At least six Birmingham schools at the centre of an alleged Islamic takeover plot are set to be placed in “special measures” by Ofsted in a move that could see their entire leadership removed. The Telegraph understands the six will be rated “inadequate” by the schools inspectorate after a series of snap inspections over the past few weeks. The label usually leads to “special measures”, which in turn give Ofsted the power to remove senior managers or even close the schools.
Ofsted will also take action, although less drastic, at a further nine schools in the city where the attempted Islamic takeover is less advanced, or where secular head teachers are resisting it. Only one of the 17 schools inspected by Ofsted so far in connection with the alleged plot has received a clean bill of health, although one report is yet to be completed.
One source said: “Almost all of the reports to a greater or lesser extent are pointing out flaws in leadership, management or safeguarding driven by an Islamist political ideology. Sometimes the flaws are light. In some cases they are very severe. Those to be put in special measures are those where [radical] governors are effectively running the school.”
Separately, senior sources at the Department for Education (DfE) say they have established an “overlapping web of connections” in the schools affected, with a “driving force which appears to be explicitly Islamist”. This is despite some prominent figures in Birmingham attempting to cast doubt on the credibility of the allegations.
In the reports, to be published at the same time next month, Ofsted will grade Park View; Golden Hillock; Nansen; Oldknow and Saltley schools in Birmingham as “inadequate” for leadership and management, the lowest possible ranking. A sixth school, Alston, is already in special measures.
Springfield; Adderley; Regents Park; Highfield; Gracelands; Ladypool; Marlborough; Montgomery and Waverley schools will be graded as “requiring improvement” in leadership and management, the second-lowest rank, and given enhanced monitoring and support. No concerns were found at Ninestiles. The report on one further school, Washwood Heath, is still being completed. A number of other schools in Birmingham are likely to be inspected after Easter.
The verdicts of the Ofsted reports are almost certain to mean that Tahir Alam, the hardline Muslim Council of Britain activist accused of being the “Trojan Horse” plot’s ringleader, is removed from his roles as chairman of governors at Park View, chairman of the Park View Educational Trust, which also runs Nansen and Golden Hillock, and from his post as a governor of Highfield. His key allies at many of the schools affected are also likely to be removed. Mr Alam denies any involvement in any plot, calling it a “witch-hunt” and “fabrication”.
At Oldknow, another school to be placed in special measures, Bhupinder Kondal, the non-Muslim head teacher, was forced from her job despite also achieving an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.
At Springfield, staff told The Telegraph Christopher Webb, the successful secular head teacher, is under “non-stop attack” by radical members of the governing body. Separately, Mr Webb has received death threats.
A small number of individuals linked to either Mr Alam, a Birmingham charity called the al-Hijrah Trust or an online group called Educational Activists are present in most of the schools affected. In messages leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, members of the Educational Activists group discussed how they would pursue an “Islamising agenda” in schools.
Mark Rogers, the chief executive of the council, claimed only two weeks ago that there was no conspiracy, merely “new communities” raising “legitimate questions and challenges” to the “liberal education system”. Ministers and DfE officials were understood to be frustrated at what one senior figure called “the wilful attempt at every stage to minimise what is happening” by local leaders in Birmingham.
The city council was aware of growing pressure on head teachers almost six months ago, but only acted after an anonymous letter purporting to reveal details of the plot was published. Many teachers have told The Sunday Telegraph their complaints to the council were ignored.
The Charity Commission has warned that Islamist extremism is the “most deadly” problem it faces and is urging the government to introduce laws to prevent convicted terrorists from setting up charitable organisations.
In his first interview since becoming the watchdog’s chairman in October 2012, William Shawcross told The Sunday Times: “The problem of Islamist extremism and charities . . . is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly. And it is, alas, growing.”
He said the commission was taking tough measures against any charity that was “sending cash to extremist groups in Syria” or “dispatching young Britons for training in Syria by al-Qaeda or other extremist groups”.
The commission is monitoring several charities raising money for Syria and actively investigating some others. William Shawcross has written to the Prime Minister requesting laws to deal with a 'ludicrous loophole' that allows those with convictions for terrorism or money-laundering offences to set up charities or become charity trustees.
A state-funded Islamic school was at the centre of controversy last night over claims that a poster banning listening to music appeared on its official noticeboard. The poster, alleged to have been put up at the Madani Schools Federation in Leicester, warned that pupils ‘must stay away from evil acts such as music and encourage others to do the same too’.
A photo of the poster, which is claimed to have been taken by a concerned supply teacher inside the school, has appeared on Facebook.
The poster’s text quoted an apparent saying of the Prophet Mohammed, which said: ‘Music sows hypocrisy in the heart like water causes seeds to grow in soil.’ It also warned: ‘Music is a tool of Shaytan [Satan]’, adding: ‘The messages of today’s music follow a general theme of love, drugs and freedom.’
Leicester assistant mayor Vi Dempster said: ‘Council officers will be visiting the school after Easter to discuss the issue with the headteacher and governors.’
Five men from Bradford and Sheffield in court on child sex charges
Yet another. I have not forgotten the case of the Peterborough men on trial at the Crown Court in Cambridge, but no newspaper is reporting it since the beginning of the month. According to the Court Lists that trial is still going on and I believe the girls have given their evidence. I have not heard that there is a reporting restriction so it may just be self censorship - lets think of 'community cohesion'. Yeah right.
