A Muslim schoolboy has been questioned by anti-terror police because he wore a “Free Palestine” badge to school.
Rahmaan Mohammadi’s teachers at Challney High School for Boys in Luton referred him to police under Prevent – the controversial government counter-terrorism programme, which critics have described as ineffective, divisive and draconian.
As well as wearing pro-Palestine badges and wristbands, Mohammadi was in possession of a leaflet advocating Palestinian rights by right group Friends of al-Aqsa. He had also asked for permission to fundraise for children affected by the Israeli occupation.
Friends of al-Aqsa is a non-profit NGO which defends the human rights of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. The group’s supporters are currently boycotting the Co-op, after the company’s bank was shut down the Friends of al-Aqsa account “without explanation”.
Bedfordshire police visited Mohammadi’s home with a folder of information about the schoolboy, and spoke with him and his parents. They concluded that he was “not at risk” and no further action was taken.
Mohammadi described his experiences at a meeting of campaign group Students Not Suspects at Goldsmiths University in London.
He claimed that police warned him not to talk about Palestine in school, and further claimed that staff members had approached his 14-year-old brother and pressured him to tell Rahmaan to “stop being radical”.
Last year, hundreds of academics and student union members signed an open letter in the Independent condemning the “chilling effect” of the Prevent strategy on free speech and political dissent in Britain.
The £40m programme has been plagued with problems since its inception 12 years ago under Tony Blair.
Critics say it has fostered an atmosphere of Islamophobic paranoia which is more likely to fuel radicalisation than prevent it.
Internal police statistics obtained via a Freedom of Information request suggest only 20% of people referred to Prevent are assessed as at risk of radicalisation.
Prevent also came under fire last year for extending its legal obligation of surveillance into nursery schools, since which time children as young as three have been referred under the programme.
Bedfordshire Police told the Sunday Times: “The officers spoke to the boy and were satisfied that he was not at risk and he was given advice and support.”