School Kids in London Borough Vulnerable to Islamic Extremism

Pupils at schools in the London borough of Tower Hamlets are vulnerable to extremism and some students are confused about whether to follow English or Islamic law, the U.K. government schools inspectorate said.

Reports on six independent Muslim-faith schools and one state school were published today by the Office for Standards in Education. State-funded Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School had failed to respond appropriately to “serious concerns” about radical views expressed by pupils on social media, Ofsted Head Michael Wilshaw said in a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Tower Hamlets was spread across newspapers in August after a black flag with white Arabic writing, resembling those flown by Islamic State, was raised above a housing project in the East London district. In the 2011 census, the borough of about 250,000 people was the only one in the U.K. where more people identified themselves as Muslim than Christian.

The six independent schools inspected “were providing a narrow curriculum that failed to promote pupils’ understanding of other faiths and culture,” Wilshaw said in the letter. “Pupils in these schools may be vulnerable to extremist influences and radicalization.”

Pupils were given “very limited opportunities” to learn about history and geography outside of that relevant to Islam. At Mazahirul Uloom School, inspectors found pupils had a narrow view of women and did not teach about homosexuality, Ofsted said.

“Some students told inspectors that ‘women stay at home and clean and look after the children. They cook and pray and wait for us to come back in from school and help with homework,’” the report said.

Sharia Law

The school’s curriculum also failed to promote an understanding of British law. “When discussing Sharia law and English law, they were unable to tell inspectors which laws they should follow, and which were more important,” according to the report on Mazahirul Uloom School.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School had failed to take action to ensure that teachers and students “understand the risks posed by extremism” after concerns were raised by police about social-media postings by some students, the report said. Posts included links to people associated with extremist views, and threatened students with “severe consequences later” for attending school events that did not adhere to religious views.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said in November that commissioners would oversee the Mayor of Tower Hamlet after a report criticized the council’s processes for grants, property sales and contracts. If Mayor Lutfur Rahman was to resign, “he wouldn’t be missed,” Pickles said after the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP was released. Rahman, who heads a locally based party, Tower Hamlets First, and doesn’t have control over independent schools, was re-elected in May.

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