Friday, November 17The Voice of London

Prevent anti-terrorism scheme does not prevent, it only makes students feel victimised

‘What the Prevent duty means for schools and colleges in England’ Credits: Coventry University

 

A Government report released today reveals that out of 7,631 people, who were referred to the governments Prevent program between 2015/16, only 4% of those individuals are currently receiving support.

According to a new analysis by the Home Office, the education sector is responsible for reporting 2,500 cases, which makes up the majority of the individuals referred to the governments anti-terrorism scheme – whilst police reports constitute for 2,539 cases.

Once a teacher or police officer has expressed concern, the person will be referred to a Channel Program if they believe action is required to prevent the person from becoming a potential danger to society.

During the Channel Program, the individuals issues are discussed as part of a voluntary and confidential process where help, advice and guidance is given to ‘vulnerable’ people who are susceptible to radicalisation. Out of 381 students that were referred to support, 96% left the process – according to the Home Office report.

Speaking to the Voice of London, Riyad Daoudi, 19, from City of Bristol College says:

“I was in a sociology lesson and we were having a class discussion about IS and current affairs. I told them how my friend is a refugee and wanted to show me what was happening in his country, about how violent and unlawful IS are – these are things we don’t always see in the media which censors a lot of that stuff out. When I spoke about this event in class I was followed out the room by my teacher when I wanted to get some water. She started interrogating me about why I was watching IS videos. I felt pretty uncomfortable about it and I had to make sure I defended myself properly otherwise she’d think I was a terrorist, when really I was just trying discuss the issue. I believe we should be tackling extremism as there have been terror attacks at my college, but I feel that this is a really ineffective way of preventing terrorism.”

Two-thirds of cases were reported on the premises of Islamic extremism whilst 679 or 10% were referred over concerns over right-wing extremism. A large percentage of the overall cases, or 28% out of the 7,631 individuals, were reported in London.

Out of all the individuals referred, 4,274 or 56% were aged 20 years or under.

It’s clear by these results that most students will refuse to cooperate with prevent, even if they are vulnerable to adopting extremist ideology.

The scheme is already controversial since ethical problems arise when officers and police officials start operating within a learning environment, where many would argue that discussion and open debate is a crucial element of feeling safe and accepted within a community.

 

The Prevent strategy was published by the government in 2011 as part of a wider terrorism counter strategy called CONTEST. It is part of the government duty to have regard to the ‘need to prevent people from being daring into terrorism.’

The scheme aims to counter terrorism before any crime is committed, this involves monitoring and targeting students within schools, colleges and universities.

Prevent for schools classifies extremism as anything that opposes British Values:

“Vocal or active opposition is fundamental to British Values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faith and beliefs.”

A report, Preventing Education? By Human Rights UK believe that Prevent is ultimately preventing discussion and accumulates fear and mistrust within learning spaces:

“The government need to reconsider how it approaches preventing terrorism. This is undoubtedly a complicated task and there are few, easy solutions… Targeting Muslim children, making them feel that they are not welcome to discuss political or religious matters at school and creating a dynamic in which Muslim youth come to be fearful of the educational setting and distrustful of their teachers and classmates is counter-productive.”

The London Bridge attacks which killed seven people, as well as the Manchester Bombing has lead to a large amount of criticism towards the government about their approach to counter-terrorism policies. Some argue that we should be tackling Jihadist ideology that is predominately spread online.

At the same time, right-wing extremism is also rampant. Hate crimes targeting mosques across the UK have more than doubled between 2016 and 2017.  The Finsbury Park terrorist attack this year left seven muslims in critical care after a man drove into worshippers at the north London mosque.

Terrorism doesn’t just come in one form of Islamic extremism, but it also embodies racist ideology and far-right wing views that undermine religious communities. This has become a complex and very misunderstood issue that cannot simply be tackled within the confines of a learning environment.

 

Words: Yasmin Dahnoun | Subbing: Joshua Hornsey

-->