THE best sense I have read about "faith schools" and the
supposed "Trojan horse" plot was actually in The New York
Times, where Kenan Malik stripped it down to essentials. It
was not so much that he made any new points, but he left out all
the inessential ones.
"What the investigations have revealed is not a jihadist plot,
but attempts to enforce conservative religious values. What is
particularly ironic is that the Government itself has encouraged
communities to pursue their values within schools.
"Ofsted guidelines published earlier this year permit Muslim
schools to segregate pupils by sex, 'restrict' the teaching of
music and art and allow girls to wear the hijab 'as a part of their
identity and a commitment to their beliefs within Islam.' (In light
of the Birmingham events, Ofsted appears to be reconsidering its
advice, but no new guidelines have yet been issued.)
"If such practices are acceptable in faith schools, why not in
all schools where parents may desire them? And if these values were
unacceptable in the nondenominational Birmingham schools because
they did not 'prepare pupils adequately for life in modern
Britain', why should they be tolerated in faith schools?
"Whether or not there was a plot to take over Birmingham schools
is almost moot. There was no need for a plot. By fragmenting the
school system, pushing the mantra of 'parental choice' and
encouraging communities to promote their values, the Government
itself opened the door to Islamists."
But the entirely correct belief that this arises from parental
choice only brings us to the heart of the problem. Always, in the
background, is the gigantic failure in poor areas of the
centralised state system. If you look at it in terms of incentives,
as policy-makers tend to do, when children emerge from school
functionally illiterate, this has worse impacts on their families
than on their teachers. Thus it makes sense that parents should
have more invested in driving up educational standards than
teachers. But that, of course, presupposes that parents and
teachers agree what the purpose of education is. It's clear from
the story, that there is overlap, but not identity of purpose,
especially when it comes to educating girls.
THERE was another trot round the houses for "sin" and "the devil"
in baptism services, really because this was the least boring thing
to come out of the Synod's agenda. We have had it only two or three
times before, whereas the story about a crucial vote on women
bishops has been written at least 20 times over, and there still
aren't any of them around. Besides, everyone knows that there will
now be women bishops one way or another by this time next year.
It's just a question whether the Synod does it, or Parliament
In the Telegraph, John Bingham had: "The Church of
England has reinstated the word 'sin' into baptism services after a
backlash from parishes who complained a new wording was 'bland',
'dumbed down' and 'nothing short of dire'.
"Plans to introduce an alternative order of service using more
'accessible' language, have had to be redrawn after members
inundated Lambeth Palace with letters complaining the move went too
The Guardian ignored "sin" (actually because the
reporter had forgotten the last confected outrage), and
concentrated on the devil. The Mail went with sin. In all
these, what was interesting was the implication that Common
Worship was the traditional service, in the same way as St
Paul wrote the Authorised Version, and a student once asked N. T.
Wright to autograph a copy of it.
THE Mail also had news of Canon Jeremy Pemberton: "First
clergyman who flouted the Church of England's gay marriage ban is
fired by his bishop." This walks an exquisite line between exciting
suggestion and banal literal truth. The only permission that Canon
Pemberton has lost is the one he does not need to perform either of
his paid jobs: one is as a cathedral singer and the other as a
hospital chaplain in a neighbouring diocese. This isn't exactly
being fired as the world understands it.
HORRORS across the Muslim world continued. The most improbable and
interesting story about the chaos there was the Guardian's
investigation of ISIS's social-media operation, which provides
propaganda for jihad on Twitter and Facebook. It is extraordinarily
sophisticated and nasty, both psychologically (part of the purpose
of beheading videos is to frighten the enemy), and technically.
They work, for instance, to ensure that their threatening videos
climb towards the top of Google search listings for "Baghdad". It's
graphically slick as well: "There are a lot of people in Isis who
are good at Adobe applications - InDesign, Photoshop, you name it,"
one expert says. If they start using PowerPoint as well, the Axis
of Evil will stand unveiled at last.