A Muslim teacher was suspended based on a private discussion in which he questioned the definition of terrorism, something that was deemed under Prevent to be “anti-Western” and “against British values”.
JI is a teacher at a school in the West Midlands region. He advocated a number of political and religious ideas while in a private setting. He was subsequently suspended from his position as a teacher based on these views.
There are two views which were highlighted by the school which they thought warranted suspension.
Firstly, JI had posted an article by a reputable journalist on what would constitute an act of terrorism. The second view concerned whether a petition to proscribe the English Defence League as a terrorism organisation should be circulated.
The school and the Department of Education alleged that JI supported views which were “anti-Western and anti-American” and that he had also “undermined fundamental British values”.
However, JI was subsequently reinstated once an investigation had been conducted by the school.
There are a variety of concerns regarding the application of Prevent in JI’s case.
Firstly, the article which JI posted related to the definition of terrorism and its application in certain contexts. The statement “one man’s terrorist is another man freedom fighter” is an oft-stated cliché, and this did not warrant suspension since in the case of other individuals, this would not have happened.
The definition of “terrorism”, whatever that may be, is something which is still being debated and discussed in academia. If one were to use such discussions as evidence of an “extremist” mind set, this would lead to the term “extremist” being used on a mass scale, silencing legitimate debate and discussion.
Secondly, the case was based on the notion of British values and the government’s definition of “extremism, which it states is “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs and calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist behaviour.”
This definition is vague and not uniformly applicable. For example, Home Secretary Theresa May was unable to defend the definition when pressed for its application in different scenarios during an interview on Radio 4.
Thirdly, views expressed by JI were elucidated in a private arena. They were never espoused to any students at the school, nor were they ever discussed on the schools premises. There could not even be the possibility of a safeguarding issue, since the students were not exposed to JI’s views.