LONDON – “Do you like Daesh or are you affiliated to them?” This was the question a school official gave to a 13-year-old British Muslim student at a school in London, UK, The Guardian reported.
The Muslim mother, Ifhat Smith, was shocked when she ultimately realized her child had been questioned under the government’s Prevent strategy.
The school officials justified the interrogation by informing Smith that her child has used the term “eco-terrorist” in a classroom discussion about environmental activists.
The young teenager was in a French class at his school in Islington, north London when he used the phrase to describe some images.
“Last Monday in class, my son was asked to meet a school official. He was terrified. But after two questions at the office, he was asked to return to class. After informing me, I called the head of his year group,” Smith said.
“The penny dropped. I said, ‘have you been questioning my son under Prevent?’ She said they had to because of regulations, schools were having to do this. This was such a shock. I’d heard little bits about Prevent, I just thought it’s something so far removed from us, we’re not going to be affected by this,” the mother continued.
The experience of Smith’s son reflects the general concern surrounding the British government’s Prevent strategy for years, with many accusing it of fostering discrimination against Muslims and inhibits legitimate expression.
There have been numerous similar reports against Muslim children over the last 15 years. After years of pressure, the UK government has finally agreed to address these concerns with an independent review of the Prevent strategy.
One of four strands of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, known as Contest, Prevent was created by the Labour government in 2003 and its remit was widened by the coalition government in 2011.
Its stated purpose is designed to steer people vulnerable to all forms of extremism away from violence and essentially from becoming terrorists capable of violence.
Yasmine Ahmed, the director of the NGO Rights Watch UK, which in 2016 produced a landmark report on the impact of Prevent, said, “The Prevent strategy isn’t a hard security measure, we’re not talking about torture. However, it’s incredibly pervasive. It affects whole communities.”
“Parents aren’t talking to their children about political pressures or Islam because they were worried about what the children might go on to say at school. It’s hugely chilling. It promotes a form of self-censorship,” Ahmed concluded.