WALES – A new proposal by UK’s Home Office to extend Prevent counter-terrorism inspection into primary schools has been widely criticized by the Muslim minority, warning that it would increase cases of Muslim students’ bullying.
“It would not be desirable for the Muslim community, or the Irish community or the Jewish community,” Tahir Alam of the Association of Muslim Schools, told Wales Online on Sunday, February 9.
The controversy erupted when the Home Office announced its new proposal to include Wales’s primary schools in the counter terrorism program.
It states that children aged four to 11 will be taught about the dangers of violent extremism.
“Counter terrorism policing relies on a range of methods and tactics and improving police engagement with young people is essential to the success of the Prevent strategy,” a spokesman for South Wales Police said.
“The Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit and South Wales Police works closely with local communities and partners to ensure that individuals or groups that glorify terrorism or engage in extremism have no voice within Cardiff and the wider South Wales region.
“Our work in schools has the support of Cardiff’s Muslim communities and we’re extremely proud to have such strong links with our communities as they have a central role in rejecting violence.”
The controversial proposal wasn't welcomed by the Welsh community who deemed it “undesirable”, arguing that such activities could be managed by schools themselves without the intervention of terror cops.
“That is something schools will do,” Alam explained.
“I’ve taken classes where children might say something and you just correct them, that is what would happen normally.”
Alam also warned of negative feedback.
“If people find out the police have been trying to sniff around trying to find extreme views that is not going to go down very well,” he added.
British Muslims have warned that the new system could prove counterproductive, drawing young students’ attention to extremism.
“It could be counterproductive and it could just draw their attention to these things,” Ibrahim Harbi of the Somali Integration Society warned.
“There are no right or wrong answers.
Early intervention “could be positive but you could blow it out of all proportion.
“But if it is going to make people good citizens then it is worth it.”
Calling for more inclusive understanding between police and communities, the Muslim Council of Wales warned that terrorism inspection would risk subjecting Muslim students to “bullying”.
“But we are not going to snoop on what everyone is doing,” spokesman of the Muslim Council of Wales said.
“There are a lot of good things in Prevent but there are things that the community feels are not appropriate.” the spokesman added who underscored the importance cooperation between police and community to counter radicalism.
Other community members urged neutrality while tracking extremism.
“Any form of extremism is something all schools would work against,” said Mal Davies, a former head teacher of Willows High School, in Cardiff.
“Although the notion of having it focused against any one race would not be acceptable in any school.”
Seeing concerned Muslims, the spokesman for South Wales Police praised the role of the Muslim community to counter radicalism.
“Our work in schools has the support of Cardiff’s Muslim communities,” he said.
“We’re extremely proud to have such strong links with our communities as they have a central role in rejecting violence.”
In December, a plan to classify “Islamist extremism” as a distinct ideology was fired back by experts who argued that it risks backfiring by fuelling anti-Muslim prejudice and driving hardliners underground.
London introduced a controversial strategy in the wake of the 2005 attacks to prevent Muslims from being lured into extremist ideologies.
However, the “Prevent” strategy was widely criticized as focusing predominantly on British Muslims.
Britain's 2.7 million Muslims have taken full brunt of anti-terror laws since the 7/7 attacks.
They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.
A Financial Times opinion poll has showed recently that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
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