Michael Gove MP: ‘We must monitor Muslim schools’
It is reported in the Jewish Chronicle that he has challenged the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (who thought of this department?) to ‘tackle the real challenges to community cohesion in schools and campuses where extremism remains an issue’. And he questions an issue which Cranmer raised some weeks ago – that of giving the Association of Muslim Schools the right to establish its own inspection arrangements, even though its deputy chairman, Ibrahim Hewitt, is under investigation by the Charity Commission in his capacity as chairman of ‘Interpal’ – a pro-Palestinian organisation. Mr Hewitt is head of the Al Aqsa school in Leicester, and is on record as saying that 'the word integration doesn't even belong in a true democracy'. He has also called 'political zionism a threat to world peace', and has talked of the 'zionist control of the media'.
Mr Gove expresses concern that Muslim faith schools are not being adequately inspected, noting that the King Fahad academy in West London has used textbooks that describe Christians and Jews as ‘pigs’ and ‘monkeys’, yet Ofsted inspectors appeared to have failed to investigate such texts.
Is it really credible that a group of Muslim inspectors would have picked up on this, and criticised it, and published its report for the world to see?
But it is brave of Mr Gove to single out Islamic schools. It leaves him open to all manner of accusations of ‘racism’, ‘bigotry’, ‘ignorance’ or ‘Islamophobia’, but he obviously does not mind. He is an eminently sensible chap who understands the threat of ‘Islamism’, and is determined that it shall not infect the nation’s education system.
It may have simply been Mr Gove’s desire to play to his audience, but Cranmer is puzzled by his singling out of Jewish schools as role models for faith schools. He said: ‘One of the many gifts the Jewish community has given Britain is a brilliant working model of how to combine respect for religious tradition with commitment to shared British values.’
While this may be true, there are also equally brilliant working models among the Christian schools. While the Church of England may have had a few centuries head start, it did not take long for Roman Catholic schools to combine their religious tradition with respect for British values, and this task was far more challenging after enduring centuries of discrimination. Cranmer is pleased to hear that such centres of excellence will be preserved under a Conservative government. Mr Gove said that he and David Cameron ‘are committed to doing everything we can to support and nurture Jewish faith schools. We want to celebrate their success and ensure they’re there for generations to come.’ If this is so for Jewish schools, then a fortiori must it be the case for Roman Catholic schools.
And Mr Gove pours scorn upon some of the battier ideas to emanate from New Labour, such as the absurd idea of forcing faith schools to admit a quota of pupils who did not share their school’s faith. He supports the right of parents to educate their children according to their religious beliefs, and states unequivocally that parents ‘shouldn’t lose that right because of a clumsy mechanism to deal with community cohesion’.
Cranmer looks forward to Mr Gove being Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, but hopes that his first act will be to revert to being the straightforward Education Secretary - just so we all know what he’s supposed to be about.