Why Claiming British Identity Is Complicated

The Council House in Birmingham, England. A few years ago, a strange letter appeared on a councillor’s desk laying out an elaborate plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the city’s schools. The plot had a code name: Operation Trojan Horse.
The Council House in Birmingham, England. A few years ago, a strange letter appeared on a councillor’s desk laying out an elaborate plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the city’s schools. The plot had a code name: Operation Trojan Horse.

Why Claiming British Identity Is Complicated

A scandal in 2014, known as the Trojan Horse affair, exposed what it’s like living in Britain as a British Pakistani.Feb. 3, 2022

This article was produced in collaboration with a new podcast from Serial and The New York Times. “The Trojan Horse Affair,” an eight-part mystery, investigates a strange letter that transformed Britain — and the lives of many British Muslims.

We asked three UK-based writers to explore the complexities of the British Pakistani identity in 2022. Click the links below to read their stories.

Photographs by Kalpesh Lathigra

Introduction by Aina J. Khan

The story of Britain’s Pakistani community, the largest Muslim community in the United Kingdom, begins in 1947. Following India’s independence from colonial Britain and the bloody Partition that accompanied it, the creation of Pakistan incited one of the largest mass migrations in history across the region, and beyond. As the sun began to set on the British Empire a wave of nonwhite immigrants arrived on British soil, including former colonial subjects from a nascent Pakistan.

Since that time, straddling the hyphens between “British,” “Pakistani” and “Muslim” has always been precarious — a negotiation only heightened by a scandal in 2014 known as the Trojan Horse affair, when an anonymous letter was leaked to the press, outlining a supposed plot to infiltrate public schools in Birmingham, the second largest city in Britain, and run them according to strict Islamic principles.

The letter was later revealed to be a hoax. But at the time, it provoked national outcry and a political crisis over a city unfairly maligned as an incubator for Islamic extremism.

Of course, the Trojan Horse affair didn’t just affect British Pakistanis. Other Muslims, and especially those at the intersection of various class and racial backgrounds, were profoundly impacted by the Islamophobia and racism that spewed out from the scandal. However, the schools that were the focus of the affair were located in neighborhoods in east Birmingham with majority British Pakistani demographics. And a number of the teachers prominently embroiled in the Trojan Horse affair were Pakistani and Muslim too.

In the new “The Trojan Horse Affair” audio series, the reporters Brian Reed, known for his work on “S-Town,” and Hamza Syed, a British Pakistani Muslim who watched the scandal unfold in his home city, seek to uncover who wrote the letter and why. Their investigation examines not only the origins of the scandal, but also the fragility of British identity for British Pakistanis living with the legacies and contradictions of colonialism and counter-extremism policies every day.

Listen to the show:

The Trojan Horse Affair

An unlikely duo chases down the origins of a mysterious letter that caused a national scandal.

The first generation of British Pakistanis played a critical role in salvaging the country’s moth-eaten economy in the postwar period, filling labor demands in northern industrial cities and towns across Britain. In the 1960s, another wave of immigrants arrived, after a hydroelectric dam flooded in the Pakistani-controlled area of Kashmir, and displaced thousands of people. In the same decade, Pakistani doctors were instrumental in filling a staffing crisis in the National Health Service, a service they continue to provide today.

Seventy-five years after Partition, British Pakistanis have both flourished and struggled. A majority are Muslim, around 90 percent who live in England and Wales, but there is a great variation in ethnicity, religious denomination, class, regional affiliation within Britain and politics.​​

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi made history in 2010 when she became the first Muslim of Pakistani descent to serve in the British cabinet. “As a community, we are politically pioneering and have been at the forefront of much of the framing of the identity of British Muslims,” she said.

In the numerous South Asian shopping districts up and down the country, the cultural impact of British Pakistanis is tangible. Remixes of the legendary qawwali singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and the hiss of sizzling jalebis, a tangled orange mess of deep fried batter drenched in syrup, ring through the air, from Alum Rock in Birmingham and Southall in London to Pollokshields in Glasgow.

