How long do you think a white teacher would last in a British primary school if he were to tell his class of seven-year olds that all non-Christians were “filthy heathens”? Or if he referred to black people using the “n-word”? Or he accused all Muslims of being frustrated terrorists?
Not very long, I expect. The story would be a national scandal, with politicians promising to root out this disgraceful attitude wherever they found it, with earnest, handwringing Guardian editorials about the prevalence of racism in modern Britain, and a soundbite from the Prime Minister himself on Channel 4 News reassuring viewers how personally repellant he found the whole appalling business.
So how come for one particular minority the rules are different? How come, when a Birmingham teacher told his Local Education Authority that he had seen signs of an attempted Islamist takeover in local schools as early as 1993, his warnings were ignored and he ended up being dismissed for “gross misconduct”? How come when a headteacher advised the Department of Education of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” plot in 2010, he too was ignored? How come, the very second it emerged that in certain Birmingham schools Western women were being described by teachers as “white prostitutes” and Westerners generally as “kuffar” the offending teachers weren’t sacked and the schools investigated with a view to closure?
The injustice and cowardice and dishonesty of the cultural surrender here seems to me so obvious that I’m astonished it needs spelling out. But apparently it does. Here we are, after perhaps two decades’ worth of warnings and rumours that, courtesy of the UK taxpayer, British schoolchildren in parts of the country are being indoctrinated in the virtues of racial and religious hatred and of cultural apartheid. Yet only today have we reached the point where our authorities have come round to acknowledging the problem with the publication of Ofsted’s damning report on the way a number of Birmingham schools have been hijacked by Islamist extremists.
Worse still, even now, there remains bitter division within the government over whether confronting the problem remains the right thing to do. Or whether it might be more culturally sensitive to look the other way, because after all, devout Muslims really are concerned about the decadence of the West, and it’s only proper that they should be permitted by the British state school system to treat their girls as second-class citizens, and teach them anti-Christmas chants, and stop boys from urinating standing up, because then they’ll learn from example what it is to live in tolerant country and we’ll all get along just fine, probably.
Representing the first point of view in the Coalition cabinet is Education Secretary Michael Gove. Representing the latter point of view is Home Secretary Theresa May. This is the division responsible for their public spat over the last few days and I can certainly see why Gove refused to back down until absolutely forced to do so by David Cameron. Some points of principle are so important they deserve to take precedence over Coalition government unity or career safety – and this was most definitely one of them.
Over the weekend, I’ve read one or two pieces attempting to justify May’s position on grounds of pragmatism. Here she is taking her line from the civil service, especially people like Charles Farr, the former MI6 spy who runs the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism at the Home Office. Farr embodies the attitude which has been government policy since at least the era of Tony Blair: that rather than take on the mammoth task of draining the swamp, it is better to concentrate your efforts on the crocodiles actually attacking your boat. In other words, don’t try to combat Islamist extremism in all its forms; focus on the clear and present terrorist threats only.
But as Gove has long known – read his excellent 2006 book Celsius 7/7 – appeasement doesn’t work; not only that but, by adopting it as unofficial policy, the various governments which have pursued it are almost certainly going against the wishes of the vast majority of the British people.
Most of us find it quite difficult enough already living in a culture so gag-inducingly politically correct that you can’t even play a 1920s recording of the Sun Has Got His Hat On without being hounded by the racist police. The idea that living among us, by special government licence, is a community freed from the obligation to abide either by our increasingly stringent social mores or, in the case of Sharia courts, our laws too, doesn’t necessarily transform us all into raging “Islamophobes” (whatever the word means: isn’t a phobia an irrational fear?). But it most definitely offends very deeply our traditional British sense of fair play.