Five men have appeared in court charged with child trafficking and sex offences in relation to a 13-year-old girl. All five were remanded in custody ahead of their next appearance at the Crown Court Sheffield on 28 April.
Shakeal Rehmen, 26, of Haworth Road, Bradford, has been charged with rape and trafficking the girl, who cannot be identified. Mohammed Shapal, 21, also of Haworth Road, and Yaseen Amini, 36, of Broadway, Bradford, have been charged with sexual activity with a child and trafficking.
Usman Ali, 20, of St Mary’s Road, Manningham, has been charged with sexual activity with a child. Shakeal Rehmen, 26, of Rooley Lane, Bradford, is charged with rape and trafficking.
Mohammed Shapal, 21, of Haworth Road, Bradford, Usman Ali, 20, of St Mary's Road, Bradford, and Yaseen Amini, 36, of Lopham Street, Sheffield are all accused of sexual activity with a child.
No pleas have been entered yet to any of the charges.
The charges relate to the week-long disappearance of the girl from her home in Sheffield last summer which prompted a major operation by South Yorkshire Police assisted by the West Yorkshire force. The teenager was later found in Bradford city centre and returned to her family.
One sheet of white paper, folded into four but upon opening seen to be of A4 (European) size, found fluttering on the ground on Martin Street, in Cambridge Mass., apparently just after a large pile of books were seen being carefully taken out of the back seat of a car and brought up the front steps and into a large grey house said to belong to C. Ricks et ux. Was this perhaps the colllection of books that Beckett himself, too stunned not to comply with the shameless request of C. Ricks to inscribe, seriatim, an entire suitcase full of books he, Ricks, had brought with him to their first meeting, had signed one by one and, in so doing, had so colossally envalued them?
It's not hard to imagine that the books in question had finally, the other day, been taken on a little outing to an auction house, possibly as far as New York, for an estimate of what they might bring. Nor is it hard to imagine that, in signing those books decades ago, Beckett might --- by way of a special future treat for his cheeky guest -- have slipped a holographic version of the beginning of a play he never finished, or possibly of the entire play, and that the slip of paper, folded into four, had simply gone unnoticed because all attention was given by the fond owner of the collection to the inscriptions on the first free end-paper of every book, and what might have been thrust by SB deliberately deep into one of them, so as to be discovered, if at all, only much later, could have escaped his notice. Such things have happened before.
Here is what that A4 sheet, folded into fours, had written on it:
P Then Q [underlined]
And that's it.That's the all of it.
If P Then Q appears to be the tentative title. But what about Personne. Quelqu'un.? Is that a list of the dramatis personae, or is it possibly the whole play, in Beckett's most minimalist manner? And whether it is or is not the whole of the play, based on the evidence we do have, where does this work fit into Beckett's oeuvre? Is this a case of Beckett's Last Work being Beckett's Last Laugh a play never performed but nonetheless a performance for which scholars must still be kind, and eke out his performance with their mind?
This calls for a Call For Papers. Papers to be delivered at a conference on the subject, to be held, possibly, either at Jesus College, Cambridge or at Magdalen College, Oxford. The exact date should not be fixed before fellowships have been awarded to, and thoroughly enjoyed by, at least a Baker's dozen of Beckett scholars to study that page, from every conceivable angle -- from early to late Beckett, from Whoroscope and SB's chapter in Our Examination Round His Factifictation For Incamination Of Work In Progress, to middle-period Molloy, Krapp's Last Tape, Watt, Waiting For Godot, and the recently-published Correspondence, especially SB's letters and notes to Avigdor Arikha. And then the Influences on P Then Q have to be tracked down, from those that early repelled (as Joyce's too-much-of-a-muchness),and those that attracted (as Samuel Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes). And finally perhaps someone might wish to consider the possibility that Beckett was letting loose a depth charge that, hidden at first from view, was meant to go off only when come across much later -- a statement, perhaps,expressing just a little resentment, about The Professor And The Writer, about The Hunter And His Prey.
There's so much to ponder, so much to write, so much to tease out from that handful of words on that single A4 sheet, a pocket Lacon with its deep-pocketed unplumbed depths.
Not a minute to lose for that small army of scholars, waiting in the wings. Else What Are The Humanities For?
For best results, the fellowships awarded ought to be at least as generous as those that have supported the work of Stephen Greenblatt, and ideally used to pay for a year of uninterrupted perambulatory thought, through the long lacustrine allees, at Bellagio, on the placid shores of the Lago di Como. But if Bellagio is booked, something in the Aspen Institute line will do.
Handfuls of articles, in the evangelical press, and more recently, at those web-sites most mindful and single-minded about covering the meaning and menace of Islam, do mention what is happening to Christians in the Muslim-dominated lands, especially in the Arab Middle East.. But not all of those sites are appealing in their presentation, able to sway the doubtful and the as-yet-unconvinced, and some are marred by carelessness, self-promotion, tendentiousness, false as well as true charges, and this makes it easier not to heed them. And elsewhere, in the press called mainstream, very little, not nearly enough.
