the media, the public wants it because they package their concerns as Muslim issues and now fit a worldview that so many hold that Muslims are like this that we’re sneaky controlling the men, misogynistic the women meek. The next morning we went to see the person who played a large part in giving the Packers credibility. Richie Thompson of the British Humanists the secular lobbying group that was instrumental in empowering soon Steve. They’ve since rebranded as Humanists. UK as my brother alluded to, these British humanists have a reputation amongst some of being Islamophobic. The humanist denied it strongly, and I said they’ve worked with lots of Muslims and ex Muslims, but that’s not what Brian and I were there to discuss with them that day. We went to see Richie to find out why he and his fellow humanists believe the Packers. And what they’ve done to verify the Packers claims before endorsing them. But in the midst of our back and forth, Richie would utter 5 words that were so callous, so enraging that whatever so-called journalistic civility is, I was meant to uphold came tumbling right down. That’s interesting, yeah, it started off friendly enough. Brian went through his standard 1st 15 minutes of the interview, but Rob from like what’s a humanist wedding? Or somehow he in which he got into the contradiction of God. In the omnipotence paradox, the paradox, because if he’s all powerful then he would be able to move the object. Therefore he can’t create it. I lost my patience about the time they began reading George Eliot quotes of a poster on the wall where a smile and make friends, where a scowl and make wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other? Of course one thing interesting about George Eliot is that this is let’s let’s crack on with the thing that we came to talk to you about today. How did the British humanist get? We asked? What if any fact checking Richie and his colleagues did have? Soon? Steve claims about Parkview, and his answer was unsurprising. At the time, we did not go to any effort to verify the allegations beyond talking to them and and seeing whether or not we felt in broad terms that they were credible. How do you make that assessment? In broad terms, even how do you make an assessment? Perhaps talk to someone without seeing any evidence? How do you get the confidence? Yeah, well it it’s difficult. And of course we can’t be fully confident. We just have to work out whether or not just from a broad conversation. If they seem sincere and they did and and he said he was in touch with two or three other people from Parkview, who shared similar concerns as the Packers who alleged there been instances of gender discrimination and homophobia at the school. And he said his time went on, he felt the allegations were corroborated by other reporting. But he also told us the humanists didn’t have an obligation to verify or investigate Sue and Steve, because as far as he was concerned, his organization was just the messenger shuttling the Packers issues over to the people in charge. Do you think it’s dangerous to allegations out there specifically on the Internet? Unchecked, unchallenged, uncorroborated? You think that’s a dangerous thing to do? Well, it depends on the nature of the allegations. Obviously it was, while Hamza was questioning Richie about a bunch of claims against Parkview that the humanist had published on their website without checking them or contacting the school 1st. That Richie set him off. I would also say as well with regard to your reference to fake news that this of course was five years ago, when the problems that we have seen since with fake news things don’t happen overnight. It’s the climate that’s created through years and years of this kind of stuff. These kind of stories. There’s a sentiment that has now taken hold and taken over, and is informing everyone political choices and everything else in the world. Because of events like this, the children horse, which I’m sure you’ll accept as far as Britain is concerned, had a huge impact. What impact did it have then? What impact did it have? 5 words. Ritchie had been a booster of the Trojan Horse affair for years. He helped bring it into being. He’d promulgated it through the halls of power and into the national consciousness. He held a fund raising drive off the back of it with Sue. But he was asking Homza to catch him up on what impact the Trojan horse had. It changed our educational policy. It changed our counterterrorism policy right. It gave lifetime bans to educationalists in East Birmingham. It destroyed Parkview Trust that was doing things that were people around Europe are coming to to learn from. It had a swarm of headlines. This was referenced in the Tory party conferences. Jerome, saying like this, this is not a little thing. Yeah, this wasn’t a little thing. Yeah, it continues to inform debate and dialogue about Muslims in this country. Yeah, sure. Sure, OK, so you ask what if that’s the impact it had, so I don’t know you know? Well, I don’t know that it it’s quite. I think obviously I I I I I don’t know what to say for all that impact. Clearly all the impact and everything else that went around. It was not on us and Hampson Richie kept at it. Things were getting tense. Humanists were looking at us through the glass wall. I got why Hamza was pissed but he was no longer doing what I’m used to doing interviews. He was supposed to be asking Richie for his take on events, not spewing his own take at Richie. I didn’t think it was getting us anywhere. Doesn’t justify you gotta go, we gotta go man, we gotta actually go to our next interview things, things I mean, we’d like to know what these other these other people you seem quite angry, Richie said to Hamza. I’m angry because I feel like I feel like there’s things being talked about and the consequences of this are not quite registering with the people who are responsible for it. That’s why I’m angry. Can I ask you two final questions? First, Richie asked Hamza, do you think we were right to pass on the allegations to the Department for Education and Ofsted? Yes, Hamza told him but he wished the humanist had made clear. We haven’t looked into any of this ourselves so I think a bit of caution on your part may have helped. What’s your second question? The second question is, do you agree by the time the humanist really started amplifying Sue Packer by sending her out for press interviews in April 2014, the Trojan Horse affair was already a massive story. Nothing we could have done at that point would have made any difference anyway, Ritchie says. Look what you could have done by April. If you’d started by April, investigating your own sources, and if you found Super TV and untrustworthy source, that’s what you could have done by April before she gets in front of Peter Clark before someone is getting a lifetime ban. That’s something you could have done by April to change the entire spectrum of this conversation, so there was still something left for you to do in April. If you’re done your job. No comment. Richie turned from us stricken and walked out of the room. I packed up our stuff and headed out of the building to get us a cab at somsa. Go look for Richie to shake his hand. Just invite him for a drink I wanna because he’s a young lad he’s a young lad that’s having to quite frankly answer for things that are. Beyond him. And I appreciate that he he tried. Get us up yelling at people. I think you can say exactly what you’re saying and not yell at them. That’s what turns them off. I don’t give a fuck mate that doesn’t turn him off, that’s what gets him to finally just stop fucking around. This isn’t a fucking joke. You’re asking me what did the Trojan horse do? Fuck this mate. Fuck this mate is about as accurate or reflection as you could come up with of where Hamza was. By this point, two years into our investigation and I’m not just talking about what the Trojan horse story I’m talking about where Hamza was at with journalism. This whole thing is just. It just makes me lose my mind sometimes mate. And you’re asking me to stop screaming. And this wasn’t the first time he and I had had a disagreement about how to do this work. Next on the Trojan horse affair, cucumbers and Coker bombs. The Trojan Horse affair is produced by homicide and me, along with Rebecca lacks. The show is edited by Sarah Koenig. Additional editing by IRA Glass and by her contributing editor Aisha manager Siddiqui. Fact checking and researched 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 Phil Donahue. Ski at the audio non visual company. Julie Snyder is our executive editor. Neil drumming is managing editor. Supervising producer isn’t day. Chubu executive assistant is Alberto DeLeon. Sam Dolnick is an assistant managing editor of the New York Times. Special thanks to Allah Herrera and Osama Sayed as well as Sidra Saeed Saeed and shirinsayit. Sosha, ahima and Sam Doya fourth draw audio is licensed while Lola clips I. TV archive. 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