Reflection has become a unicorn in today’s post-modern, entertainment-driven age. News reports flood our social network streams, emails, and news channels conjure up spin-infested reports providing little to absorb, analyse and reflect on the direction such reports are heading society towards. In this information-overloaded era, our minds have become acclimatised to binging on information, with our fingers manipulating pieces of glass, sending or receiving information packets restricted to 160 characters.
In the past week reports have surfaced which should be sending alarm bells ringing, forcing the wider population to sit up and ponder over the implications of the policies our government is pushing. We need to take a step back a moment.
In January, absurd proposals which implicated children as young as three being on the path toward terrorism, were revealed and understandably criticised for being unworkable, and heavy-handed. I also took the opportunity to explain how fascist neoconservatism was driving the policy, drawing chilling parallels with the authoritarian East Germany’s Stasi security apparatus, where professionals were required to monitor the thoughts of those they worked, thus creating a state in which ideas were restricted and curtailed by the state. Totalitarianism, in other words.
Perhaps what was more outrageous was the lack of knowledge around the implication of roping young children into the public surveillance programme. Nick Clegg, for instance, as late as March, did “not think we are targeting nurseries”.
The reality of PREVENT is now starting to become mainstream.
Child Referred for NOT Exhibiting “Radicalised” Behaviour
A primary school in Hampstead referred a child to Channel who is, according to the report, one of the youngest ever referred. The referral was made due to the child being “at risk of Islamic radicalisation”. Here is the fundamental issue however:
“It is believed the behaviour of the child’s parents caused concern among staff which led to the referral to Channel.”
In other words, it was not the child’s behaviour, but the parents which caused a referral of the child. If anything this demonstrates the far-reaching consequences of PREVENT’s thought-policing programme.
Three-Old Potential “Extremist”
A few days later, another report surfaced. A three-year old was identified among 834 children by police for being vulnerable to “extremism” in Tower Hamlets. Ten percent of these children are below of the age of twelve. One wonders what specific criteria is being contravened which is causing all these children to come onto police radar. Indeed, there is precedence of police using adherence to “Shari’ah” as a marker of “extreme views”.
One also wonders, what on earth a three-old is going exhibit which will lead PREVENT Officers to determine the child is radicalised? Leading toys in prayer perhaps? This is pure insanity.
Shaping Beliefs – Children
The question of what is specifically triggering such ludicrous decisions must be explored further. We know for instance that an increase in religiosity, and even taking school studies more seriously, can flag a person as “vulnerable to radicalisation”.
Shaping Beliefs – Impact on Children
Hooper gives an example of a Muslim teenager who was referred a number of times to the PREVENT police officer. The pupil held views which were pro-Palestinian and was told by the officer that wearing “Free Palestine” badges and wristbands were “extremist”. Moreover, when the pupil explained his views about freedom and justice, his support for Palestine, and his view that Israel should be sanctioned, the officer told him these were “terrorist-like” beliefs. He was also restrained by the officer from speaking about his views at school.
The report makes an interesting highlight of the pupil’s interaction with the teacher. When questioned by the pupil whether the teacher would act as an informant because of the PREVENT Strategy, the teacher stated that he was uncomfortable but had to do so. Disconcertingly, both the student and teacher are in relationship of distrust.
The PREVENT impact on teachers also seems to have a brainwashing effect. The headteacher in the above case reportedly told the pupils to remove associations with Palestine during a charity collection. He also told the pupil to remove an Islamic quote but said that a quote from a Christian text would be acceptable.
Due to the pupil’s beliefs, teachers also threatened his younger brother saying that they would “report him to the intelligence agencies”.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Last year, a case study report revealed how, for instance, children were being referred for merely exchanging a CD lecture by a Sufi scholar. Other examples I have personally been made aware of include a Muslim child being referred for doing a presentation on Shari’ah-based economics at his school.
In yet another recent case, I was contacted when teachers referred a Muslim pupil to PREVENT Officers and forwarded her details to the city airport, without informing and obtaining consent from the parents. It was later found that the child was truanting with friends. Unfortunately the pupil is fearful of raising intimidation/procedural concerns.
CAGE’s recent case study report on PREVENT referrals (in London) brought to attention the following two examples:
- A pupil said, seemingly with an air of persiflage, that the government was banning halal meat because it hated Muslims. The pupil also used the excuse of “morning prayers” for coming late (despite the “morning prayer” being before sunrise) but in reality was late due to being bullied at school. Instead of investigating his behaviour the child was presumptuously inferred as radicalised and then referred.
- Another fourteen year old pupil was referred to PREVENT without the consent of the parents for not being proactive in his music lessons.
Whilst politicians remained in denial about the reach of PREVENT, this mass securitisation policy has already manifested the fears of those who have been watching the impact of this policy closely.
Some teachers and police officers, as demonstrated above, seem to have entrenched within themselves neoconservative views of what constitutes “extremism”. This view, as espoused by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove, justifies securitising devout (Islamic) religious observance, and whitewashes Zionist violence whilst suppressing pro-Palestinian activism. In this manner, the accurate description is not that schools and the police have become arms of the state, but rather they have become institutional henchman enforcing neocon ideology upon people.
Of further concern is that, given the burden of monitoring children based off an arbitrary criteria to determine radicalisation, teachers may fail to see other underlying factors contributing to irregular behaviour.
It is unfathomable that children are being pressured by being put through such intimidation and bullying for holding perfectly legal views. Is this really going to create a person who is tolerant when, through education institutions, he/she experienced State-sanctioned intolerance? Will such a person respect other views when his/her own views have been smeared with the “terrorist” label? When the child sees aspects of his/her faith being made the subject of PREVENT referrals, will he/she feel victimised, attacked and bullied for being a Muslim? When this individual grows up and realises that not only was his/her religion used as a factor to determine vulnerability to radicalisation, but the PREVENT Strategy itself discriminatorily focussed on Muslims, how likely is resentment going to take root in the mind?
I’ll let the teachers and all other “community organisations” complicit in this Stasi policy ponder over this for a while.