Non-EU Doctors Can Be a Risk for Patient Safety, Research Says
From Liberty GB via email:
The recent news that doctors trained outside the EU perform remarkably worse than others on key exams and performance reviews has created fears and lack of trust in doctors.
This is the result of a study commissioned by the General Medical Council and carried out by the University College London and University of Cambridge, published in the British Medical Journal - the most rigorous study to date – , and a research by Durham University also published in the BMJ.
Non-EU-trained doctors make up a quarter of the NHS medical workforce. We’ve repeatedly – in fact, whenever there is a debate on immigration - been told how immigration has been the saviour of the NHS, which couldn’t be run without foreign doctors. And now scientific studies show that these same doctors, in a high percentage of cases, represent a risk for patients’ safety.
According to the new research, more than 80 per cent of NHS doctors trained abroad do worse than the average British doctor in exams to join the professional bodies for GPs and hospital doctors, and half of them would fail the tests passed by British doctors.
More than 88,000 foreign-trained doctors are registered to work in Britain, including 22,758 from Europe. They account for approximately two thirds of those struck off each year. The country with the largest number of doctors removed or suspended from the medical register is India, followed by Nigeria and Egypt.
“We have no idea about the medical schools they come from and inevitably they’re going to be very varied,” said Professor Chris MacManus, who led the UCL study. He also commented: “There is no real mechanism for checking that doctors coming from outside Britain have been trained to the same level as British doctors.”
The UCL’s findings have been made public now – despite the fact that the GMC working party was due to report later this year – in order to defend an allegation that the GMC was racist in marking the exams of foreign doctors.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin launched a judicial review claiming the GMC failed too many foreign doctors in GP tests. But a High Court judge ruled against it this month after seeing the UCL’s report.
Prof McManus said: “We’ve been through the figures with a fine-toothed comb and there is simply nothing to show that examiners are being racist.”
It’s the same old story: fears of accusations of racism – along with problems of staffing an overstretched NHS - trump everything, including the safety of patients. Will something be done now, after the GMC-commissioned research showed more wide-ranging inadequacies than expected? The language skills have also been questioned.
Various medical authorities are now claiming that the pass mark that enables foreign-trained doctors to work in Britain should be raised “in the interests of patient safety”.
Isn’t interesting that this is what the Liberty GB party, contesting the 22 May European Elections in the South East, was already writing in early 2013 in its manifesto? One of its policies is:
“Rigorously test foreign doctors before licensing them to practice in the UK. Foreign trained doctors are statistically more liable to malpractice and incompetence.”
Rahul Gandhi, last and possibly least of the Nehruvian dynasty, is in a panic over the appeal of Narendra Modi of the BJP. In his latest offering, in Assam State, Gandhi charged that Modi wanted to divide people, just the way the British did when, claims Rahul Gandhi, they arrived and set the Muslims and the Hindus against each other. Apparently several centuries of Muslim rule, and tens of millions of Muslim victims (see the historian K. S. Lal), and of destroyed temples and temple complexes (see the volumes of Sita Ram Goel merely listing those sites), not only Hindu but Jain and Buddhist as well -- none of that matters. It was the British who allowed the Hindus of India to rediscover, without fear, their own history, their own Sanskrit texts -- Ibn Warraq has several good chapters on this role of the British in India in his "Defense of the West."
Here is Gandhi's speech, showing he doesn't know, or doesn't want to let on, that he knows the true history of India, and of the British freeing of the Hindus from the consequences of Muslim rule, to be replaced by far milder colonial rule. One expects a writer such as Okkidental Dalrymple --that is,William Dalrymple, the Barbara Cartland of Mughal India -- to get things wrong. But what's Rahul Gandhhi's excuse?
Robert Redeker: For Many On The Left, The (Muslim) Immigrant Is The New Proletariat
Robert Redeker is the teacher in France who, after receiving death threats from Muslims, had to leave his post.
He has been trying to explain -- to himself, first of all -- why there was so little protest, why so many seem determined to ignore the teachings Islam inculcuates, and the observable behavior of Muslims in France and elsewhere in Europe.
Schools in Birmingham are illegally segregating pupils, discriminating against non-Muslim students and restricting the GCSE syllabus to “comply with conservative Islamic teaching”, an official report leaked to The Telegraph discloses.
Department for Education inspectors said that girls in a school at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” plot were forced to sit at the back of the class, some Christian pupils were left to “teach themselves” and an extremist preacher was invited to speak to children.
The report, into three schools in the city, follows weeks of controversy over the alleged plot to “Islamise” secular schools in Birmingham and will lead to calls for intervention. The report focuses on Park View School and its sister schools, Golden Hillock and Nansen, the only primary of the three. Inspectors found that Park View practised forced and discriminatory sex segregation and has “restricted” GCSE subjects “to comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.
Core elements of the GCSE syllabus were missed out as “un-Islamic” and an extremist preacher with known al-Qaeda sympathies and anti-Semitic views was invited to speak with children. At Golden Hillock, there was discrimination against non-Muslims, the report found. Its handful of Christian students “have to teach themselves” in one GCSE subject after the teacher “concentrated on the students who were doing the Islamic course”.
At Nansen, Year 6 children, aged 10 and 11, received no teaching at all in the arts, humanities or music.
