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Screenprint from UK National Counter Terrorism Security Office

UK Counter Terrorism interviews 8-year-old

In Britain, an eight-year-old Muslim boy was questioned by two counter-terrorism police officers and a social worker at a school in east London because he had become so radicalized.

Published: February 8, 2019, 6:55 am

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    According to The Independent, the Counter Terrorism Professional Standards Unit launched an investigation after the boy’s parents lodged a formal complaint about how their son was being “mistreated” by the police in the wake of the questioning.

    Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK counterterror policing, told the Home Affairs Committee in October that safeguarding children was at the heart of the government programme called Prevent. “We have got to challenge extremist behaviour even if it doesn’t cross the criminal threshold because of the kind of intolerance it breeds.”

    Mohammad Khan, spokesperson for Prevent Watch – an activist group against Prevent – said: “This case again exposes how Prevent focuses on Islam and religious belief. A child asked to recite from a sacred text is wrong on so many levels and smacks of an authoritarian state. Prevent does little to prevent terrorism but instead sows deep and structural prejudices towards the Muslim community.”

    The parents, who said they wished to remain anonymous, said their child was left “frightened” and “traumatized” because while he was being interviewed by the officers, because he was “separated from his classmates” at a school in Ilford.

    The father said his son was asked about Islam, the mosque he attends, whether he prays, and his views on other religions. He was also asked to recite verses from the Quran. The father allegedly has links to a Anjem Choudary‘s al-Muhajiroun terrorist network.

    The family has lodged a complaint with Redbridge Council as well as the Metropolitan Police about the questioning, arguing that the interview had been “Islamophobic”.

    A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain meanwhile said that it was vital that British children learn about Islam “to prevent Islamophobia” after a report on religious education presented to the Thurrock Council found that parents were refusing to allow their children to attend lessons about Islam.

    “In particular, as hostility towards Muslim communities remains widespread and more young people are brought up with inaccurate views about Muslims, we believe visits to mosques are an important way to help resolve misunderstandings.”

    More and more British parents also will no longer allow their children to participate in school trips to mosques. The report warned about looming “integration issues” and concluded that an investigation should be launched into the “nature and extent” of the refusals.

    It stated: “Parents have objected to the teaching of Islam and withdrawn children from lessons and visits to places of worship. The outcome for those children, who arguably are those that most need to be taught about Islam, are no longer being taught about it.

    “It is not clear whether or not this is a widespread issue in Thurrock, but it is clear that the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education needs to investigate. Schools have a statutory duty to promote community cohesion.”

    Home Office figures revealed that 2 009 under-15s were flagged up over terror concerns in the year to March – a 20 percent rise on the year before. Since July 2015, nurseries, schools and universities are required to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” as part of the government’s Prevent strategy.

    West Midlands Police reported that more than a dozen churches in the region had received “threatening letters,” including one warning of a petrol bomb attack, and another threatening to “stab” congregants “one by one”. All of the letters originated in the West Midlands region.

    The National Counter Terrorism Security Office have meanwhile issued a “Crowded Places Guidance” to address the threat of jihadist attacks against British churches as well as other public venues.

    In Birmingham, government inspectors expressed particular concern that the Al-Hijrah Muslim primary school was still separating boys and girls, despite a 2017 Court of Appeal ruling that found the practice was unlawful. Addressing the Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee, Luke Tryl, a director at the education regulator Ofsted, said that Al-Hijrah school was enforcing a “very strict gender segregation” which included “denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys had had theirs.” He added: “We [Ofsted] found some very discriminatory texts for instance, encouraging violence against women.”

    In August, Ofsted complained about a preschool in Hove for failing to spot if children as young as two were at risk of extremism. In a separate incident in 2016, nursery staff suggested referring a four-year-old to Prevent after he drew a picture of a man cutting a cucumber and mispronounced it as “cooker bomb”.

    Last month, some 5 000 Muslims signed a petition to boycott Marks and Spencer toilet paper: they alleged it was embossed with the Arabic word for God. Footage taken by an unidentified man showed the Aloe Vera 3-ply toilet tissue with the indentation in question.

    Speaking on the video, the man urged his “brothers and sisters” not to buy toilet paper because “every toilet tissue has the name of Allah on it”. The petition stated, “This is a very weasly [sic] and pathetic attempt to insult Islam.” Marks and Spencer, in a statement on Twitter, denied the claims: “The motif on the aloe vera toilet tissue, which we have been selling for over five years, is categorically of an aloe vera leaf and we have investigated and confirmed this with our suppliers.”

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