Date: February 2015
Cast study: ZM
ZM is 16 years old, and currently in year 11 in a school located in Portsmouth. PREVENT officers have heavily engaged with this school on “extremism” and “radicalisation” issues. There is a strong climate of PREVENT officers visiting the school regularly, questioning students within and outside of school. ZM’s mother described her son as disinterested in Islam, and she was surprised that PREVENT officers would approach him.
On 23 February 2015, ZM intended to take out a library book on the topic of terrorism, among three other books. However, the librarian observed ZM’s book selection from afar, and took the books away from ZM’s possession without his knowledge. The librarian then informed the principle of the school, which led to a referral to the local PREVENT officer.
It is important to note that the terrorism book in question was a school library copy, and hence there should be no tensions or worries of extremism. The PREVENT officer, after learning about the book incident in the library, visited the mother of ZM in his family home, and said that there are concerns that ZM is falling into extremism.
This case illustrates the trivial nature of referrals to PREVENT officers, without any credible or concrete indicators of extremism or radicalisation. The librarian referred the case to the Head teacher believing that there is an issue of concern, when evidently the item was a school library book. The PREVENT strategy instructs schools to take the initiative to monitor students, however if school books are made a marker for radicalisation, the whole strategy then becomes questionable. If students are not permitted to freely study and read in libraries, then this will only disenfranchise them, leading them to self-fulfil the prophecy that PREVENT seeks to dilute.