The document, classified “official-sensitive”, describes the results of inspections of the schools last month by officials from the DfE. All three are supposedly non-faith schools run by the Park View Educational Trust.
Mr Alam and the school have furiously denied the claims as “fictitious”, “Islamophobic” and a “witch-hunt”.
However, the leaked report substantiates many of the claims made against the school. It accuses Park View of 20 separate breaches of the law, the schools’ funding agreement with the DfE, and the Academy Schools Handbook.
The inspectors found that, contrary to its denials, Park View did practise forced and discriminatory gender segregation, with “boys sitting towards the front of the class and girls at the back or around the sides”.
The school has always claimed that any separation of the sexes was voluntary. However, the report says: “Students told us they were required to sit in the places which they were given by teachers.” This constituted “non-compliance with the Equality Act” and potentially “less favourable treatment for girls”. There was entirely separated teaching, in separate rooms, for some subjects, the report says.
The small number of Christian or non-Muslim pupils also suffered discrimination, the report says.
At Golden Hillock, five Christian students in Year 11 “have to teach themselves” in one GCSE subject, religious education, because the teacher gave all his or her time “to the students who are doing the Islamic course”.
Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman, an extremist preacher who “is known to extol... the stoning of homosexuals, anti-Semitic views [and is] sympathetic to al-Qaeda”, was invited to address students at Park View, the inspectors found.
The core curriculum at the two secondary schools had been Islamised, with GCSE subjects “restricted to comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.
Children told the inspectors that in biology the teacher “briefly delivered the theory of evolution to comply with the syllabus”, but told students that “this is not what we believe”. In biology, the inspectors also found that “topics such as body structure and the menstrual cycle were not covered in class, though pupils needed them for the GCSE exam . . . students told us that as Muslims they were not allowed to study matters such as reproduction with the opposite sex”. At Park View, a “madrassah curriculum” was followed in personal, health and social education, the report said. . .
Though all the schools are supposed to be secular, the inspectors said they were not sufficiently welcoming to those of other faiths or no faith, with students at Park View encouraged to “begin and end each lesson with a prayer” and loudspeakers used to “broadcast the call for prayer across the school”.
Female staff at the schools were discriminated against, the report says. “One of the senior leaders [at Nansen] interviewed reported that she had never met a governor or been invited to a governing body meeting, although the male senior leader with similar responsibilities was invited to every meeting”.
At Golden Hillock, three members of staff told inspectors that governors were “rude to women and dismissive of their input” and that some governors “will not shake the hands of female senior leaders”.
The report makes clear that Park View’s most senior female leader, the non-Muslim executive headteacher, Lindsey Clark, had been reduced to a figurehead, marginalised to the extent that she “was unaware of the names of some of the more recent appointments to the senior leadership team” at her own school. Last week, Mrs Clark retired.
All three schools were in reality run by Mr Alam, who had an “inappropriate day-to-day role in the running of the schools” and who received undeclared four-figure payments from them as a “consultant”, the report states.
At Nansen the deputy headteacher, Razwan Faraz, “was appointed deputy only three years after [achieving] qualified teacher status”, the report says. No references from outside the schools were taken up for him. As The Telegraph revealed last month, Mr Faraz, the brother of a convicted terrorist, is the administrator of a group of teachers, governors and school consultants called Educational Activists which pursues what he calls an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools.
For those hoping to ignore the Middle East during Easter and Passover, I am the Grinch who will steal the holiday. Approximately 140,000 people have died in the three years of the horrible imbroglio in Syria. Russia, despite its weakness and the moral bankruptcy of its foreign policy, has reaped a harvest of consistency and single-mindedness. It has entirely and unwaveringly supported the Bashar Al-Assad regime, used its status as a permanent United Nations Security Council member to veto any opposing resolution, and has provided superior weaponry to the Syrian government in its war against the atomized majority of its countrymen. Russia ignores European and American disapproval and does what’s necessary to maintain its Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, and pretends to continue as a rival to the power of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.
The conduct of the United States has been much harder to follow and justify. It started with Hillary Clinton infamously referring to Assad as “a reformer.” It then morally supported the dissidents because they were clearly the majority, and because the overthrow of Assad would assure the end of the Iranian pipeline of assistance to Hezbollah and even, up to a point, of Hamas, curtailing the terrible mischief they have inflicted on Lebanon and Israel. But the United States declined to arm the Syrian rebels with the anti-aircraft capability they needed, though such weapons were entirely defensive, for three reasons: The U.S. government was afraid that these weapons would fall into the hands of Sunni extremists; was mesmerized by what it considered to be the more important relationship with Russia (a relationship that has proven to be entirely antagonistic and based on Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s correct calculation that American appeasement could be secured at no cost); and, because the American public, after 10 years, $2-trillion, and more than 50,000 casualties, was averse to any involvement in another Middle Eastern war.
The only provocation that could apparently motivate the United States to intervene was Assad using poison gas on his own citizens. When this was done, President Barack Obama announced that he would punish Assad, deployed American warships in a position to fire cruise missiles at the Syrians, and then abdicated the constitutionally assigned position of commander-in-chief to the Congress. And when the legislators appeared likely to deny any authority to attack Syria, despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurance that such action would be “unbelievably small” (and therefore probably not too onerous a deterrent or punishment), Obama grasped pathetically at Putin’s offered straw of supervision of Syrian surrender of the poison gas stocks to Russia.
