Bradford Muslim Women’s Council (MWC) held a debate on the Trojan Horse issue last Friday 12 September at the Midland Hotel, Bradford.

The event was well attended and included Leader of Bradford Council David Green, Faisal Khan who has been in the limelight since the scandal hit last summer,  Ajmal Mansoor, Imam and Broadcaster amongst others.

Selina Ullah, Director at MWC said the reason for hosting this debate was because she feltthe Trojan horse has become linked to the Muslim community, and as the Muslim women’s council they wanted to bring the subject out and discuss it openly.

“There are different connotations attached to the Trojan horse and in a way we wanted to facilitate an open debate and discussion and share the different views that people might be having.

We are not necessarily saying that the Trojan horse is an issue for Bradford but what we are saying is that it’s out there and government policy is being made on the back of it and in reaction to it. We as the Muslim community are affected by it and we need to have the space to discuss and debate it.” She said.

Faisal Khan, who is no stranger to the issue, said “Trojan Horse is a serious issue because of the picture that it paints, what its saying in essence is that Muslims are an enemy of the state, and Muslims have been unfairly targeted. What it’s done in effect is that it’s given people who tend to have views that are quite racist or Islamophobic it’s now given them an open hand to do what they want to do.”

Ajmal Mansoor, who had been invited to speak at the event said “it’s about education, it’s about understanding education is not a monopoly of any one nation, race or people. It’s a basic human right to every single human on this earth, and when the quality of it fails communities will look at alternative ways of providing that education. So I’m here to tell and share with everybody that the current education system in Britain is miserably failing, and we have a collective responsibility of improving it.”

Coun David Green told a packed audience that Trojan Horse didn’t exist in Bradford, but stated that it was important we got people involved in the running of schools and that a partnership with schools and communities was the key.

Green went on to add that there needs to be a serious partnership with parents. When challenged by a member of the audience why this serious partnership wasn’t happening he said “Challenges affect all cultures and we need bedrock of a great education system. I think the issue is a problem for every community and we need to work together, have discussions, and put a foundation in place.”

Many who were at the debate accepted there was a problem, views on how to tackle the problem varied.  Ajmal Mansoor said in order to tackle the problem we all need to have a conversation that says that education isn’t always secular education.

“The British model influenced by neo-conservative or secular groups isn’t the panacea for all troubles in education. We have to be inclusive, we have to listen to the narratives of the religious folks and be honest and robust about it. I feel that honesty and robustness is missing in the current discourse.” He continued

Faisal Khan who is preparing evidence for an upcoming scrutiny committee said

“Going forward with the community I think there’s a big job at hand, if we can’t be effective in governing bodies and we are removed from there there’s still the big job of underachievement within our schools and I think we need to be empowering parents to be able to do that. I’m not going away ill still be here working hard to do that.

Bradford needs it, by 2020 we’re going to have the biggest youth population in the whole of Europe and so we need to be educating people into further education and employment, not onto the streets.”