The Bradford head teacher who got it right on Islam and education

Ray Honeyford Headmaster At Drummond Middle School In Bradford. Pictured With Asian Pupils. (received In Library 24/10/1984)

Thirty years ago, as editor of the Salisbury Review, I began to receive short articles from a Bradford headmaster, relating the dilemmas faced by those attempting to provide an English education to the children of Asian immigrants. Ray Honeyford’s case was simple. Children born and raised in Britain must be integrated into British society. Schools and teachers therefore had a duty, not merely to impart the English language and the English curriculum, but to ensure that children understood and adhered to the basic principles of the surrounding society, including racial and religious tolerance, sexual equality and the habit of settling conflicts by compromise and not by force.

Honeyford complained of the damage done by the multicultural ‘experts’, whose sole aim seemed to be ghettoisation. He recounted his efforts to explain to parents that it was in fact against the law to take their children out of school for weeks on end during term time. As a result of these efforts, Muslim activists packed a meeting in his school in order to make loud and threatening protests. Honeyford wrote from a spirit of genuine concern for children whom he was trying to protect — girls who were being forced into marriage, boys who came to school already exhausted from their lessons in the madrasah, children who were being brought up to believe that they were living in an alien place to which they did not belong and to which they owed neither loyalty nor gratitude.

In the course of his reflections, Honeyford made some harsh criticisms of the Commission for Racial Equality, a quango run by the leftist militants of the day, which devoted vast resources to propagating the message that Britain is a racist society and that schools had the duty to impress this fact on their pupils. Honeyford had the true but eccentric conviction that Britain is, comparatively speaking, not a racist society at all, and that our habit of admitting new communities and providing them with the educational and social resources enjoyed by our indigenous population goes some way to proving this. The anti-white and anti-British pronouncements of the people who were trying to undermine his attempts to provide an equal education to all the children in his school were, to his mind, far more evidently racist than any feature of the curriculum that he was striving to impart. And by pointing this out, he naturally poked his finger into a hornet’s nest of self-vaunting resentment.

He wrote true things about religious intolerance and sectarian murder in Pakistan. He referred to the hysterical nature of politics in the Indian subcontinent. He was dismissive of the ‘professional’ Asian and West Indian intellectuals who had made a career out of ‘anti-racism’. And he was scathing about the intellectual status of ‘polytechnic sociology’. He neglected to remind himself that his local university — the University of Bradford — had departments of sociology and social work run by the very people whose ideology he deplored. Very soon his school was surrounded by a rent-a-mob of diseducated students, dingy professors and fired-up Islamists, chanting ‘Raycist’, and calling for his dismissal. The local education authority responded, and Ray Honeyford was dismissed.

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