Podcast Review: The Trojan Horse Affair

Style: Investigative

Average Episode Length: 50 minutes

This podcast is a little different to the ones I typically listen to, but I got sucked in quickly. The Trojan Horse Affair, a Serial Productions podcast, is hosted by Brain Reed (S-Town) and doctor-turned-journalist Hamza Syed. Over the course of the podcast, Reed and Syed investigate “Operation Trojan Horse” - a supposed Islamic plot to take over schools in Birmingham, England.

It all started in 2014 when a mysterious letter, which appeared to be a secret communication between Islamic extremists who had been indoctrinating Islamic schools, showed up on local elected official’s desks. The letter led to a swift and harsh crackdown on Muslim educators which included policy changes at the highest levels in England. There was one big problem… no one had really bothered to look into who actually wrote the letter or why it was written in the first place. The podcast raises some important questions about racism and bias and even gives a glimpse into what it’s like to live in Britain as a Pakistani. If you want to dive deeper into those complexities, I suggest reading The New York Times article Why Claiming British Identity is Complicated.

Over the course of eight episodes, Syed and Reed take us on a whodunit-type investigation to reveal who wrote the letter. I felt like each episode was its own mystery which kept me coming back for more. I thought the storytelling was excellent, especially since there was a lot of information to unpack. The podcast took years to produce and you’ll see why once you start listening. The sheer volume of information that needed to be examined was pretty staggering. That, and the fact that getting interviews for this podcast was a big challenge. This was (and apparently still is) a pretty controversial scandal.

Overall, I thought the hosts told a compelling story and the podcast raised important questions about our own biases and the dangers of not critically thinking about information before making decisions. You can listen to The Trojan Horse Affair wherever you get your podcasts.

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