You’ll find bazaars and shops laden with hand-embroidered shalwar kameezes, glistening lehenga skirts and artificial Mughal-inspired jewelry. Cake rusk, a double baked biscuit invented by a Pakistani family in the northern city of Bradford, is ubiquitous not just in Britain but also in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood all the way in Queens, New York.

But the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the War on Terror opened a Pandora’s box for British Muslims, of whom 38 percent were British Pakistani in 2011. Islamophobic incidents surged across Europe and increased in Britain after Brexit, the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing and the 2019 Christchurch shootings. The Trojan Horse affair further cast the wider British Muslim community as an “enemy within,” stirring public hysteria and reactionary new policies on counter-extremism and deradicalization in the name of promoting “fundamental British values” in schools.

“In the social imagination of the U.K., the ‘Muslim’ has often been Pakistani due to media coverage and political rhetoric,” said Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, the author of “Tangled in Terror: Uprooting Islamophobia.” Referencing the London transport bombings of July 2005, she added: “After 7/7, which many refer to as Britain’s 9/11, three of the men involved were Pakistanis from Leeds. That concretized the idea that violence — particularly violence labeled ‘terrorism’ — comes from something inherent in the Muslim.”

Even so, according to Dr. Maryyum Mehmood, an academic at the University of Birmingham, British Pakistanis are finding pride in their identities. “This is British Islam: a pluralistic, multidynamic community, sadly overlooked because their lived realities lack sensationalism,” she said.

Inspired by “The Trojan Horse Affair” audio series, through a package of essays and photographs, we ask: Who are the British Pakistani community today? And what does it mean to straddle the hyphens between “British” and “Pakistani,” an identity pairing that continues to be scrutinized?

The main shopping road in Alum Rock, a neighborhood in east Birmingham. “It’s one of the poorest areas in England, and is majority Pakistani and Muslim,” Hamza Syed, a reporter on the show, said. 
The main shopping road in Alum Rock, a neighborhood in east Birmingham. “It’s one of the poorest areas in England, and is majority Pakistani and Muslim,” Hamza Syed, a reporter on the show, said. 

Mohsin Zaidi at his home in London. 
Mohsin Zaidi at his home in London. 

A British Pakistani author and lawyer considers whether his community, which is one of the poorest minority groups in the United Kingdom, have access to the club of Britishness.

By Mohsin Zaidi

Rising to begin cross-examination, a knot of discomfort tightened in my gut. As a barrister, I had a job to do, but I felt deep unease about prosecuting the young Pakistani teenager in the witness box. If it weren’t for my ivory wig and black gown, he and I would look quite similar. And yet, we stood at opposing ends of this wood-paneled London courtroom.

Almost half of all Pakistani children in Britain grow up poor — one of the highest proportions of any ethnic group. This number included the defendant and it also included me: Both of us were raised in public housing and attended failing schools. Our starting points in life were not so different but, through a combination of hard work and luck, I became the first from my school to study at Oxford University and then went on to join the legal establishment as an associate at a top law firm, a clerk at the Supreme Court and then a criminal barrister.

After the cross-examination was done, and I had successfully undermined his version of events, the teenager whispered “traitor” as he passed me on his way back to the dock. How could I and this teen be so far apart?

For a number of Pakistanis, race and ethnicity lie at the heart of their exclusion from claiming a British identity. Much of the country’s racist history has, up until recently, gone untold. The slur “Paki” started life in the mid-1960s as an epithet against immigrants and “Paki-bashing” became a favored pastime of racist thugs. As recently as the 1980s, forced busing, an instrument of the American civil rights movement, also took place in parts of Britain.

However, according to the historian Shabina Aslam, in the United Kingdom, Black and South Asian children were bussed for a different reason: not, as alleged by local authorities, to enable them to access better educational experiences, but to prevent their numbers from discomfiting whites in their local communities.

