The Trojan Horse Affair: How one podcast exposed a shameful period for Britain’s political and media class

EDITORIAL

THE TROJAN Horse Affair may be almost a decade old, but its impact on British Muslims is still felt today.

One anonymous letter triggered national panic in Britain.

Front pages decried an Islamist plot within Birmingham schools. Prominent ministers like Michael Gove acted hastily, sometimes without the full facts.

The issue was, it was widely accepted as fact.

To many, there was no doubt that there was a plan by British Muslims to take over and run schools according to conservative Islamic law.

Nine years after the anonymous letter emerged, the New York Times has put out one of the best pieces of investigative journalism in years.

The series exposes the failures of Britain’s political and media class in a simple manner – revisiting the story. Talking to primary sources and getting their side.

At the time, it appears the Establishment committed to the lie when it became embarrassing to turn back.

Gove, for example, launched his inquiry despite being told the letter was bogus, according to the podcast.

But the series also highlights a disturbing point about media coverage.

Much like Boris Johnson’s false invocation of a Jimmy Savile-related accusation to attack Sir Keir Starmer, the damage is already done.

It may have been proved false, but in the minds of many – perhaps those who tend to support the BNP, EDL or other right-wing parties – this is what British Islam is.

When the Batley school protests flared up, the imagery was resurrected once again.

Former chief inspector of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw told The i that the demonstrations reminded him of the Trojan Horse Affair.

Corrective journalism – performed masterfully here by Brian Reed and Hamza Syed – can only do so much. It’s the media’s responsibility to, as they did with the Savile row earlier this week, immediately call out falsehoods.

Until then, Britain will continue to succumb to untruths.

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Featured Image: Birmingham Mail Front Page

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