The U.S. is checkmated — Assad continues as a Soviet and Iranian puppet and his principal opponents are jihadists and terrorist-supporting organizations, and over 2.5 million Syrians (more than 10% of the country’s population), are refugees in a pitiful condition. The United States is complicit, though only through passivity and negligence, in all that has gone wrong, but has no dog in the hunt for advantage.
Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have all sponsored rebel factions in the Syrian civil war. Saudi Arabia is in a regional struggle for influence with Iran, which is in part a Sunni-Shiite intra-Muslim conflict, and does not forget the efforts of the fundamentalist groups in the region to overthrow the Saudi royal family in the 1980s. (The Saudi government is essentially a joint venture between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi establishment, lubricated by vast amounts of Danegeld paid to the propagation of Wahhabi fundamentalist views around the Muslim world). Turkey and Qatar have been less discriminating and the Turks have supported the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar the local Salafist militias. Both countries are committed to Assad’s downfall but have maintained their relations with Iran. The scheming and conspiring is endless and constant, in all directions and by all sides, as can only happen in the Middle East.
Syria has earned Iran’s loyal support because it has continued through thick and thin to be a conduit to Hezbollah. The Iranians have been steady suppliers of weapons, artificially low-price oil, and extensive military training for Assad’s para-militaries and even regular forces.
With the United States having done a U-turn retreat, Russia and Iran appear strong enough to keep Assad in office and with authority over more of Syria than anyone else. In general, Assad benefits from greater assistance and a severely divided opposition. The attempts to unite the various Syrian opposition groups have failed, and it is all terribly confused because of murky or obscure differences and terminological subtleties, as in the withdrawal, three months ago, of the Syrian National Council from the Syrian National Coalition. Many of the more moderate forces (great caution should be used in applying that word anywhere in the Middle East), are now awaiting events, fatigued by ineffective internecine combat. It is hard to figure out who is in the Free Syrian Army, Supreme Military Council, and the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front and where each ends and the other begins. The Islamic Front, with around 50,000 part-time fighters, seems one of the stronger and more coherent entities and seeks an Islamic state with shariah law. Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, is a more disciplined but smaller organization, and has been more careful than most about collateral damage.
In regional terms, the reduction of Syria to chaos and the quick defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, where it had been the 900-pound gorilla in the room for 60 years, makes life easier for Israel, a lightening of the horizon mitigated only by the American and international feebleness in response to the Iranian nuclear program. But the takeaway message on Syria is that in all of the circumstances, awful though the Assads were and disreputable and unacceptably motivated though their Iranian and Russian sponsors are, it is not clear that an objectively preferable alternative with a practical chance of success really exists.
This seems to be the message of much of the Arab world. There has been little democratic or civic tradition, mainly only despotic regimes relying on military and police force to prevent disintegration promoted by subsets of radical Islam. While it makes a complete mockery of most of George W. Bush’s crusade for democracy and of most of the joyous ululations in the early phases of the Arab Spring, the incapacitation of the Arab powers has reduced the level of exported political mischief in the world, and, one would hope that civil conflict on this scale will eventually cause more sophisticated standards of civic governance to become a widespread ambition.
Iran is obviously close to a nuclear capability and if it so arms itself, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will do the same, and it will probably then be only a matter of time before at least a small nuclear weapon gets into the hands of terrorists and is detonated, when the perpetrators have a reasonable comfort level that they can maintain anonymity. Attacks by another country on Israel are unlikely, as the retaliation would be overwhelming and Israel’s anti-missile defences are so sophisticated, the extent of first-strike damage could not be assumed. What is needed is a general agreement between major countries to keep nuclear weapons out of completely irresponsible hands, as the existing Non-Proliferation Agreement is a Swiss cheese of hypocrisy; and for identification of failed states and intervention in them by international organizations to prevent them turning into breeding grounds for terrorism as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan did.
Given Russia’s domestic terror problems, amply publicized at the recent winter Olympics, it should be possible to deal with the Kremlin on this issue, but it hasn’t been so far. Largely lost sight of are the facts that there has been some progress in the Muslim world. Iraq, Tunisia, and Libya may be better off than they were before their upheavals. Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, the Emirates, and even in an odd way, Saudi Arabia, some of the other Gulf states, and the eastern Muslims, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, have shown some aptitude for self-governance and economic growth. But for better or worse, almost none of the Muslim world seems susceptible to useful outside intervention, and none of the traditional great or even regional powers seem to have any aptitude to intervene effectively.
It does not come naturally to the West to put on the airs of good government given how most countries have been mismanaged recently, but waiting for the Muslim world even to achieve our unsatisfactory levels of responsible public policy could be a very protracted and frustrating process.
While casting about to find something to write about apart from another lamentation over the weakness of most Western political leadership, the collapse of fiscal integrity in all but a few countries, the charade of Iranian nuclear discussions, and the decline and fall of practically everybody, my thoughts alit on Herbert the Raccoon, as my wife christened him, who has largely been living in a little half-moon balcony adjacent to my wife’s third-floor dressing room. In the cold snap in March, my wife put a heater up against the window and Herbert gratefully attached himself like a limpet to the window, turning about every hour to give the benefit of the heat to his other side. A young raccoon, Herbert was just big enough to reach the ledge on the balcony with his front paws and peer out over the view of several miles, his little pointy ears confidently breaking the horizon when we looked out the window from behind him, within the house. His dark, ringed eyes surveyed the scene with the worldly detachment of Jacques Cartier grasping the immense proportions of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence nearly 500 years ago, and famously concluding (rather negatively, as it turned out) that “it is the land God gave to Cain.”
