Student interrogated for wearing “Free Palestine” badge, under Prevent strategy

24th Mar 2016

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Muslim teen from Luton says he was branded an “extremist” by his teachers and forced to endure a police interrogation for wearing a “Free Palestine” badge to school last summer.

Rahmaan Mohammadi has accused Challney High School for Boys of over–reacting when they referred him to Prevent, the Government’s anti-radicalisation strategy during a meeting of Students not Suspects, a campaign group, at Goldsmiths Students’ Union in London.

The police were alerted about the 17-year-old, who was ruled by police not to be at risk of being radicalised earlier this month, shortly before a new law, requiring schools to refer young people at risk of radicalisation to the authorities, came into effect last September.

Teachers were concerned about Mohammadi wearing badges and wristbands declaring support for Palestinians, asking permission to fundraise for Palestinian children and reading in class a pro-Palestine leaflet written by a group called Friends of al-Aqsa, which recently had its bank account closed by the Co-op.

When Mohammadi addressed Students not Suspects, he shared the stage with Moazzam Begg, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee and Director of Cage.

In his address Mohammadi claimed that he had been told by teachers not to talk about Palestine in school.

He also alleged that a staff member had asked his 14-year-old brother to “advise Rahmaan to stop being radical or he would be referred to the authorities”.

The school said it was unable to comment on individuals but that it had a “clear and robust safeguarding policy”.

Mohammadi said, “Prevent creates paranoia. In school . . . if a senior member of staff was walking past, we would whisper to each other saying, ‘What if they’re listening to our conversation?’ That’s how paranoid it makes you.”

Recalling how two officers from the Bedfordshire police counterterrorism intelligence unit arrived at his family home, he said: “When police come to your house and say, ‘I want to speak to you’, with this massive folder with your name on it, that’s intimidating. It makes you feel alienated.”

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