An eight-year-old is left ‘traumatised’ and ‘frightened’ by counter terrorism police

Sign saying "Counter Terrorism Response Level Heightened"
Emily Apple

Counter-terrorism police left an eight-year-old boy “frightened” and “traumatised” after interviewing him at school.

According to the Independent, the boy was questioned by two officers and a social worker under the Prevent strategy following a safeguarding alert. The family has made complaints to Redbridge Council and the Metropolitan Police over what happened.

“Frightened” and “traumatised”

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The boy’s father told the Independent that the boy was questioned “about Islam, the mosque he attends, whether he prays, and his views on other religions”. Additionally, he was asked to “recite verses from the Quran”.

He said the incident “frightened” and “traumatised” the boy. He continued:

Our son is only in Year 3 and is significantly impacted by this. He has since asked us why he had been questioned and not any other children were questioned.

He feels betrayed by his teacher, as it was someone he trusted who took him to the officers to be questioned in this manner.

“Islamophobia”

The boy’s parents accused the council and the police of ‘Islamophobia’. The Independent claims that:

the child was interviewed without consent following concerns about the father’s

attendance at dawah stalls in 2014  – which allegedly had links to a Anjem Choudary‘s al-Muhajiroun terrorist network.

But no safeguarding concerns arose from the interviews. According to Kevin Blowe, coordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring, the purpose of the interview was “to put pressure on the father”. He told The Canary:

Many safeguarding concerns are genuine and urgent but interrogating a child in this way is extraordinary. It seems less like a real concern for his welfare and more like a hamfisted trawl for anything incriminating that can be used to put pressure on his father.

Police and council response

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told the Independent:

We can confirm that counter-terrorism officers undertook a visit to an east London school earlier this year following concern raised about a child under 10 years old.

This safeguarding meeting was conducted in the company of a social worker. Counter Terrorism Policing works with partners to safeguard the most vulnerable in our society. A public complaint has been received in relation to this matter and is now being investigated by the Counter Terrorism Professional Standards Unit. No safeguarding issues were identified as a result of the meeting with the boy and no further police action was taken in relation to this matter.

And a spokesperson for Redbridge Council stated:

We’re unable to comment on the circumstances of this matter but can confirm we have received a formal complaint, which is being fully investigated in line with the council’s usual procedures.

 

“The huge problem”

Blowe summed up why this case goes to the “heart of the huge problem with Prevent”:

When the term “radicalisation” is poorly defined and viewed in the broadest possible terms, it not only becomes meaningless, but can lead to surveillance on almost anyone – especially if they are members of British Muslim communities.

He concluded:

Is it any wonder Muslim parents distrust the government’s counter terrorism activities?

Featured image via Flickr/Elliott Brown

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