The UK Government’s Prevent strategy opposes everything defined under “British values”, writes Abdullah ibn Adam.
About a year ago I received Prevent training, as most public servants are obligated to undergo. I must state from the very onset that as a Muslim if anybody were to ask me what my thoughts on ISIS are, I would say they are the complete opposite of normative Islam, and their main victims are Muslims.
Subsequently, if somebody were to ask me what my thoughts on Prevent are, I would say that as a Briton, this strategy opposes “British values”. Despite the fact that young Kurdish boys are off to join the PKK, and far right extremism is more of a threat to Europe, once again under the Prevent strategy the main victims are innocent Muslims.
If I was to ask somebody, what are British values, what answer do you think I would get? If it is what most politicians like to preach, such as opposing injustice, championing freedom, tolerance, and universally protecting everybody’s human rights, then Prevent is the complete opposite of “being British”.
The fact that more than 300 academics and religious leaders have all unanimously condemned Prevent, this seriously does show how it is failing to fulfil its purpose, especially as it has been argued that rather than preventing extremism, it only exacerbates the problem.
Prevent is another strategy for the State to police the thoughts of young people. For example, Leanne Muhammad, a pupil from Wanstead High School was banned from reciting her spoken word poetry about Palestine in a national competition; one of the many victims censored by the state simply because she supported the Palestinian people. Palestinians are supported by key Jewish political commentators like the sons of Holocaust survivors such as Norman Finkelstein, and the famous Rabbi Michael Lerner who recently stated in Muhammed Ali’s funeral that “Palestinian people are just as precious as the Jewish people”.
The paranoia caused by the Prevent strategy has resulted in teachers making irrational and kneejerk decisions by over-reporting primary school pupils as potential terrorists. For example, in our training session we were told that a head teacher in a primary school overheard a seven-year-old planning to “blow it”, thinking there was a bomb threat in his school. However, as they were solving the case they later discovered that the pupil was conversing with his friend about an online game on Facebook.
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Now of course the ordeal was over, but how do you think the child felt psychologically? How do you think his parents were affected? What do you think this will do to him in the long term mentally as he was constantly scrutinised and bullied by the State?
Dear Muslim community…
Understand that without our resistance, there would be no need to strengthen Prevent to the extent that it is against the law if we choose not work with the strategy. Do not be a couch potato who just allows injustice to occur while sitting comfortably at home. Let me post this question to you – when the State bullies your child, decides to record your child’s name and DNA on their database, no different from an average criminal, and your child is taken away from school without your permission, how can you not have some concern to take political action?
The issue with the isolationist mentality is that many of us are not aware of the dangers of the Prevent strategy, and this exacerbates our problem.
For example, there was the infamous case of a four-year-old who drew a picture and wrote “cooker bomb” next to it, despite the fact that he drew a cucumber and pronounced the word as “cooker bomb”; he was referred to Prevent as a potential threat to the nation.
As crazy as that sounds, what is more shocking is that in similar cases to this, when parents are invited to schools, they tend to break down and actually apologise.
My question is; why do we need to feel the need to apologise when we have done nothing wrong? The only reason why average Muslim parents are defensive is because they fail to see how these investigations are completely wrong and unjustified.
This is evident that we are still colonised as a community. Do not forget when Mohammed Ali refused to join a racist war, he was seen as the criminal; when Rosa Parks did not give up her seat she was a criminal, but both were criminals under an oppressive State. The reality is that without non-violent “resistance”, we would not have the NHS, women would not be allowed to vote, and the police would still be labelled as institutionally racist. Do ponder as Walter Benjamin famously stated, “…behind every fascism is a failed revolution”.
Prevent is not the solution
In terms of Prevent claiming they are our saviours and want to protect us, we already have social liberty groups protecting us, we do not need the McCarthyite policy superficially claiming to do this for us.
The fact of the matter is that overwhelmingly majority of Muslims love Britain; we enjoy the education and healthcare system, the variety of foods available, community cohesion between different faiths and backgrounds. However, our concern is with the decisions the UK Government makes against us, not Britain itself.
If the British State really wants change for the good, then it should stop supporting illegal wars abroad, supporting tyrannical regimes, listen to the average Muslim, help us tackle Islamophobia, and above all, prove ISIS wrong that this is not a clash of civilisations.
Abdullah ibn Adam is a teacher in London whose real name has been concealed to avoid a backlash from his employers.