The appointment of a former head of anti-terrorism to investigate allegations of extremism in Birmingham schools threatens to create a “growing community divide”, according to the city council leader.
Sir Albert Bore told the Post that the appointment of Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, by Michael Gove, will create tension in the city’s large Muslim community.
Education secretary Mr Gove has appointed Mr Clarke to lead a review into claims of an alleged schools takeover plot by hard-line Islamists, known as “Trojan Horse”.
But it has been given an uneasy welcome in the city, with West Midlands Police chief constable Chris Sims describing the appointment of Peter Clarke as “desperately unfortunate”.
Labour leader Coun Bore had a conversation with Mr Clarke this week warning him he will have to “work harder” to win over communities as a result of his background.
He told the Post: “If you bring someone in badged counter-terrorism then the interpretation of the situation is pretty obvious. The big Muslim community out there in Birmingham are going to feel a little uneasy that the person that Michael Gove has brought in is a counter terrorist expert and not from an education background.
“I have said therefore, at first sight, the announcement is a missed opportunity to address these very serious matters.”
Coun Bore’s comments came after Mr Gove stepped into the fallout of “Operation Trojan Horse” – which began with a leaked letter claiming to be sent between fundamentalists showing plans to replace them with those sympathetic to their Islamic beliefs. The council has received more than 200 complaints and 25 schools are now under investigation in the city amid claims of plans for segregation and bans on sex education.
Coun Bore added: “The worry for us in Birmingham, that is all of us, has to be now about community cohesion.
“There are a number of issues about the schools. Ofsted have gone in and those issues over a period of time will be properly substantiated or refuted. There is a process.
“If this process is interpreted to be one which is about Islamification, about radicalism, about terrorism, then what we have is the ingredients for a growing community divide, community tension, that has to be our worry. Chris Sims has simply expressed that concern.”
He said he had spoken to Mr Clarke at length to ensure that his investigation doesn’t undermine the confidence of communities in the city.
“He clearly understands that the counter-terrorism label starts him off with a particular view of his appointment, and he will have to work harder,” Coun Bore added.
The Education Secretary ordered inspectors from Ofsted to go into 15 schools in the immediate aftermath of the reports – and the results of the inspections are due shortly.
Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood described Mr Clarke’s appointment as a “deeply provocative”.
She said: “The idea the way that one looks into these allegations of governance and bullying in a transparent, judgment-free way is to appoint a counter-terrorism expert is quite simply shocking.
“What would have been much more appropriate was an adviser-led process with someone appointed jointly by the DfE and Birmingham City Council.’’