An Islamic education centre in Whitechapel has closed down in what they have alleged is a “government witch-hunt targeting the Muslim community”.
Tower Hamlets’ Siddeeq Academy gave part-time tuition to Muslim children educated at home. A statement on their website said that it was “with great sadness” that they must announce the permanent closure of the academy as of January 1.
The academy, which was operating without planning permission, had come to the attention of Tower Hamlets Council, who reported concerns to the Department for Education during the summer. It was thought that Siddeeq Academy was being run as an unregulated school with an “inappropriate curriculum”.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is an offence for a school to operate without being registered. The police and Ofsted have the power to enter premises where they believe that full-time education is being illegally provided to children of statutory school age.”
Mizanur Rahman, the manager of the academy, was one of nine people arrested by Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, when Siddeeq Academy and 18 other premises were raided in September.
Rahman was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences and released on bail until later this month. He was previously jailed for six years in 2007 for calling for the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq. Rahman was filmed speaking to a crowd of 300 people at a protest against Danish cartoonists in central London: “We want to see [British soldiers] coming home in body bags…We want to see their blood running in the streets of Baghdad.”
In May he was investigated after the Evening Standard informed police of a video in which he praised Boko Haram militants as being “full of good messages” after they kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The academy’s manager is believed to be connected with the banned terrorist group previously known as Al-Muhajiroun.
Among others arrested in the previous raids was radical preacher and activist Anjem Choudary. Neither have been charged.
Rahman complained about the police raids on his Twitter page which has almost 20,000 followers.
a lot of Muslims are getting arrested and raided in the UK these days – the UK gov is playing with fire, radicalizing the next generation
— Mizanur Rahman (@Abu_Baraa1) November 4, 2014
Siddeeq Academy provided day classes for five to ten-year-olds in Maths, English and Science from the National Curriculum and Arabic, Geography, History, Morals and Ethics from an Islamic curriculum.
Although the centre claims that students attended a maximum of 17.5 hours of classes a week, The Guardian reported that families told Tower Hamlets Council that “their children studied there full-time four days a week, well above the limit of 19 hours that tuition clubs are legally able to offer.”
The classes were advertised as being “suitable for parents that wish to mix and match tuition for their child according to their home education plans and aims.” They also offered weekend tuition and after-school clubs such as archery and gardening trips.
The academy’s Facebook page which advertises job openings and shares religious poetry, says the tuition centre’s “environment is strictly Islamic”. The teachers were all female and required to wear conservative Muslim dress.
Siddeeq Academy aimed to equip their pupils for life within their community meaning the teaching focused on “what [the children] must know from Islam by necessity, about the sciences of the Qur’an and Hadith, about Islamic Jurisprudence, about Islamic history, Arabic, about the Muslim World.” Last year the academy shared online a class’ science project on volcanos with the caption: “Blue class cooperated in simulating one of Allah’s creation used to punish past nations.”
The Siddeeq Academy management called the closure “a sad end to a very beneficial business” which had served the Muslim community in Tower Hamlets.
A statement on their website said that the decision to close “was not motivated by a lack of business or profit”, according to the centre. The statement says that police, unfairly targeted “completely legal Muslim businesses such as Siddeeq Academy”.
The management blamed “a combination of pressures, harassment and acts of sabotage” by the Government and press “primarily led by the British police” for creating “such a hostile environment that it would be near impossible to continue trading”.
It states: “We would like to highlight the fact that, despite concerted efforts by authorities and the most rigorous and heavy handed investigations, no legal action has been taken by the police or any other UK authority to force Siddeeq Academy to close.”
According to the statement, the police found “no wrongdoing or illegal activity” at Siddeeq Academy and there was “no legal impediment to our continuing to operate as a tuition centre”.