While western leaders look at how to grapple with the rising threat of the group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or ISIS, in Britain fears are growing that the terror that ISIS is wreaking across Iraq and Syria could find its way back to these shores.

Added into the mix are the investigations by Ofsted and the Department for Education targeted five schools in the inner city with largely Muslim pupils, placing them in special measures.

Four of the schools are academies and are likely to be handed over to new management by the Department for Education early next month.

To discuss this VoR’s Brendan’s Cole is joined in the studio by

Dr Brooke RogersReader in Risk and Terror at King's College London

Reyhana Pateljournalist, writer and researcher specialising in issues concerning Muslim communities;

Myriam Francois-Cerrahjournalist and broadcaster.


MF: “I think it has a very devastating impact on the community in Birmingham. If you speak to parents on the ground, it’s clear that many of the children feel that they’ve been stigmatised by the media attention and specifically by some of the headlines which linked the schools to extremism.”

“Rather than assessing the problem accurately and therefore dealing with it as an internal issue of governance, we are now discussing extremism and that is not what this issue should be about.”

“I think it is problematic that a school trip should implicitly exclude certain children by virtue of them not being Muslim. A school trip should be accessible to all children! But do I think that this is somehow a reflection of an extremist plot to take off Birmingham schools? Absolutely not! I do think that it is a reflection of a change in mood within the government which is being pushed to really crack down on the Muslim community.”

RP:“I live in Birmingham. If you go into the schools and you talk to some other teachers and the students, they are absolutely disgusted by the fact that they are being targeted by this government political battle. The fact is that these schools were following the guidelines that were provided by Ofsted and by the government. They were not doing anything wrong, according to those guidelines. So why now, all of a sudden, is Ofsted coming out and saying there is extremism in the schools? Some of the schools were rated as outstanding by Ofsted, so there was no evidence of extremism and they still haven’t found any evidence of extremism. So it clearly is a political battle going on. They are trying to alienate Muslim schools. “

BR:“This is more of a general issue that we’ve been struggling with in terms of defining and understanding the diversity of British identity.”

“When we define extremism in academia we believe that these are political ideologies that are opposed to society’s core constitutional values and principals. This isn’t about religion. It is about citizenship and identity; and it is being made highly emotive when we talk about it only in religious terms.”

MF:“If you say to parents – you should be telling us if your child goes off to Syria, at the same time, you are saying that people who will be in charge of monitoring this are going to be the security services, so what you are saying is that if you tell us that your son’s been off to Syria, we’ll arrest him as soon as he lands, therefore you’re putting parents in a real dilemma...”

RP:“The motivations for young people going to Syria to fight are quite different from the motivations that we’ve seen in home grown terrorists like with 7-7. People that are going into Syria go there with a humanitarian angle to help the Syrian people. When they get there, they probably then become radicalised into going out and fighting.”

BR:“It’s not illegal to hold radical views. Radicalisation is the process where we are trying to describe changes in attitude that actually leads towards sanctioning and, what we are worried about – involvement and the use of violence for a political aim.”

“We need to recognize that the pathways towards violence are different for every single individual. And, when we are talking about numbers, from 300 to 500 and 2000 across Europe, it is very difficult to actually understand who’s just playing with these ideas and who is engaging with the new ways of thinking, and might actually be put off by these ways of thinking, and move away from violence at some point. When we look at some individuals who go out, who think that they are going out for a greater cause, quite often, they find that they don’t fit in there either. They can actually become even de-radicalised and want to come home. So there are mixed pathways to violence. “

“There is an interesting dynamic taking place within Islamists groups where there is a fragmentation taking place, they are fighting for power. They disagree on certain aspects of how they should move towards caliphate. I think that that could actually have the power to create a little bit of confusion and undermine some of the groups who have been gaining attraction over quite an extended period of time.”

MF:“If we think about the region more broadly, we can think about the failure of political Islam through more institutionalised roots to find a means of establishing a type of Islamic state. In other words, the use of formal political avenues to establish a political system which reflects an Islamic ethos in line with the views of some of the political parties we’ve seen in the region.”