Ms. Aslam, whose first memories of life in England are of being bussed out in the early 1970s, founded an oral history project on the dispersal of ethnic minority children. They would, in her view, start the journey as passengers on a bus, “but when it arrived at the other end of the city, it became the ‘Paki-bus.’” In its attempts to integrate Pakistani immigrants, the country denied them access to Britishness by treating them differently because of their skin color.


After the cross-examination was done, and I had successfully undermined his version of events, the teenager whispered “traitor” as he passed me on his way back to the dock. How could I and this teen be so far apart?

Mohsin Zaidi, writer

Racial issues, though, cannot alone shed light on why I had access to Britishness in a way that the teen I was prosecuting might not. Understanding our class positionalities, however, can. Pakistanis, the second largest ethnic minority group in the United Kingdom, are, by several measures, the poorest. According to a 2021 parliament report on racial disparity, Pakistanis have the lowest employment rates, the lowest pay (including for graduates), the lowest income and the highest rates of poverty. We are also, by some distance, the most likely ethnic group to live in the poorest parts of the country.

In Britain, class matters. The opening line of the government’s Social Mobility Commission annual report recognized inequality as being “deeply entrenched.” Only 7 percent of people in the United Kingdom are privately educated and less than 1 percent attend the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities. Yet, as the commission found, power rests within this narrow segment of the population.

This is not a new state of affairs. “The empire was run by a particular grade of upper-middle-class person, and this ‘club’ of people is still running Britain,” said Sathnam Sanghera, the author of “Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain.” “Given that empire was, in the 19th century at least, also an exercise in willful white supremacy, the modern British ruling class has a history of racism that can be felt today. For some, this history informs what it means to be British.”

I was a “traitor” because, although I would never be white, through upward mobility I had collected the knowledge, affluence and vernacular necessary for a place in the ruling class that Mr. Sanghera describes. In doing so, I had proved myself a worthy member of this club we call “Britishness.”

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London whose parents migrated from Pakistan in the 1960s, is confident about the community’s contribution to the country. “From food and fashion to the financial sector and sport, the impact British Pakistanis have made on this country has been positive and profound,” he said in an interview. “I think we’ve helped to shape what it means to be British today.”

However, he also acknowledged that “​​if British Pakistanis were on average better off, if their material conditions were improved, and if they had access to the education, opportunities and resources that other groups within British society benefit from, then there’s no doubt in my mind that they could make an even greater contribution to our city and our country.”

Rags to riches stories are heralded as examples of the triumphs of British multiculturalism. As well as Mr. Khan, successful British Pakistanis include the actor Riz Ahmed and the singer Zayn Malik. But celebrating exceptional individuals disproportionately, indeed fetishizing exceptionalism, risks denying the real difficulties experienced by other members of the groups they represent.

“Race and class are completely intertwined issues,” said Ashraf Hoque, a lecturer in social anthropology at the Institute of Education whose research focuses on British Muslims.

Describing the picture as “very bleak” for Pakistanis, Dr. Hoque explained how socio-economic barriers create challenges when trying to embed within British society. “You’ve got ghettoized communities being educated and schooled in those ghettos, trying to find ways out, getting blocked in trying to find ways out and coming back into those communities and engaging and mobilizing resources that exist within those communities and staying within them. So there is a forced insularity that happens, which is all about the nexus between race and class.”

Back in the London courtroom after the guilty verdict was returned by the jury, I felt dejected. “This teen had committed a crime and rightly been prosecuted,” a colleague said. “You have nothing to feel guilty about. You and he are very different.”

But were we? This teenager represented the people I shared a playground with, the people I was related to. I felt gratitude for the educational opportunities afforded to me and all the subsequent doors that had opened. But I also felt guilt, because these doors were not equally open to my fellow Pakistanis. Ultimately, this guilt contributed to my decision to leave the criminal bar last year. I had decided that the courts were showrooms for British inequality and watching this inequality pierce the lives of vulnerable people took its toll.

