The team behind addictive podcasts Serial and S-Town are back with their latest project, which will delve into the fabricated and false 2014 conspiracy that Islamic extremists were plotting to take over local schools in Birmingham, as well as the damaging national scandal and rhetoric that followed.
From The New York Times and Serial Productions – the latter responsible for the gripping investigation into the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore back in 1999, which no doubt had a hand in sparking the modern fascination with true crime – the podcast will be titled The Trojan Horse Affair and is to be hosted by S-Town co-creator Brian Reed and Birmingham doctor-turned-journalist Hamza Syed.
It all started with a strange letter, which was sent to Birmingham City Council in late 2013 and was supposed to be secret correspondence from Islamic extremists who were planning on infiltrating the city's schools in a supposed plot called Operation Trojan Horse. Despite being swiftly debunked as false, a copy of the letter was leaked to the press in early 2014, sparking national panic and leading to a crackdown on a number of Muslim educators, as well as harsh counterterrorism measures implemented by the UK government. The eight-episode podcast will observe the ripple effects of the scandal for years to come, and on Syed's hometown.
While some believe that the podcast will finally give a platform to lesser heard voices, there are already fears that it will open up painful wounds surrounding the stigma the scandal caused at the time, as well as the lasting impact it had on perceptions of the already marginalised Muslim community and young people in the area.
But importantly, the podcast will investigate the burning question that many still have, eight years later: who sent the letter in the first place, and why?