In the cucumber case, a 4-year-old Muslim boy was referred to Prevent counter-extremism after his teacher asks him about a picture, and his words are interpreted as “cooker bomb” even though at no point did the child say “bomb”.
AQ is 4 years old and attends a nursery part time. As part of the class work AQ had drawn a number of pictures which were of concern to the teachers. Two of the pictures were not discernible and amounted to nothing more than shapes and scribbles. These pictures were drawn in Autumn 2015.
Another picture was a stick man holding a large knife alongside a scribble which was drawn in early 2016. When asked about this picture, the child said it was his father cutting a “cucumber”, which the child had mispronounced as “cooker bum.”
However, the nursery staff wrongly asserted that he said “cooker bomb.” At no point did AQ use the word “bomb”, and it was the nursery staff who introduced this word to the conversation.
As a result of this picture the nursery manager started the process to refer AQ to the Channel Programme. The manager completed the ‘Early Help Assessment’ form and responded to ‘Is this a referral to the CHANNEL panel?’ with ‘Yes’ and a statement under needs/worries: “Concerns AQ drawings have previously had violent tendencies”.
AQ’s mother explained how AQ enjoys watching power rangers, spider man and ninja turtles on the TV and this might explain some of this.
AQ’s mother refused to sign the form. She was concerned that questions about home life including questions about his siblings meant her children would be taken away.
Instead of conceding to the pressure exerted by the nursery manager, AQ’s mother asked a number of pointed questions concerning the whole affair.
She asked which of the risk factors has her child shown in order to infer radicalisation. She wanted to know that if such pictures were a concern, why did it take a long period of time to start the proceedings under Prevent. The nursery was unable to answer such questions.
This case displays a number of problems.
Firstly, Prevent is being applied to children who are in pre-school. How can anyone infer radicalisation from the actions of someone so young?
Secondly, there is a lack of clarity and transparency in the implementation of Prevent; if the best interests of the child were at the centre of the nursery’s concerns, they would have been forthcoming in the assessment they made of AQ to the mother, in order to help him and inform her. Rather, they acted in an opaque manner.
Finally, the nursery manager was unable to explain which of the extremism risk factors applied to AQ.
This case made a number of headlines:
Nursery ‘tries to send Asian boy, 4, to DE-RADICALISATION programme after he draws picture of knife and cucumberFour-year-old who mispronounced ‘cucumber’ as ‘cooker bomb’ faced terror warnings, family say