This house is set on a relatively large urban property in Toronto, bordered along one side by a ravine, and we have an unusually high incidence of wildlife, including foxes, deer, skunks, possum, and feral cats. My wife’s two magnificent Hungarian Kuvaszok, white dogs of over 100 pounds that are devoted to their owners but skeptical about everyone else, generally keep the non-domestic animals at a distance, except for the skunks, of course, who go where they please. But last year, a feral kitten fell down a runoff pipe beside the house, and the constant meowing of the kitten, and its sibling at the top of the pipe, eventually alerted us to their presence. To the distant pleasure of their brave and resourceful mother, gardeners dug up the pipe, opened it, and the kittens were conveyed to the veterinarian like two matched Infants of Prague. They returned after a few days in cracking health and undiminished voice and rule the housekeeper’s attached home with the feline assurance of the MGM lion, princes of beasts, and are even deferred to by my wife’s dogs, who are very proprietary with everyone else.
We were somewhat complacently contemplating our status as helpers to nature’s tenacity of life, when the head of the work crew that has been repairing water damage under the copper roof on a pavilion of this house advised that a raccoon and her newborn cub were at the center of the work site, nestled snugly in the newly deployed insulation (cleverly adapted to the requirements of maternity). We all traipsed up the steps to take a view, and only a heart of stone would not have been touched by the sight: Herbert, it emerged, was Henrietta, and her cub was too little to walk or open its eyes, and its mother kept one paw on it at all times, stroking reassuringly. Once again, severe options were out of the question, and Google gave us a crash course on what to expect. As in the affair with the kittens, the local animal-rescue people were utterly hopeless. A year ago, they advised us to starve the kittens to death in the pipe; now, they told us that a mother and her cub could not be moved and there was nothing for it but to concede to the squatters and turn the work site into a veterinary maternity ward for up to eight weeks.
More ingenious heads, especially Henrietta’s, prevailed. As the housekeeper, the felines’ friend, arrived, with a cage trap in one hand and the familiar thick (dental-resistant) gloves in the other, Henrietta conducted an exploration prompted by the workmen’s use of the microwave. The foreman gently removed the cub to a warm, grassy place within an adjacent walled garden. This was the moment of truth, as there is apparently some chance of a mother raccoon’s abandoning a cub who has been handled at all at a young age by a human. But Henrietta, walking with authority despite her youth and fatigue after what must have been a very enervating act of birth, appeared and was seen by my wife scampering at speed with her cub in her mouth to the comparatively under-populated orchard. It too is fenced, as this entire property is zoned into areas so we can rotate the dogs and gardeners around without the dogs’ chasing the gardeners up the trees and forcing them to call for help with their cellphones. There are also the foibles of neighbors to be considered, as some of them are hostile to dogs and manifest this in unseemly ways designed, successfully, to rouse these essentially friendly if protective dogs to simulate the Hound of the Baskervilles and other legendarily terrifying canines. So other fenced areas can provide buffer zones, cordons sanitaires, with neighbors. Henrietta puzzled the system out with great acuity, and she moves between zones with her little passenger; she sometimes returns, when the coast is clear, to the two warmer places, in the roof and on the balcony, that, by her talents as an explorer, she discovered for herself. There have now been enough sightings for me tentatively to claim victory in this little drama for the party of life.
I cannot claim that the point to this mundane story is obvious, yet it all seems reassuring to me — reassuring because everyone, including the workmen, had the same instinct that we must help young life, even though raccoons are at times notoriously irritating animals. And reassuring also because after such a severe winter, the rites of spring have begun, and however challenged and apparently stifled, life always has what it must to go on. Despite the banality of the thought, we have all found it uplifting to see this small confirmation that despite every natural and human challenge and unkindness, life has waged a battle that it has never lost. I should probably apologize for this platitudinous little yarn, but I will not — I have reviewed what other columnists and bloggers have written in the last few days on the more frequent current political and economic personalities and subjects, and Henrietta and her cub are more interesting and more admirable. We would rather have them sheltering in or near our house than almost any contemporary political leader I can think of.
Houghton Mifflin World History: Patterns of Interaction
Last Friday in Tallahassee, April 11, 2014, the Republican controlled Florida Senate passed SB864 sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) by a narrow vote of 21 to 19. The measure would eliminate State Department of Education control over selection of textbooks returning that role to Florida’s 67 school districts, requiring open public hearing on texts used in courses. The bill reflected in part concerns of conservative Groups over the Common Core Curriculum State Standards, sponsored by the National Association of Governors and Council of Chief State School Officers seeking to impose national standards. Despite that criticism the Common Core has been adopted in Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).
