The question is posed by George Readings of the Quilliam Foundation in a piece for Comment is Free, the purpose of which is to defend Quilliam’s policy of uncritical support for state surveillance of Muslims.
Given the inflammatory character of his charges, you might have thought that Readings would feel it necessary to present some very convincing evidence to substantiate the claim that support for violent Islamism is indeed a serious problem in Britain’s schools and that teachers are refusing to counter it.
Yet Readings provides just three examples to back up these accusations. He refers to the report that Hasib Hussain, one of the 7/7 bombers, made “supportive references” to al-Qaida in his exercise books but was nevertheless regarded by his school as a model student. He also offers a personal anecdote: “When I was at school in Birmingham, one of my contemporaries – a boy of 11 – regularly stated his desire to blow himself up outside the Israeli embassy. Teachers largely stood by bemused.” The third example is that of the “Christmas Day bomber” Umar Abdulmutallab, whose youthful support for violent Islamism consisted in expressing sympathy for the Taliban – at a school in Togo, west Africa.
And that’s the sum total of Readings’ evidence in support of his thesis that sympathy for violent extremism is rife among Britain’s Muslim pupils and schools are standing by allowing it to happen. But this is par for the course with Quilliam, who have never allowed facts to stand in the way of anti-Muslim scaremongering.
Another example that comes to mind is Ed Husain’s baseless claim that Britain is threatened by the development of Islamic ghettos where Muslims are particularly liable to be drawn towards terrorism. However, Husain’s drivel appeared in the Daily Mail, a paper with a long record of anti-Muslim propaganda. Reading’s piece has been published by the Guardian, from whom we might have expected a greater sense of responsibility.