How can the poorest racial minority in an unfair, class-entrenched society be full members of a club, when it is seeing few of the benefits? British Pakistanis are prevented from claiming their British identity by the absence of whiteness and of wealth. Having one of these attributes can be enough. With both, you are almost always the poster child for Britishness. But for members of my community who have neither — that is to say, for a vast majority — the term “British Pakistani” risks becoming an oxymoron.

Additional reporting by Sana Noor Haq

A canal near central Birmingham where Hamza and Brian Reed, another reporter on the show, debriefed after conducting interviews at the City Council House.
A canal near central Birmingham where Hamza and Brian Reed, another reporter on the show, debriefed after conducting interviews at the City Council House.

Miriam Walker-Khan at her home in London.
Miriam Walker-Khan at her home in London.

After the Yorkshire Cricket racism scandal in 2021, British Pakistani sports players and fans are reconsidering their roles on the pitch and in the stands.

By Miriam Walker-Khan

It was racism that reduced the cricketer Azeem Rafiq to tears.

One of his own teammates called him a derogatory term for Pakistani, a racist slur. But it wasn’t the first time he’d been called it while playing cricket for his county. It had happened countless times before.

Despite seeing Mr. Rafiq’s tears, the player who used the slur said he had no idea he was causing offense and “would have stopped if Rafiq had asked.”

In September 2020, Mr. Rafiq made accusations of racist bullying at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, where he had played for eight years. It transcended sports and led to a government hearing. Yorkshire Cricket was suspended from hosting international matches over its handling of the case. By November 2021, the story dominated British headlines.

It was a watershed moment that highlighted the troubling mix of how deeply British Pakistani athletes and fans are woven into the landscape of professional sports, but how tenuous their ability to belong in Britain is. I competed and worked in athletics for over a decade and, despite meeting hundreds of athletes, only ever knew of three who were British Pakistani. Two of them were my brothers. Now, working as a sports journalist, I was recently told by a press officer of a national governing sporting body that I could never be impartial on any story about race because I’m not white.

If we speak out about racism, even if we are believed, there’s no promise it will be taken seriously, and it might cause us to lose acceptance. My own first experience of racist abuse, as a mixed-race British Pakistani girl growing up in the same region as Mr. Rafiq, also involved an ethnic slur. I was 8 and physically abused at school while my classmate shouted obscenities along with the slur. I was sent to the headteacher, who demanded to know what I had done to “provoke the attack, and was made to believe it was my fault.

Racism relies on power and, in sports, power comes from the institutions responsible for selecting athletes — who need to earn a living — for teams. In January 2022, Mr. Rafiq said he had no doubt that speaking out had cost him his career.

But some British Pakistani cricketers believe Mr. Rafiq’s case can help move things forward, by giving them the confidence to speak out themselves.

“The greatest thing that came out of it was that there were players who felt like they had a voice,” Moeen Ali, an England cricket legend, said.

A World Cup winner and the best-known British Pakistani cricketer, Mr. Ali said he believed the governing bodies in British cricket have failed to develop young South Asian players.

“So many players have been missed,” he said. “There’s so much talent. If you look at the country, the most people that are playing cricket are Asians. So why are we missing these players?”

Despite how we perform on the pitch, society doesn’t put us on an equal playing field. Birmingham City University research has shown that white British cricketers from private schools are 34 times more likely than young Asians to reach elite level — a disparity that could not be explained in terms of performance.

While soccer and cricket aren’t the only sports British Pakistanis play, their ratios of participation in elite sports make them crucial case studies. British-Asians make up 7 percent of the population, but only 0.25 percent of our professional soccer players are from any British-Asian background, with the overwhelming majority having Indian heritage.