However, SB864 was largely prompted by a different issue; objections of parental groups in several Florida counties in about the treatment of Islam and Muslim culture in world history textbooks on the Florida State Department of Education list of approved texts. A companion bill (HB 921) is working its way through the Florida House sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton. That version would provide a local option to districts to review texts; however, the selections must still meet state standards. Gaetz was quoted in a News Herald editorial saying: “I think there’s an increasing frustration by parents in our state, that they don’t have a lot of say regarding the content and materials their children use in the classroom.”
Local advocates here in Florida drew attention to misrepresentations of Islam in protests in Volusia, Brevard and Sarasota Counties. Our Iconoclast post on the subject, “Sarasota, Florida’s biased Islam textbook problem”, highlighted the relentless efforts of citizen activist Aya Sewell. Ms. Sewell is of Iraqi Jewish heritage, members of her family were subject to a 1941 pogrom against the Jewish population in Baghdad, the Farhud. Sewell led a campaign against such texts locally in Sarasota, as well as before the Florida Department of Education. Elsewhere in the US, Tennessee parents have also raised objections to similar course material extolling Palestinian suicide bombers. Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) in Boston accused the Newton, Massachusetts school board and superintendent for permitting use of texts and course materials that engage in promoting false information regarding both Islam and demonization of Israel. APT undertook content and bias analysis and promoted their findings that included placing ads in local area media and a petition campaign.
An article in the current edition of Education Week noted the debate over the pending Florida textbook legislation:
[Sen. ]Hays said the legislation was needed so that school board members will be accountable to parents and voters. He said school board members have blamed the state for the textbooks they picked.
"This bill imposes on the local school board members the responsibility and accountability to their citizens," Hays said.
Opponents complained it would cost districts money to review textbooks. Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she was worried that some districts would wind up censoring some books, while other senators raised questions about whether districts would pick textbooks aligned to the state's current standards.
Even Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart questioned Hays' bill.
"From a practical standpoint it lifts a burden from us," Stewart said. "But we heard loud and clear from districts that they rely on (the state review). They need that. They don't have the resources to be able to do that."
Following the Florida Senate vote on SB864, CAIR-Florida unleashed an ad hominem campaign against Sen. Hays. CAIR undertook an Action Campaign sending Florida Legislators an inflammatory Daily Beast opinion column by Dean Obeidallah, that headlined, “Islamophobic Florida Republican Would Legalize Textbook Censorship”. Obeidallah (which means “little servant of God in Arabic”) is a former lawyer, self-styled Arab American standup comic, son of a Palestinian father and mother of Sicilian ancestry who grew up in Paramus, New Jersey. Self proclaimed Muslim Obeidallah has been involved in several controversial issues including an apology to the Romney family. CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood front group, was listed as one of several unindicted co-conspirators in the 2008 Federal Dallas Holy Land Foundation Trial involving funneling tens of millions to Hamas, an MB affiliate.
This latest action by CAIR-Florida followed earlier criticism of SB386, also sponsored by Sen. Hays, on the acceptance of foreign laws in certain cases by Florida’ s court system as “bullying legislation against Muslims and other minorities”. Both SB386 and companion house version (HB903) are currently pending floor votes in both the Senate and House prior to the end of the 2014 Legislative session on May 2nd in Tallahassee.
To illustrate the concerns of Floridians that prompted Sen. Hays and Rep. Gaetz to sponsor SB864 and HB 921, we investigated an assessment performed by Jacksonville-based Verity Educate (VE) of one the texts on the approved list of the Florida State Department of Education. It was Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Holt McDougal high school text book called World History: Patterns of Interaction. VE is a non-partisan, independent organization that uses scholars to examine and provide thorough reports on content accuracy and objectivity in textbooks and curricular material. VE has performed such assessments at the request of parental groups in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas.
A letter we requested from the executive director of VE, Dr. Ellen R. Wald, noted the scope of their investigation of the Houghton Mifflin high school text book:
Verify Educate examined the 2012 Tennessee edition of World History: Patterns of Intercation. Verify Educate's analysis concerned only the sections of the book dealing with the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as other related topics, including certain events in India, Spain, the United States, and the region around the Black Sea. This was done at the request of parents who specifically felt that their backgrounds were insufficient to examine these topics.
VE’s findings from its analysis are:
The reviewed sections of this textbook exhibit regular flaws of factual inaccuracy, dishonesty, and bias. The primary concern with this textbook is the desire to make arguments and instill opinions in the students. These arguments come at the expense of instilling a fluency in the material (a knowledge of the language and facts). An additional effect of the focus on arguments is the lost opportunity for students to practice and develop critical thinking skills.
The most prevalent flaws in this textbook include the following:
• The text presents religious texts and tradition as historical evidence even absent independent corroboration. The text regularly uses the Koran and other religious writings to relate events as history and fails to mention when no independent corroboration from sources outside the religion exists. In most cases the text fails to differentiate between history and religious tradition.
• The text portrays religion as the defining characteristic of the Middle East and Central Asia throughout history, such that essentially all accomplishments and events are based on religion. Among the detrimental effects of this argument are lost opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, distorted views of history, and the denigration of the inhabitants of this region. Limiting the basis for the history of the Middle East and Central Asia to a narrow focus on religion disparages and demeans the people, politics, geography, and historical events that occurred, particularly when religion is not highlighted in other regions.
