A headmaster in Bradford by the name of Ray Honeyford wrote an article in The Salisbury Review (at the time edited by the philosopher Roger Scruton) about the effects of multiculturalism on British state education.
In the article, he described how poorly assimilated some pupils of immigrant backgrounds were and that parents did not want their children taking part in certain classes as it did not fit their cultural background.
He also described how political correctness was hampering debates over the issue.
The term ‘racism’, for instance, he wrote, functions not as a word with which to create insight, but as a slogan designed to suppress constructive thought.
He later stated Cultural enrichment is the approved term for the West Indian’s right to create an ear splitting cacophony for most of the night to the detriment of his neighbour’s sanity, or for the Notting Hill Festival whose success or failure is judged by the level of street crime which accompanies it.
At the schools’ level the term refers to such things as the Muslim parent’s insistence on banning his daughter from drama, dance and sport, i.e. imposing a purdah mentality in schools committed to the principle of sexual equality.
You would be forgiven for thinking the article was written within the last five years. In fact, it came out in 1984, a telling year perhaps.
The article was met with a fair amount of controversy, to the point where the then Labour Mayor of Bradford Mohammed Ajeeb led a campaign to have Honeyford sacked. It partially succeeded, with Honeyford being released from his job. However, after some appeal, he was reinstated but was still hounded with calls to go and took early retirement two years later.
After Honeyford’s death in 2012, certain individuals (including Graham Mahony, the former chief race relations officer for Bradford) quietly admitted that he had made valid points in the article.
Even if Honeyford’s words have been reappraised from some quarters, have they been taken on board?
I say it depends on the narrative; who is involved and we have to factor into account the more modern phenomenon of ‘intersectionality.’
I’m asking myself this question as news has surfaced, in perhaps a repeat of what Honeyford wrote about, of Muslim parents protesting the teaching of LGBT orientated education, designed by teacher Andrew Moffat, at the Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, with the reason being that it goes against their principles or ‘contradict the Islamic faith.’ A councillor by the name of Mohammed Idrees, who supported the protest, was also investigated for making homophobic comments.
Furthermore, the 5Pillars network, which claims to be the largest regulated Islamic news network in Europe and North America, reported that in a meeting held on the 4th of February in Birmingham, 200 Muslim parents had gathered to protest the ‘promotion of homosexuality in schools.’
Firstly, the phrase ‘promotion of homosexuality in schools’ reminds me of what the Christian right would say, citing concerns about gay maths or school library books which reportedly showed gay couples as parents.
There was of course the case of Section 28 put in place under the Thatcher government and not wholly opposed by Labour initially, which claimed to stop the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It was met with justifiable concerns, particularly from the left at the time, that it was illiberal.
Section 28 is now long gone, and LGBT related education is featured in mainstream schools quite commonly, for better and for worse.
The academic Dr Joanna Williams has argued that children are now being forced to ‘unlearn’ the difference between boys and girls (something which is ‘sowing confusion’ in children), as part of an inclusive education towards trans pupils. This is an issue I can agree with concerns over and I can understand why it has unnerved some parents. I would also question whether a Key Stage One pupil using terms like ‘gender fluid’ or ‘non-binary’ actually discovered those phrases themselves.
Now, before the progressive left says see, that means you oppose LGBT education too! I’m a gay man who certainly has no issue with teaching respect towards people of different orientations in education, quite the contrary. I don’t support ‘woke’ postmodernism dressed as LGBT education. Often the argument in favour of this style of education is to imply anyone opposed to it is bigoted or ‘transphobic,’ however these arguments were tailored by the progressive left with the idea that they would only been aimed at white Westerners, which is where the awkward moral hiccup for the intersectional brigade begins.
In the case of Parkfield Community School, the parents complained as it didn’t fit their Islamic beliefs or culture. As Ray Honeyford forewarned, it’s a rejection of what is deemed Westernised education that doesn’t fit with certain beliefs.
There are no explicit mention of concerns about gender fluidity or trans issues from the parents or the councillor involved (unless it has not been included in news reports), just a repetition of the word homosexuality – rather like what old-school religious right people would repeat.
To use a phrase that’s irritatingly common, I don’t see it as ‘whataboutery’ to say had they been parents of Christian or Jewish pupils rejecting an LGBT initiative (whether we agree with the initiative or not), a councillor of the same faith was investigated for homophobia and a meeting of 200 people belonging to either of those beliefs was held to oppose it, progressives would know which side of the debate to be on.
Ultimately and predictably, the ‘subscribe to this or you’re a bigot’ mindset pushed by progressives when it comes to such education (but aimed at Westerners) has collided with a culture and faith group they also defend whatever the circumstances, and consequently that mindset has hoist itself on its own petard.
The intersectionality issue colliding with the Parkfield School debacle also reminds me of an article Owen Jones wrote for gay magazine Attitude in which he stated Members of the LGBT community must stand behind under-fire Muslims and that the same people who want to beat up gays want to beat up Muslims, too.
The article is not what I’d call particularly well-thought-out. For example, Jones stated today, London is the only major Western city to have a Muslim mayor, and Sadiq Khan has voted for LGBT+ rights, including equal marriage, and faced death threats for doing so, casually glossing over the fact that Khan received death threats from Muhammed Aslam Naqshbandi Bandhalevi, an imam from Bradford who declared a fatwa on Khan, and that the incumbent Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb is a Muslim who faced death threats from other Muslims for not being sufficiently Muslim enough.
However, as much I could pick holes in the article, the nub of the argument is that as ‘fellow oppressed minorities’ as it were, LGBT people must be in solidarity with Muslims. However, I find myself somewhat reluctant to make a stand with the parents attending the meeting it Birmingham. It demonstrates the paradoxical problem of the intersectional approach to minorities and ‘oppression.’
It’d be easy for progressives and lefties like Jones to hypothetically express moral outrage at a group of socially conservative Catholics or Orthodox Jews making statements like we want our community ethos respected in response to LGBT education (as one of the attendees of the Birmingham meeting stated on video), as they are not considered as ‘marginalised’ by comparison. The charge of ‘reactionary bigot’ is easier in that case.
I suspect the progressive left who like to put minorities together to fight anyone seen as ‘oppressing’ us didn’t think that some of the cultural or religious groups deemed ‘marginalised’ were going to conflict or clash with other ‘marginalised’ groups within these wonky alliances by seeing homosexuality as not acceptable to their culture or beliefs.
The case of the meeting in Birmingham and the parents rejecting Western values will likely slip under the radar from the perspective of the progressive left – perhaps surfacing when the progressive left will use the charge of ‘Islamophobia’ against anyone reacting to the issue.