I recently wrote an article for Media Diversified on the ‘Counter-Extremism’ questionnaire that is being widely circulated on social media. The questionnaire was given to children of Buxton Primary School in East London, but has also been trialled by other schools in the area. The questionnaire was revealed to be part of a project named ‘BRIT’ (Building Resilience through Integration & Trust), which is being promoted by Waltham Forest Council and funded by the European Commission. The survey, as I mention in my article, consists of ‘undeniably loaded questions aimed at discerning the religious, ethical and even patriotic beliefs of the children taking part’. Moreover, it is my opinion that the ‘survey is undoubtedly intended for Muslim children primarily, who will continue to undergo interrogation of this kind as part of the new legal obligations upheld by educational institutions, consisting of monitoring potential ‘extremists’, as dictated by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill that recently passed in parliament’.
Buxton Primary School has now stated that, due to the media coverage and public outrage, they have decided to destroy all completed questionnaires. Despite this good news, the BRIT questionnaire is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of government-sanctioned ‘counter-terrorism’ policies and projects aimed at schools and children. Moreover, under the new Tory government, more policies are likely to be integrated into schools to target children who the government deem susceptible to ‘radicalisation’. Undoubtably, those who are, and will be increasingly targeted, are Muslim children:
‘The criminalisation of Muslim children is only one part of the larger collective punishment our government is enacting on British Muslims for the crimes of a few. The consequences of collective punishment are counterproductive: policies that allow our government to systematically alienate, demonise, detain and torture Muslims, through the War on Terror and its by-products, contributes to the marginalisation of these communities and fosters resentment.’ – Schools in the UK Are Now Asking Muslim Children to Fill Out “Counter-Extremism” Tests by Ananya Rao-Middleton
In light of these policies, it is important for parents to understand what these schemes are, and how to identify them:
- The PREVENT Scheme – was created by the Labour government in 2005 following the 7/7 London bombings. According to CageUK’s report, this was the ‘first all-encompassing social policy targeting almost every aspect of Muslim life’. Alongside other terror laws, PREVENT has had widespread negative effects on the freedom and rights of British Muslims, including Muslim children. In schools, the PREVENT policy introduced the Channel programme, targeting youth ‘at risk’ of radicalisation: ‘The Channel programme provides collaboration between the Police and other agencies such as schools and youth workers in identifying and referring individuals and carrying out de-radicalising interventions’ (CageUK report). These schemes mean that Muslim children are essentially targeted for their religion and religious practices, rather than any tangible dangers to society. Even more worryingly, CageUK’s report documents that ‘the individuals referred under Channel have no rights to legal or other representation, or to challenge the referral or its outcome. It is not known to what extent parents are being informed, if at all, about their children’s referral’.
- The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (CTS Bill) – The CTS Bill was passed in parliament by Theresa May earlier this year. It has allowed the government to have greater powers to implement draconian ‘counter-extremism’ policies in schools, which mercilessly target and criminalise Muslim children. The CTS Bill has also created a legal obligation for schools, colleges and universities to look for and report ‘extremism’. This means that teachers and staff are now legally bound by the CTS Bill to monitor their students, compromising any prior confidentiality or privacy between themselves and their pupils. This will no doubt create a hostile environment of suspicious and mistrust for Muslim children in schools.