Thought For The Day #2809 June 2014
Broadcast 9nd of June 2014 on BBC Radio Bristol
Audio available at http://www.mytalky.com/dXZ
I’ve been thinking about this public row between the Education Secretary and the Home Secretary over their handling of allegations about Muslim extremism in Birmingham schools. On the one hand I’m wondering why this has become something of a personal issue between two of the most powerful personalities in government. And on the other hand, what’s the reality behind Operation Trojan Horse, the apparent plot to artificially steer schools into becoming more Islamic?
You may not be surprised to hear that R.E. was by far my least favourite subject at school. So you will likely find it odd that I ended up completing a degree in Religious Studies. Naturally I was reluctant at first, but I very quickly realised that university education is profoundly different from school education. The academic study of religion is unapologetically demanding and for extremely good reason.
I don’t think it can be overstated just how much emotion is associated with the religions of the world. Just take the context to Operation Trojan Horse for example. It is the tip of an iceberg that stretches all the way back to September 11th, the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Middle Eastern wars and the brutal murder of Lee Rigby last year.
The most important thing I learned during my training wasn’t about the nature of our world religions. Instead it was about the rigorous discipline required to maintain an awareness of how my personal feelings and agendas colour my judgements.
Michael Gove and Theresa May clearly have personal feelings and agendas at play. And I find their inability to separate them from their professional obligations deeply disappointing. In terms of the approach needed to understand what is really happening in Birmingham they have fallen at the first hurdle.