For the British Pakistani soccer player Easah Suliman, the first player of Asian heritage to captain an England soccer team, it was representation within cricket that made an impact. A practicing Muslim who grew up in the same area as Moeen Ali and currently plays for Nacional in the second division of Portuguese soccer, he says representation can “give players an extra push.”

Mr. Suliman, 24, was part of the winning U19 European Championships squad in 2017 and scored the opening goal of the final. “It was special, imagining my grandma sitting on the sofa watching me win in my England shirt,” he said. “I don’t think when she was younger, living in Pakistan, she’d have thought that one day she’d be watching her grandson playing for England.”

But getting to that level, he didn’t see many other people from his background. Only one, in fact, in 13 years at Aston Villa Football Club.

Another lone brown face at a Premier League club is Zidane Iqbal, who is of Pakistani and Iraqi heritage. Mr. Iqbal, 18, made history in 2021 when he became the first British South Asian to play for Manchester United. His dad, Aamar Iqbal, said it was “a culmination of over 14 years of dedication.”

“His mum and brother had tears of joy for him that night,” Mr. Iqbal said. “It meant so much to everyone who knows Zidane as well as the wider community, and Zidane is really proud of his heritage.”

For those who do make it, it’s often their talent that acts as an armor against racism. Riz Rehman is the head of the Professional Footballers Association’s Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme, which aims to increase the number of South Asians in soccer. His brother, Zesh Rehman, was the first British Pakistani player to start a Premier League match in 2004.

Growing up, the Rehman brothers were chased home from school and called ethnic slurs daily. It was only when their peers realized they could play soccer that their attitudes changed. “We both made captain of the school team,” Mr. Rehman said. “All the kids got to know us and it was only through sport that we were accepted. Football saved us.”


If we speak out about racism, even if we are believed, there’s no promise it will be taken seriously. Racism relies on power and, in sports, power comes from the institutions responsible for selecting athletes — who need to earn a living — for teams.

Miriam Walker-Khan, writer

While soccer shouldn’t have to “save” people, it is changing attitudes in all corners of the game. Mohamed Salah, a Muslim soccer player, has had a phenomenal impact on Islamophobia rates. A 2019 Stanford University study found that since Mr. Salah, an Egyptian, signed for Liverpool in 2017, there had been an 18.9 percent drop in hate crimes in the region.

Safraz Ali, 26, works in communications and is a lifelong Liverpool fan. “When you have fans singing ‘Mohamed Salah,’ it’s powerful. I never thought growing up I’d ever see that. It’s something to be proud of. I think it’s beautiful,” he said.

“As a British Pakistani fan, I’ve been fortunate to experience those moments and have been safe doing that,” he said. “I think British Pakistanis have always loved football for football. It’s inherited. And I think football is the greatest kind of unifier.”

While soccer is often referred to as “a universal language,” one third of ethnic minority soccer fans say they have experienced racism at stadiums. And in 2020, one of the most senior figures in English football, Greg Clarke, the Football Association chairman at the time, perpetuated racist stereotypes when he said British South Asians work in I.T. rather than play professional soccer because of their “different career interests.” He stepped down from his role after referring to Black players as “colored” in the same speech.

My own father, a Pakistani immigrant who played semi-professional soccer, worked at Sheffield United, a championship team in Sheffield, Yorkshire. From the age of 4, I regularly watched matches at their ground. It was there that I first heard someone hurl racist abuse at him, and, from then on, I associated soccer stadiums with racism.

And this isn’t uncommon. A 2021 survey found that 41 percent of all soccer fans — and 56 percent of ethnic minority fans — who had attended a match said they had heard racist language. Arooj Khan, a Ph.D. student, grew up in the shadows of West Ham’s old stadium in Upton Park, London, an area home to a huge South Asian community. She remembers her father regularly getting beaten up and racially abused on match days. Eventually, the family decided to stay indoors on game days.

Now, Ms. Khan is claiming her identity as a soccer fan via Nutmegs, a soccer community for women and nonbinary people of color.

