The Islamic Human Rights Commission has written to Muslim parents to urge them to challenge the Prevent counter-terrorism policy in schools.
Prevent makes it a legal duty for every doctor, teacher and social to look out for the “signs of extremism.”
For example, teachers are advised to look for changes in children’s behaviour as signs of extremism, such as changing the style of clothes they wear, changes in eating habits and mood swings.
IHRC chairman Massoud Shadjareh said: “Since the new laws around Prevent were introduced last year, we have seen case after case of young people in particular being unfairly targeted by Prevent officers and the police. This causes huge distress to the child, as well as their family and wider community…
“We need to make those who have the power to target our young people accountable. We also need to encourage teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers etc to engage with parents before calling the police or a Prevent officer, particularly when there is neither evidence of wrongdoing nor immediate risk to anyone. We need to create an environment where criminalising students under Prevent will be avoided, and children’s welfare will be made the primary focus.”
The IHRC is encouraging parents to contact their child’s school to ask the following:
– What their position is on Prevent and how are they implementing it.
– Whether the school will meet with parents (and possibly students) to explain Prevent and discuss its intentions and consequences.
– Urge the school to provide training to staff that queries the effectiveness of the policy and suggests alternatives.
Shadjareh added: “The aim of this communication is to encourage a more transparent process and to ensure that your child is properly protected from unfair accusations and to avoid the unnecessary distress of any encounters with police or Prevent officers.
The IHRC’s resource pack has a sample letter for parents to use.