Education secretary Michael Gove has spent the last week involved a row over the supposed spread of Islamist extremism in schools. For those who haven’t been paying attention this has involved:
• A potentially faked letter alleging a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to spread Islamist extremist values in Birmingham schools.
• A row over the government’s approach to such extremists between Michael Gove and home secretary Theresa May, culminating with May’s special adviser resigning.
• Gove being forced to apologise in public.
• Ofsted reassessing a group of Birmingham schools under orders from Gove and finding a ‘culture of fear’.
• A lot of angry school parents.
Some of this stems from Michael Gove’s belief that Britain must stand up to fundamental Islam, part of his reputation as one of the few members of the cabinet who could be branded a true neo-conservative.
Luckily, Gove’s written a book on this very topic, enabling us to work out what he really thinks. And over the weekend we settled down with a copy of this 2006 work, entitled Celsius 7/7, to try and work out what’s driving him on.
Here’s what the book tells us about Gove’s approach to Islamist extremists:
1. Gove says jihadists are the “militant vanguard” of a movement representing many Muslims.
2. Gove cannot stand those in the West who blame their own governments for domestic terror attacks.
In Gove’s mind the wars in Iraq and longstanding support for Israel have nothing to do with the actions of individuals in the US and UK.
3. Even in 2006 Gove had little time for Home Office attempts to combat extremism.
Gove is equally exasperated with groups that (he believes) wrongly claim to represent most British Muslims, such as the Muslim Council of Britain. He believes these groups are often more conservative than mainstream Muslim opinion.
4. Gove has no time for opponents of the nation state, be they Islamists or representatives of the United Nations.
Gove is willing to defend the nation state to the end. Which means attacking people who believe the United Nations should have authority over national parliaments, while also attacking people who believe religious zealots should have authority over national parliaments.
5. Gove has no time for people who draw parallels between atrocities such as those committed in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib and other extreme actions.
Moral relativism is not his cup of tea. Gove believes Westerners are too willing to project their own concerns and worries onto overseas issues such as the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
6. Gove shows concern with British Muslims who feel little affinity to their country.
7. Gove draws direct parallels between Islamist extremism and fascism.
Gove cannot contain exasperation with those who do not take the threat of Islamism seriously, insisting it is just as totalitarian as its “sibling ideologies, fascism and communism”.
8. Gove has never had much time for ex-RESPECT politician Salma Yaqoob.
Yaqoob is, in a twist of fate, currently leading the attacks on Gove in her capacity as spokesman for the Hands Off Birmingham Schools groups.
She has previously stood for parliament as a representative of George Galloway’s RESPECT party.
9. Gove believes democracy must be spread in the Middle East if the West wants to defeat Islamism.
(This was written before the Arab Spring.)
10. Strangely, a chapter in Gove’s book is entitled “The Trojan Horse” – the same name given to the schools plot letter.
In this chapter Gove attacks the decision to “appease” Islamist fundamentalists by allowing certain preachers a safe haven within Britain during the early 2000s. This “shameful and short-sighted” decision was “appeasement” in his eyes.
Eight years on and Gove is still spending his time worrying about Islamist Trojan Horses.