A Victorian school in the UK that was later used by an Islamic group purported to teach students to become Islamic leaders.
St Michael’s Orphanage
The main Victorian building began life as St Michael’s Orphanage in Mark Cross, East Sussex, England. In the 1920s it later became St Joseph’s College, a Roman Catholic Junior Seminary until 1970, before being converted into a ballet school. The Legat School of Ballet, formed by Nicholas Legat and his wife Nadine in London moved to the Marks Cross site in the 1970s and became residential. Closure came in 1990 when Legat merged with Wadhurst College and moved to their site at Best Beech hill.
Jameah Islameah School
Based in the buildings of the former St Michael’s Orphanage, Jameah Islameah School was independent school, specialising in Islamic teachings. The school was independently owned and the proprietor functioned as the principal. A BBC News article stated the school was used to teach students to become Islamic leaders, training them to the level high enough to teach in local Masajeds and Madares.
The school closed in February 2007 following an inspection by Ofsted which noted that it “does not provide a satisfactory education for its pupils.” The school had nine students at the time.
There had been allegations that the school was used in the training and recruitment of terrorists. According to testimony from Al Qaeda suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, in 1997 and 1998, Abu Hamza and groups of around 30 of his followers held terrorist training camps at the school, including training with AK47 rifles and handguns, as well as a mock rocket launcher. In 2003 or 2004, the grounds of the school were used for an Islamic-themed camping trip, at which Omar Bakri Mohammed lectured. The trip, which was advertised by word-of-mouth, was attended by 50 Muslim men, most of whom were members of al-Muhajiroun.
On 1 September 2006 the Jameah Islameah school was searched by up to a hundred police officers as part of their operations, although no arrests were made. The local Sussex Police held a cordon around the site for 24 days in an operation that cost them over one million pounds. Meanwhile the Metropolitan Police searched the buildings and grounds and the lake.
In a linked operation on the evening of 2 September over 40 police officers entered a south London halal Chinese restaurant called The Bridge to China Town and, after talking to customers for over an hour, arrested twelve on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Two further arrests were made elsewhere in London. By 6 September two men had been released.