David Cameron accused of 'divisive smears' over Islamic schools claim
From The Times
David Cameron was accused of using "divisive smears" by the Schools Secretary after alleging that a radical Muslim group had set up two schools with the help of public cash meant to tackle extremism.
The Tory leader claimed that the Government had been warned that the independent schools in London were being run by a “front organisation for Hizb ut Tahrir”.
Demanding an investigation from Gordon Brown, Mr Cameron said schools run by the ISF (Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation) in Slough and Haringey, London, had received £113,000 of Government money, some of which was from the Pathfinder scheme, the objective of which is meant to be preventing violent extremism.
But within hours of Mr Brown promising an investigation, Ed Balls, the Secretary of State, said that the money going to the schools in Slough and the north London borough of Haringey was in fact intended to fund free nursery places for three and four year olds.
Mr Balls told BBC’s Newsnight: “The issue here is that a very divisive allegation was made about two schools which splits communities, which divides our country, on the basis of false allegations.
“The question is were these schools promoting terrorism or extremism? We have sent in Ofsted advisers, who have gone in and said No. I looked across the curriculum and the evidence was No. In the last few weeks... Haringey and Slough looked at the facts and there was no evidence that extremism has been promoted.
With Haringey Council's record on failing to protect abused children I wouldn't trust them to tell me the correct time.
Mr Balls released inspection reports that he said showed there was no evidence that the schools had broken any rules and challenged Mr Cameron to provide evidence to back up his claim that they had received cash from funds meant to prevent public extremism.
The head teacher of one of the two schools also accused the Tory leader of failing to check his facts. In a statement, Farah Ahmed said: “Our school is being used as part of a wider political agenda and this type of vilification of the Muslim community needs to stop.” Or else.
But Conservative communities spokesman Paul Goodman told Newsnight: “A charity controlled by an extremist organisation that supports attacks on our troops in Afghanistan has been funded by Ed Balls’ department. Ed Balls is throwing up chaff. We know perfectly well that the person who headed up this charity has spoken on Hizb ut Tahrir platforms and her husband is the main media operator for Hizb ut Tahrir in the UK.”
Accusing Mr Brown of failing to act on a pledge to ban Hizb ut Tahrir in the Commons yesterday, Mr Cameron had said the funding showed the Government needed to “get a grip” on the fight to contain Muslim extremism.
Mr Cameron said he had first asked two years ago about the “extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir and why, despite an explicit promise by Tony Blair that it would be banned, it still hasn’t been banned”.
Hizb ut Tahrir had been looked at and was not a proscribed organisation, Mr Brown said. Ministers needed full evidence in order to proscribe an organisation, he said, telling Mr Cameron: “I think you may regret some of the remarks you have made this morning.” Be afraid, be very afraid.
In a statement, Haringey council, the local authority covering the other ISF school, said: “The school wrote to us on November 20 stating that it no longer has any links with any of the individuals who are alleged to have connections with Hizb ut Tahrir. We are waiting for evidence from the school that the reported connections have been completely severed.”
A visit to the school found “no evidence” to suggest inappropriate content or influence, Haringey said.
Channel 4 report - Ofsted: Haringey still failing children.
Posted on 11/26/2009 2:57 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax