A strange letter appears on a city councillor’s desk in Birmingham, England, laying out an elaborate plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the city’s schools. The plot has a code name: Operation Trojan Horse. The story soon explodes in the news and kicks off a national panic. By the time it all dies down, the government has launched multiple investigations, beefed up the country’s counterterrorism policy, revamped schools and banned people from education for the rest of their lives.
To Hamza Syed, who is watching the scandal unfold in his city, the whole thing seemed … off. Because through all the official inquiries and heated speeches in Parliament, no one has ever bothered to answer a basic question: Who wrote the letter? And why? The night before Hamza is to start journalism school, he has a chance meeting in Birmingham with the reporter Brian Reed, the host of the hit podcast S-Town. Together they team up to investigate: Who wrote the Trojan Horse letter? They quickly discover that it’s a question people in power do not want them asking.
From Serial Productions and The New York Times comes The Trojan Horse Affair: a mystery in eight parts.
Part 1: The Letter in the Brown Paper Envelope
A strange letter appears outlining a plot by Islamic extremists to infiltrate Birmingham schools. Hamza and Brian visit the supposed mastermind of the plot, and he tells them he did take over a bunch of schools – just not for the reasons in the letter.
Part 2: The Case of the Four Resignations
Hamza and Brian think the source of the Trojan Horse letter might be hiding in plain sight. After learning about the petty personnel dispute that probably gave rise to the letter, they’re even more bewildered about how it ever could have been taken seriously.
Part 3: Sir Albert and the Missing “H”
In a state of surprise, Hamza and Brian leave a meeting with the man the Trojan Horse letter was first sent to. And they learn about an internal investigation report that local officials have kept hidden, but which they think could contain a bombshell.
Part 4: The Meeting and the Mole
A series of frustrating interviews with Birmingham politicians leaves Brian and Hamza wondering if crucial information about the Trojan Horse letter was kept from officials in London. Then one rainy Friday afternoon, Brian hears back from a government source who wants to meet right away.
Part 5: A Study in Scarlett
Hamza and Brian learn that the Trojan Horse letter wasn’t the only unsigned letter alleging an extremist operation was afoot in Birmingham. An interview with a couple who lodged complaints against their school starts out cordially, but six hours later, the atmosphere is so tense that not even an offer of tea can smooth things over. And Hamza stops pretending he’s not angry about what he’s hearing.
Part 6: Cucumbers and Cooker Bombs
Hamza takes a long, hard look at what the government found when it investigated more than 20 majority-Muslim schools in Birmingham. And our two reporters have a confrontation – with each other.
Insightful, maddening and incredibly addictive
This is a brilliant podcast. Congratulations Hamza and Brian. People need to know this story and it’s amazing twists and turns. I hope you stick with journalism Hamza.
Really enjoyed listening to this story, as well as hearing some of the personal struggle in facing the road blocks. I hope Hamza keeps going with journalism!
Just when you think it can’t get any more interesting, it does! One of the best podcast I have ever listened to.