Schools with large numbers of Muslim pupils must respect British values, former home secretary Jack Straw said yesterday.
He spoke as a Muslim MP said a radical ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to take over state schools was operating in Birmingham.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, claimed a ‘small group of individuals’ was trying to change the ethos of schools by stealth.
It was also claimed that roving 'morality squads' have been instituted at the affected schools, and would censor talk of non-Muslim festivals and smash pupils' Easter eggs.
Mr Straw said more and more schools were mostly or entirely comprised of Muslim pupils, adding: ‘We have to accept and the schools with a majority of Muslim parents have to accept – as they do if they are Hindu, Sikh, Jewish or Christian – that we also live within the United Kingdom.
‘Alongside values which are religiously based, there has to understanding that this is the UK and there is a set of values – some of which I would say are Christian based – which permeate our sense of citizenship.’
Segregating boys and girls at school was not acceptable if done ‘as a matter of policy’, Mr Straw said during an interview on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.
He went on: ‘There is a real distinction between people who are devout and a very small minority who are extremist and verging into militant extremism and to justifying violence.
‘What isn’t acceptable – and this affects only a tiny minority, but we’ve got to spell it out to them – are those who proselytise Islam in an exclusive way and claim that those who are not of the Muslim faith are infidel and have fewer rights, and argue that women are inferior and ought to have fewer chances in society than men.’
Mr Straw's words came as a mother of one of the pupils, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, claimed groups of pupils were confiscating toys and chocolate from younger children - and accused teachers of turning a blind eye.
According to the Daily Express, the mother said: 'Older boys are going round in these morality squads telling off girls if they do not wear veils.
'My daughter tried to bring in an Easter egg for a friend and one boy grabbed it and smashed it against a wall.
'All talk of Christmas and other non-Muslim festivals is banned. The teachers turn a blind eye to it.'
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council refused to comment on the allegations, but indicated that if bullying had taken place, disciplining pupils was a matter for individual schools.
Speaking on Today earlier, local MP Mr Mahmood said he believed members of a Wahabit Salafist group were trying to impose their views on the majority of Muslims in Birmingham.
‘Governors have been appointed by a particular individual who has brought a number of his friends in as head teachers, changing the ethos of the whole school predominantly by stealth,’ he said.
He warned that pupils could be radicalised, adding: ‘This is a significant issue which we are storing up for the future in terms of the mainstream Muslim community and safety and security for all of us.
‘They’ll be detaching these young people from their parents and towards them. I’m not saying this is at that stage now but this is where it will end up.’
The warnings came as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, took charge of the watchdog’s probe into the so-called Trojan Horse plot to oust heads and governors and run schools according to strict Islamic principles.
Another inquiry is being conducted by former anti-terrorism police chief Peter Clarke, who was appointed by Education Secretary Michael Gove.
At least five Birmingham schools face being put into special measures, while a sixth has already been failed. Tahir Alam, the plot’s alleged ringleader, denies involvement.
Talha Ahmad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: ‘[Mr Straw] talks about accepting that Britain has a set of values. I don’t know of any decent Muslim who would disagree with that.’