5Pillars has learned that primary school kids in London are being made to fill in questionnaires which appear to be targeting Muslim children who may be prone to extremism, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
The questionnaires, which oblige the children to give their names, are thought to be government-issued and part of the Prevent counter-terrorism programme.
They ask a series of highly-loaded questions which seem to be based on a perception of extremism and radicalisation promoted by right-wing neo-cons.
Muslim parents have expressed concern that the questionnaires are prejudicial because if a child answers honestly based on his/her faith he/she could be labelled an “extremist” and put on some sort of watch-list.
One questionnaire, given to pupils aged 9-11 at Buxton school in Leytonstone, East London, (apparently without informing parents in advance) included the following questions with the following answer options:
If you need advice who would you talk to?
– Family member
– Religious teacher or leader
How much do you trust people from this group?
– My family
– My neighbourhood
– People of my race or religion
– People of another race or religion
– Police officer
– School teacher
Please tell us your opinion on the following statements:
– People from a different religion are probably just as good as people from mine
– People should be free to say what they like, even if it offends others
– Religious books are to be understood word for word
– If a student was making fun of my race or religion, I would try to make them stop – even of it required hurting them
– I believe my religion is the only correct one
– It is my duty to defend my community from others that might threaten it
– It is important to question what grown-ups tell you
– It’s never okay to use physical force to solve a problem
– God has a purpose for me
– I think most British people respect my race or religion
– It is okay to marry someone from a different race or religion
– I would do what a grown-up told me to do even if it seemed odd to me
– I would mind if a family of a different race or religion moved next door
– Women are just as good as men at work
Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission called the questionnaires “outrageous, racist and Islamophobic.” He also advised Muslim parents to tell their children not to fill them in.
“They’re obviously targeting Muslim children and trying to pick their brains and thoughts and effectively profile them,” he said. “But at this young age we should be thinking of nurturing and developing our children, not compartmentalising them.”
He added: “I think this questionnaire has clearly been devised by people who haven’t got a clue about radicalisation. Some of the questions are just plain ridiculous.
“It’s also clearly racist and Islamophobic – there would be uproar if they had mentionned ‘Jew’ or ‘black’ in the identity question. This reminds me of the prelude to the Nazi holocaust when Jews were profiled before they started putting Stars of David on them.”
Meanwhile, Buxton School headteacher Mrs K Wheeler appears to have confirmed that the questionnaires were handed out but says they have been “misunderstood.”
In a statement released on the school’s Twitter page she said: “The Building Resilience Through Integration and Trust (BRIT) project has been piloted in primary schools across Waltham Forest by the Local Authority and is funded by the European Commission.
“All stakeholders, including parents, have been made aware of this project and were invited to an information session on 25th April 2015. To date we have not received any complaints from parents either at the session or subsequently.
“The school takes very seriously its responsibility to develop pupils’ understanding of the world in which we live and our duty to create a community that is respectful of all religions , faiths and beliefs.
“As parents you will be well aware of our inclusive ethos. and be surprised that this project, aimed at developing a cohesive community, has been misunderstood.
“It has now been shared on social media by those who do not appear to be aware of the school’s historic reputation for inclusiveness and diversity. These principles are at the heart of the school’s ethos and will remain so.”
Several members of the cabinet, including the Prime Minister, have expressed concern over the number of young people who have been radicalised and who have gone to fight for groups like ISIS in Syria.
The government has expressed its determination to implement legislation to combat what it considers to be a major threat to Britain. And the mainstream media has been singing a similar tune by trying to promote a “moderate” form of Islam.
The Counter Terrorism and Security Act, which became law in February, puts a responsibility on schools to prevent youngsters falling into the clutches of extemist groups. And Prime Minister David Cameron says schools must also actively promote “British values” and will be judged by the schools’ watchdog Ofsted on how well they teach them.
Meanwhile, 5Pillars has learned that similar questionnaires have been rolled out nationwide as part of the government’s counter-terrorism efforts.
In the north of England one teacher apparently held up two pictures to pupils, one of Osama bin Laden and one of George Bush. The teacher then asked the pupils: who is the terrorist?
We also understand that schools have as yet no legal obligation to hand out the questionnaires but some are already doing it because it will soon become law.
At the National Union of Teachers conference last month teachers complained that they’re being used to fight against “Islamic extremism” in schools, likening themselves to “stormtroopers.”
They said teenagers are staying silent in classroom discussions for fear of being reported for radical views, effectively “shutting down debate.”
“We are really being expected to be the frontline stormtroopers, who listen, who spy, and notify the authorities about students that we may be suspicious of,” said Jan Nielsen, an NUT member from Wandsworth, south London.
You can follow Roshan Muhammed Salih on Twitter @RMSalih