A four-year-old Muslim boy has been referred to the government’s counter-extremism Prevent scheme after talking about “guns and bombs” in the Fortnite video game at his after-school club.
The Guardian reports that the boy, who is from the West Midlands, was referred to Prevent in September 2019 after saying that his father had “guns and bombs in his shed.”
However, transcripts of a conversation with a club worker reveal that the reference to weaponry was linked to Fortnite.
The child’s mother believes that if her boy were white and not a Muslim he wouldn’t have been considered at risk of radicalisation. She described her upset at police turning up at the family home at 10.30pm. “It could have gone really wrong. I worry armed police could have come to my house and, you know, arrested the parents, with social services getting involved.”
“Prevent gives a bad image of Islam. For people who don’t really know much about Islam and Muslims, they just believe what they hear in the media, it is all very negative,” said the mother.
The four-year-old is one of 624 under-sixes referred to Prevent between 2016 and 2019. During the same period, 1,405 children between the ages of six and nine were also referred to the scheme.
The scale of referrals is linked to the obligation on public bodies, including nurseries and schools, to report concerns about radicalisation.
Layla Aitlhadj, director at Prevent Watch, said: “It’s difficult to fully appreciate the impact this experience can have on a family.” She said that rather than a review of Prevent pressing ahead, her group wanted the scheme to be abolished.
And Rosalind Comyn, Liberty policy and campaigns manager, said: “We should all be free to express ourselves and go about our daily lives without being monitored for what we think or believe – and to grow up in a society where we feel safe to express our thoughts and opinions.
“That’s why it’s so worrying that hundreds of children barely old enough to tie their own shoelaces are being profiled as potential future criminals based on things like the video games they play or the perceived views of their families.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Where someone is concerned a child may have been deliberately exposed to harmful terrorist narratives, it is right that they refer them to the necessary authorities. Prevent is first and foremost about safeguarding, and through this referral, the child will be able to receive the vital support they need.”