• The text repeatedly asserts that the religion of Islam dictates “tolerance” of nonMuslims and that Muslim rulers have historically practiced “tolerance” towards the non-Muslim populations under their rule. This argument is promoted at the expense of examining historical facts honestly and fostering critical thinking. Students are presented with a conclusion and historical facts are often manipulated or stripped of nuance to convince students, even in cases when this conclusion is false. The focus on religious “tolerance” is unique to the sections of the text discussing Islam, and it borders on obsession and bias.
• The text depicts the depth and breadth of “Muslim contributions” as unique in history and as the result of Islam. In this regard, the text consistently attributes the successes of diverse societies to religion alone, even when these societies are geographically dispersed and chronologically distant. For example, the text connects the mathematical advances of a 9th century Spanish mathematician to the architectural exploits of a 17th century Mughal emperor in India based solely on their religion. The diverse Muslim populations over a 1500-year period do not constitute one society. In addition, the attention devoted to “Muslim contributions” far surpasses the attention given to any other society’s accomplishments.
That leads to the question of who wrote such misleading entries about Islam that the VE analysis uncovered in the Houghton Mifflin publication.
One of those groups relied on by major textbook publishers is the Council on Islamic Education known as the Institute on Religious and Civic Values (IRCV). Its founder, Shabbir Mansuri, is listed as an academic reviewer on a textbook used in Brevard County.
In 2001 the OC Weekly newspaper in California interviewed Mansuri about comments Lynne Cheney made lamenting the amount of time schools were spending teaching cultures that were not American. Mansuri took her comments as a personal attack.
“For the past 11 years, Mansuri has waged what he calls a ‘bloodless’ revolution: promoting an increased emphasis on world cultures and faiths – including Islam – inside American junior high and high school campuses,” the newspaper reported.
The IRCV had Saudi funding to pay Muslim scholars writing those chapters in the Prentice Hall, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin and other world history text books.
Back in 2002, this writer ran interference for the American Jewish Committee chapter in Connecticut in an episode involving federal funding of a Da’wa program on Islam run with Muslim instructors as a summer program for public high school teachers at a state university. During that episode we made the acquaintance of Stanley Kurtz of the Hoover Institute at the time on this issue. Kurtz wrote a series of investigative articles for the NRO about the Title VI USDOE Higher Education Act grants for Middle East Studies programs dominated by Islam and Palestinian apologists. Universities, as Kurtz pointed out who benefitted from US Higher Education Act Title VI grants were engaged in preparation of work books for teachers in K-12 that engaged in role playing for fourth graders costumed as Arabs.
That effort led us to the forensic reviews –Islam in the Classroom – conducted by Dr. Gilbert T. Sewall of the American Textbook Council (ATC) on world history texts produced by the four major US textbook publishers. Sewall found those treatments biased and in some cases prepared by the Saudi-financed and California based IRVC. We later found out that effort had begun in the “image studies” funded by American oil partners of ARAMCO in the early 1970’s objected to in the mid 1980’s by a study conducted by a school district in Tucson, Arizona. The latest edition of the continuing ATC review of Islam in the Classroom What the Texts Tell us by Dr. Sewall was published in 2008. Its conclusions corroborate the findings of Dr. Wald’s analysis in the VE report. To wit:
Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and conflicted view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.
• Misinformation about Islam is more pronounced in junior high school textbooks than high school textbooks.
• Outright textbook errors about Islam are not the main problem. The more serious failure is the presence of disputed definitions and claims that are presented as established facts.
• Deficiencies about Islam in textbooks copyrighted before 2001 persist and in some cases have grown worse. Instead of making corrections or adjusting contested facts, publishers and editors defend misinformation and content evasions against the record. Biases persist. Silences are profound and intentional.
• Islamic activists use multiculturalism and ready-made American political movements, especially those on campus, to advance and justify the makeover of Islam-related textbook content.
• Particular fault rests with the publishing corporations, boards of directors, and executives who decide what editorial policies their companies will pursue.
Publishers have developed new world and U.S. history textbooks at three different grade levels. Errors about Islam that occurred in older textbooks have not been corrected but reiterated. Publishers have learned of contested facts and have had the time to correct imbalances. But instead of making changes, they have sustained errors or, in deliberate acts of self censorship, have removed controversial material.
In an interview, Dr. Wald of VE analyzed the effects of Florida Senate Bill SB864 :
While SB864 leaves all of the Florida state standards intact, and even highlights further standards to ensure fairness to all ethnic, religious, and diversity groups, the bill provides for parents and communities to have a greater say in the local education system. Given that the standards are maintained, I can't see how this bill could engender any more censorship than would come out of the current state review process. In fact, the bill has the potential to severely decrease censorship. Whereas now the state board can reject material for the entire state, under this bill, each community would make its own decision, and a rejection would only impact that community.
We commend Florida Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Matt Gaetz for their sponsorship of SB864 and HB 921. Given the analyses of Drs. Wald of Verity Educate and Dr. Sewall of American Textbook Council Florida may lead the nation to reign in the misleading depiction of Islam in World History texts. By devolving reviews of leading publishers to local school districts in the Sunshine State that may allow concerned parents to sponsors such studies forcing publishers to finally correct errors of both omission and commission. We look forward to the reconciliation of the Senate and House versions leading to passage and ultimate enactment into law.