Eight-year old questioned on Islam by counter-terrorism officers

25th Jan 2019
Eight-year old questioned on Islam by counter-terrorism officers

(Photo: Man vyi/Wiki Commons)

Hamed Chapman

The Metropolitan Police and Redbridge Council have launched separate investigations into why a boy as young as 8-year-old was subjected to questioning by two counter-terrorism police officers and a social worker about alleged radicalism at his school in east London.

The parents of the child, who wish to remain anonymous, said they had lodged official complaints about their son was left “frightened” and “traumatised” after he was separated from his classmates at an Ilford school to be interviewed.

The father claims his son was asked about Islam, the mosque he attends, whether he prays, and his views on other religions. He was also asked to recite verses from the Qur’an, according to a report in the Independent newspaper.

“We are absolutely shocked and appalled that our son was questioned alone and in this manner and without informing his parents,” he was quoted saying. “We as parents have never asked our eight-year-old son some of these questions and are deeply upset some stranger would ask these questions of him.

“Our son is only in Year 3 and is significantly impacted by this. He has since asked us why he had been questioned and not any other children were questioned. He feels betrayed by his teacher, as it was someone he trusted who took him to the officers to be questioned in this manner.”

The incident happened at the end of the summer term last July but no safeguarding issues were identified from the interview and no further action was taken by the police. But the parents are seeking legal advice after being “extremely upset” by the experience which they say made them feel like criminals.

Met Police Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu, the head of UK counter-terror policing, told the Home Affairs Committee last October that safeguarding children was at the heart of the Government’s controversial Prevent Extremism programme. “We have got to challenge extremist behaviour even if it doesn’t cross the criminal threshold because of the kind of intolerance it breeds.”

The recent case involving a child in east London emerged after the latest Government figures showed that more than half of people referred to Prevent in 2017-18 were aged 20 or under.

Home Office figures reveal that as many as 2,009 under-15s were flagged up over terror concerns in the year to March, a 20 per cent rise on the year before.

Corey Stoughton, Advocacy Director at civil rights’ group Liberty, said the country’s “counter-terrorism legislation, particularly the Prevent duty, has consistently spread discrimination and distrust, pushing schools and other public authorities to question people based on their religion and skin colour.”

Mohammad Khan, a spokesman for Prevent Watch, a group that supports people affected by the Prevent Duty, said “A child asked to recite from a sacred text is wrong on so many levels and smacks of an authoritarian state. Prevent does little to prevent terrorism but instead sows deep and structural prejudices towards the Muslim community.”

The Met Police has confirmed that counter-terrorism officers “undertook a visit to an east London school earlier this year following concern raised about a child under 10 years old” and that a complaint has been received and is “being investigated by the Counter-Terrorism Professional Standards Unit.”

A Redbridge Council spokesman said it was “unable to comment” on the incident that is now being “investigated.”

The Independent report also said that it “understands radicalisation concerns were sparked by the father’s links to members of an Islamist group.” It mentioned that the child was interviewed without consent following concerns, albeit five years later, “about the father’s attendance at dawah stalls in 2014 which allegedly had links to Anjem Chaoudary’s al-Muhajiroun.

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