“I don’t feel safe or comfortable around groups of drunk white men, which to me is what a football match is,” she said. “But with Nutmegs, I don’t feel that racist vibe. We watch in solidarity with each other.

“Those active moments of resistance when you reclaim space and make it safe are so powerful.” Now, soccer is an aspect of her Britishness that Ms. Khan is proud of.

Stories of players and fans who have carved out their own sense of identity on the pitch are ones of hope and should be celebrated by those from the same communities who feel safe enough to watch in the stands.

The power of sports is that it unites — and the hope for me as a sports journalist is that, in the future, our identities will no longer need to be minimized. When the first ever British Pakistani soccer player dons an England shirt at senior level, for instance, I want them to be able to be their full selves, rather than having to conform to a particular type of Britishness that doesn’t allow for their Pakistani identity to shine, too.

Needless Alley in Birmingham. After interviewing a former leader of the Birmingham City Council, Hamza went there as he questioned his relationship to the Trojan Horse letter.
Needless Alley in Birmingham. After interviewing a former leader of the Birmingham City Council, Hamza went there as he questioned his relationship to the Trojan Horse letter.

Tawseef Khan at his home in Manchester, England.
Tawseef Khan at his home in Manchester, England.

The Trojan Horse affair prompted the government to demand schools across Britain adhere to a new set of “British values.” Some say they’re doing more damage than good.

By Tawseef Khan

In December, I visited my old primary school in inner-city Manchester. The school is 60 percent Pakistani and serves an economically disadvantaged community, so the headteacher asked me to speak at its “Aspiration Day.” I was excited to see how the school had changed, but the biggest surprise was that “British values” were showcased everywhere. In every classroom was a Union Jack, and the four values (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs) were pasted on the wall. This self-conscious patriotism wasn’t something I had experienced at school, even though its demography was the same.

The promotion of “British values” is part of Prevent, the government’s counterterrorism strategy. Since 2015, schools have been obliged to promote a particular model of Britishness to “create resilience” to radicalization. As a result, “fundamental British values” are taught in citizenship classes and embedded throughout the curriculum. Teachers are also expected to monitor their students for signs of “nonviolent extremism” (defined as “vocal or active opposition” to those values) and report them accordingly. From its inception, Prevent has been criticized for targeting Muslim children and treating them as potential suspects, a criticism supported by the statistics. Even today, Muslim students are proportionally more likely to be referred to Prevent than non-Muslims.

Soon after my visit, it was announced that a long-promised review of Prevent, spurred by criticisms that it discriminated against Muslims and inhibited freedom of expression, had been delayed again. In a statement provided by the race equality group Runnymede Trust, its chief executive officer, Halima Begum, expressed dismay at the news, while warning that the review could be used “to implement a reworked definition of extremism” that might be further damaging for British Muslims. I wondered what damaging effects it was having now, especially on British Pakistani children and their relationship with the British part of their identity.

Across Britain since 2012, Muslim children have been interrogated under Prevent for their political and religious views. Children as young as 4 have been referred to the authorities for drawing a parent holding a cucumber (which the child pronounced “cooker bomb”), misspelling “terraced” as “terrorist” and talking about the video game Fortnite. In the latter case, the mother argued that her son wouldn’t have been considered a risk had he been white.

Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, who represented the Pakistani parents in the “cooker bomb” case, agrees that Muslim children are held to standards their white peers are not. “The criteria they’re using means that unless the white child says something that falls into the category of far-right extremism, which is at the far end of the spectrum, they wouldn’t get referred,” he said.

Asim Qureshi, from the advocacy group Cage, shared how an 8-year-old Pakistani boy was referred to Prevent in 2016 for attending school on casual clothes day wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of Abu Bakr al-Siddique, one of the first rulers in Islamic history. “Of course, the teacher understands Abu Bakr as being Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of the Islamic State, so immediately a referral began,” Dr. Qureshi said. He had briefly consulted on the case and spoke about how the referral had “devastated” the boy, who had gone to school feeling “proud” and a “sense of honor” about his heritage, which he said was “subverted and turned into something violent and potentially criminal.”


