Sunday, November 29, 2009

UK: Hizb ut-Tahrir in schools dispute

A month ago I reported that Hizb ut-Tahrir was receiving gov't subsidies in order to run a nursery and two schools in the UK.

One commentator on my blog claimed that those allegations were untrue, and that the school did not teach a Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology.

According to the article the schools are run by the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation, a registered charity, and at least three of the four trustees are Hizb ut-Tahrir members or activists.
The original article was meanwhile either moved or removed.

British Conservatives brought up the issue in Parliament last week, but the gov't claimed they had their facts wrong:

1. The money did not come from an anti-terrorism fund, as the Conservatives claimed
2. The school had been inspected by Ofsted, the British school inspection department

Andrew Gilligan, who broke the original story, rejects those claims.

Cameron did mess up by saying that the cash was from the Pathfinder part of the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) fund. It was actually from a different fund, for nursery education, confusingly also called Pathfinder.

Nor does HT run the schools directly. They're run by a charity called the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation. "Shakhsiyah Islamiyah," or the creation of an "Islamic personality," is one of the key tenets of HT ideology - the title of a three-volume book by the group's founder that is required reading for all new recruits.

But Balls is not playing a straight bat. He says the Foundation has told him "that it no longer has any links with any of the individuals who are alleged to have connections with Hizb ut-Tahrir".

Firstly, as Balls ought to recognise, that's not the point. The point is the situation prevailing at the time the money was paid. And at that time, the lead trustee of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation and "proprietor" of one of the schools was Yusra Hamilton, who definitely does have "connections with HT." She's spoken at HT conferences. She's the wife of HT's main media spokesman, Taji Mustafa. Even the Foundation refuses to deny that she's a member of HT.

The Conservatives admit they didn't get all the fact straight, but continue to claim that the schools are run by Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Mr Balls
told BBC2’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.

“That’s the responsible thing to do. The responsible thing for David Cameron to do was to check the facts with me before he made smears and allegations which divide our communities.”

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.”

Most articles supporting the gov't focus on the fact that the schools passed inspection, but apparently the school inspector is not a completely neutral party:

However, the first report on the Haringey school, in November 2007, said not enough was being done “to promote cultural tolerance and harmony”.
In a second report in May 2008, the inspector, Michele Messaoudi, said “satisfactory progress” had been made.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that Ms Messaoudi has links with Islamic organisations and events. Last year, she was a judge for the Global Peace and Unity awards in London.

The awards and the associated conference, which Ofsted said Ms Messaoudi did not attend, are organised by the Islam Channel, whose chief executive, Mohammed Ali Harrath, is wanted by Interpol for alleged terrorist offences.

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