Almost two years ago – a long time in the history of the Prevent strategy – I spoke to a mother who confided in me that her son was so distraught by a Prevent referral made by his school that he had told her he no longer wished to live. This is her story.
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Date: November 2015 Gender: Female Location: Greater London SA was in her form class in which a discussion was initiated concerning the notion of “British Values”. Her form tutor posed a number of questions to the class on issues such as democracy, governance, the law in the United Kingdom and Parliament. He wanted the class to evaluate whether such political structures were positive or negative. He then asked SA and her fellow students to fill out the associated questionnaire. SA wanted to know why they were being asked such questions, as this was form time and not in the context of a politics class. Her form tutor replied that they are discussing a number of different types of laws such as Hindu and Christian law. He then refereed to Shariah law in a derogatory manner, calling it “brutal.” He referred to Islam’s penal code and marriage laws. PREVENT Watch has
Date: April 2015 Gender: Female Location: Greater London HH was a social sciences student based in London. HH was studying in the library, writing an essay on radicalisation. A lecturer at the university saw HH with two books on the topic of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which HH had been reading in the course of writing her essay. The two books in question are two of the foremost pieces of work in the area of study and it would be necessary for any student to use the book when writing an essay on radicalisation in which ISIS was discussed. The lecturer’s reaction at HH carrying the books was to remark “Oh! Don’t go joining ISIS will you?” HH’s reaction was one of shock, and this was abundantly evident to the lecturer. The lecturer said that she was “joking”. Later on in the day, a friend of HH’s
Date: May 2015 Gender: Male Location: Greater London Case Study: X In this case, a mother was approached by a Prevent officer over the course of six-months, visiting the family home 3-4 times a month regarding her eldest son ‘x’, who was studying for his A-levels. Prevent was successful in attaining the mothers cooperation. When questioned why she cooperated with Prevent officers, she replied “I have nothing to hide of my sons, and if I don’t answer their questions, they’ll think I’m hiding something, and things will get worse.” Prevent officers have systematically harassed ‘X’ to the extent that X would anticipate contact via text or phone call at 07:00am to see if X was awake, and offer him breakfast! On one occasion, the Prevent officers took him to the local ice-cream parlour, and spoke about Islam, ideology and political issues related to the Islamic state. Again, due to the climate of fear that already
Date: July 2015 Gender: Female Location: South East Case Study – AA AA is a secondary school student who was questioned by social services in the presence of police based on allegations made by a family member. These allegations concerned the literature and news she was reading. She had read articles and watched documentaries created by a news agency from the Middle East. An example of such a documentary is the rescue of concentration camp detainees during the Second World War. AA had started watching these documentaries because her father, of Middle Eastern descent, wanted her to learn about different lifestyles and cultures and to have a better understanding of the world. When AA was questioned by social services, she did her best to answer them. Social services wanted to know why AA was using these particular news agencies as a source of news. Social services suggested alternative news outlets.
Date: January 2015 Gender: Male Location: South East England Case Study NT NT helped to run a “dawah stall” in which he distributed educational material on Islam. He was requested to attend a meeting at the police station as the police said that his car had potentially been the “victim of cloning” and that he had to come to the police station to give a statement. However, when NT arrived at the police station he described the encounter as a “long discussion” in which they “wanted to get me to sell out”. He was requested to spy on “Muslims, mosques and Islamic institutes” which he refused. A similar meeting took place at a garden centre in his local area. A few days later, he received the visit from the local PREVENT officer and an officer from South East Counter-Terrorism Unit. They alleged that he had visited websites with terrorist material.
Date: May 2015 Gender: Male Location: Greater London Case Study: SS SS was in his French lesson. The class were shown pictures of deforestation and were asked by their teacher to provide comment. The class made comments on how the trees were being destroyed by machinery and the Greenhouse effect. SS also took part in the debate. He started to talk about eco-warriors and their tactics. The tactics he talked about included the use of spikes implanted in trees to prevent chainsaws chopping them down. He explained that metal nails blunted the chainsaw. He continued that some people even consider eco-warriors as eco-terrorists based on the tactics they use. The teacher looked concerned. SS cohorts also joined the discussion on eco-terrorism. The reason why SS and his classmates knew about eco-warriors and eco-terrorists was because they had researched the topic for the purposes of the debating society at school. SS
The Prevent Duty
The Prevent Duty is championed by the government as an effective strategy to prevent terrorism, however, evidence suggests this is having an adverse effect on communities. Thousands of Prevent referrals are made each year but very few of them lead to any intervention.
Prevent Watch has supported hundreds of people impacted by Prevent. Our case studies show a huge failing of the Prevent Duty. We provide a free helpline with dedicated case workers to support people impacted by the Prevent Duty. We provide access to lawyers, media, research and much more.
What we’re working on
Report: A Response to the Shawcross Report
Report: The People’s Review of Prevent
On 12 February 2019, the government committed to carrying out an independent review of Prevent. We explain why the Government’s review of Prevent resulted in a boycott across civic society and the resultant alternative, the People’s Review of Prevent.
The Trojan Horse Affair
The Trojan Horse Affair ensured the Prevent was embedded in legislation under the guise of safeguarding. We analyse the events that unfolded in 2014 to reveal how they impact Prevent as we know it today.
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Dr Layla Aitlhadj
Director, Prevent Watch