The promotion of British values, therefore, seems antithetical to creating confidence amongst British Pakistanis in their British identity.

Tawseef Khan, writer

In this way, Raheel Mohammed, the director of Maslaha, a social enterprise organization that works to improve conditions in Muslim communities, believes that Prevent and the promotion of “British values” communicate negative ideas about Muslim heritages and cultures. “We know through our work in schools that Muslim pupils realize how teachers can view them as being submissive or hold negative views of Islam and the position of women in Islam,” he said. “This is both within the school environment and outside.”

Ardeel Hussain, a 17-year-old British Pakistani, said he felt conflicted about the British values he is being taught in school because they are “not something that the British state or the British public live by.” Although he believes the values are positive attributes to any society, he said he “found it hard to reconcile them being inherently British,” given Britain’s colonial past, continuing police racism and anti-immigrant sentiment among the public.

This contrast between the standards imposed on British Pakistanis versus wider society was highlighted by the 2019 protests outside Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham. The school had introduced a program called No Outsiders, to teach about the various differences protected under the Equality Act 2010. But the program was developed to promote the goals of Prevent, and the headteacher’s presentation on the program identified the school’s 98.9 percent Muslim demographic as its target. One Pakistani parent took issue with the L.G.B.T.Q. inclusive teaching in No Outsiders and began protesting with other parents and activists, of all faiths, unconnected to the school.

The community came in for heavy criticism. Protesters were called “bigoted” homophobes and the protests themselves were described as a product of a “culture war” in which parents needed a lesson in “modern British tolerance.” This was a source of frustration for Saima Razzaq, a queer Pakistani activist who grew up in Birmingham and vocally supported No Outsiders. She said she felt uncomfortable with the news media creating a “them and us” narrative in which her community was demonized for holding prejudicial views that were common and arguably resurging in wider British society.

“Actually, no, society’s homophobic and our community is a part and product of that society,” Ms. Razzaq said. She believes this attention further isolated her community, which had already been stigmatized by the Trojan Horse affair, from wider British society.

The operation of “British values” and Prevent in schools had repercussions within communities and on individuals. Dr. Qureshi spoke about how British Pakistani students, encouraged by their parents, were silencing themselves in class. If targeted by Prevent, they were then shunned by their school peers and community.

“The majority of Prevent referrals don’t amount to anything, but that’s a violent encounter with your teacher. It’s a violent encounter with the state. You are never the same person when you come out of the other side of that,” Dr. Qureshi said. “Even with the non-referrals.”

The promotion of “British values,” therefore, seems antithetical to creating confidence among British Pakistanis in their British identity. But thinking back to my school visit, I remember the larger displays on Peace Mala, a symbolic double rainbow bracelet that promotes friendship, respect and peace between people of all cultures, lifestyles, faiths and beliefs and the rights granted under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ambitions of those initiatives could empower the children in a way the four British values cannot.

An employment dispute at Adderley Primary School in Birmingham was featured in the Trojan Horse letter. The school became the subject of scrutiny during and after the scandal.
An employment dispute at Adderley Primary School in Birmingham was featured in the Trojan Horse letter. The school became the subject of scrutiny during and after the scandal.

Edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Veronica Chambers and Adam Sternbergh

Produced by Lauren Jackson

Photo and visual editing by Tara Godvin and Eslah Attar

Research by Sana Noor Haq

Special thanks to Hamza Syed, Brian Reed, Monica Drake, Sam Dolnick, Clifford Levy, Julia Simon, Renan Borelli, Jeffrey Miranda, Lindsay Fischler, Jim Yardley, Nakyung Han, Susan Wessling, Aisha Khan, Jennifer Harlan, Ndeye Thioubou and Julie Snyder.

source https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/podcasts/trojan-horse-affair-british-identity.html

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