A set of rules aimed at promoting “British values” in schools could ban conservative Muslims from becoming governors, a religious rights group says. The new regulations follow allegations of a “Trojan Horse” plot to Islamisize schools in the UK.
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The Department of Education has introduced a new set of rules governing free schools and academies in Britain. The regulations dictate that school governors and trustees should demonstrate “fundamental British values” and give the state powers to close the schools if they do not toe the line.
“The Academy Trust must ensure that principles are promoted which support fundamental British values,”say the rules. These include respect for democracy and the democratic process, support for gender equality and tolerance of different faiths and religions.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MBC) argues the new rules are discriminatory and allocate too much power to the Department of Education to define “British values.”
A spokesperson from the organization told The Guardian that the regulations could bar conservative Muslims from becoming school governors or trustees and unfairly penalize them for participating in public life.
“As a matter of principle, to have so much power vested in one hand is wrong. But then to have powers over an area over which there is no consensus is, frankly speaking, quite dangerous,” Talha Ahmad, a senior member of the MCB, told The Guardian.
A representative from the Department of Education denied claims that Muslims would be prevented from becoming governors and trustees, maintaining diversity is always welcome in governing bodies. However, the spokesperson said it is right that “unsuitable people” should be barred from the role of governor.
“We are clear that any behavior which undermines the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs is incompatible with being a governor in a state-funded school in England,” the DoE spokesperson told The Guardian.
The new measures come as part of a Department of Education response to the Trojan Horse scandal where an anonymous plot was allegedly discovered to Islamisize UK schools. Following an investigation into schools in Birmingham – where the plot was initially reported – Britain’s chief inspector of schools said “a culture of fear and intimidation has taken grip.”
As a result of the investigation, the Office of Standards in Education placed five schools on a warning list. In addition, a number of governors were banned from holding office.
In connection with the plot, a number of allegations have emerged claiming that non-Muslim teachers were being forced out of schools in Birmingham. In addition, the Telegraph reported practices such as religious fasting and segregation of the sexes being enforced in some schools.
In response to the scandal, Education Minister Michael Gove said that in future UK schools will be required to promote “British values.” Prime Minister David Cameron also condemned the reports and said he wanted to start snap inspections in British schools.