Crosspost: Shohana Khan
This weekend a very important seminar on the Prevent programme was held, by voluntary community organisation PreventWatch. A diverse amount of people came together to listen to an array of speakers from Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who represented the detainees of Guantanamo Bay, Imran Khan, the solicitor for the Stephen Lawrence case, to people who had been personally impacted by Prevent.
Amongst the 130 cases Preventwatch have received since 2014, one particular case was of Rahmaan Mohammadi – A now 17 year old boy, who at the age of 15 was flagged up as a ‘Prevent’ case in school due to his interest and commitment towards the Palestinian cause. Incidents as small as wearing the Palestinian badge or wanting to talk about Palestine to his friends, resulted in Rahmaan being pulled up by school staff who became concerned about his potential radicalisation.
Having volunteered to speak on the day, he spoke eloquently and intelligently about how he and his friends lived under a ‘paranoia’ of being watched and listened to. He clearly stated it created a ‘them and us’ feeling with the school, and made him and his group of friends incredibly alienated. He was visited by the police, which reinforced the feeling of being seen as a criminal just because he was expressive about his political views. In short, the process of Prevent enabled a Muslim teenager’s political views to be not only deemed suspicious, but warrant actual interaction with the police.
Gareth Peirce and others talked about many people and incidents of where Muslims were made to feel they were suspect and as a result, estranged and alienated. And it is this very specific impact of the Prevent programme that highlights how contradictory the results really are, from what it is supposed to be doing.
If the Government are concerned about the ‘passive tolerance’ of divided communities and whether Muslims are adapting to British life, it is utterly counterproductive that they should continue a programme which allows any Muslim child to be flagged up for any particular display of behaviour under the pretext that they may be on the path to radicalisation. There is no known proof that the programme has actually stopped anyone commit an act of violence, not withstanding the fact that it is based on a theory which is not supported by scores of professionals nor academics.
Parents talked on the day about life after a Prevent referral, with a father from Oldham say his son became utterly withdrawn and afraid to participate in class, fearing he would say something that would flag him up to his teachers again. Thus instead of ensuring Muslim children remain a connected part of society, instead of doubly encouraging them to be a positive contributing force as a Muslim; this programme is alienating them, terrifyingly, from an early age. As Rahman iterated, he didn’t belong in Afghanistan where his parents are from, and now because of his identity, he was made to feel he ‘didn’t belong here’.
Therefore if this programme continues, it will not only distress Muslim families, but actually push Muslim children – The next generation of Muslims – out onto the edges of mainstream society. By making them feel, there is something wrong with what they think, dress, believe. It is inevitable that a seed will be planted – You are a problem.
And if this next generation grow up believing they are, as eminent human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce who shadowed Martin Luther King, so succinctly stated, ‘This isn’t the beginning of the end, this is the end’.
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