London, 1 Muharram 1437/14 October 2015 (MINA) – A British school has reported a 10-year-old Muslim student to police on suspicion of extremism, after he demanded a prayer room, enraging parents who accused the school of being unfair.
”This level of scrutiny is only being targeted at Muslim children which is not fair,” a father said, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
“Children also mimic what other people might say or deliberately want to shock teachers. If children fear expressing their views, even if they are extreme, then they will be driven underground and will be more susceptible to extremists.
“Reporting a child to the police for asking about a prayer room is too far and not helpful to removing extremism from Islam.”
The controversy erupted when a Muslim pupil at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham complained about not having a prayer room on a field trip.
The student, who also told female Muslim pupils they needed to cover their faces with a head scarf, was referred to police under the government’s Prevent Duty initiative.
Earlier this year, the government introduced a new counter-terrorism measure that requires UK nursery staff and childminders to report toddles at risk of becoming terrorists.
The proposed legal requirement for teachers to spy on toddlers was slammed by UK educationists and rights activist.
Under the Prevent Duty initiative, Parkfield School has reported at least three of its 741 pupils, aged five to 11, over signs of extremism.
The decision to report the children has been denounced by many parents.
“They are just little children. Sometimes children do things for fun because they do not understand what they are doing or that it is wrong,” a mother said.
The government’s counter-extremism initiative has been criticized for attempting to control the minds of the students and violate freedom of expression.
“There really is no clarity from government in terms of when to take proportionate steps to protect children from extremism,” Zubeda Limbada, director of Connect Justice, which works to promote trust between communities in order to reduce the risk of extremism, told the Telegraph.
“Teachers should be able to concentrate on nurturing the mind of pupils and not controlling their minds.”
Limbada added, “Last week a Muslim parent came to us worried about their child who had watched Horrible Histories on TV about Henry VIII and beheadings.
“If they went into school and talked about it and their child was Muslim then there is a different complexion with this conversation.”
On the other hand, the school staff has defended the decision to report the Muslim student, claiming his views raised concerns.
“It a sign of extremism might come out in a geography or history lesson. Something that is inappropriate or a change in a child or their attitude or a comment they may make. Once we’ve heard it and seen it we will then work with the child and the family and move forward with it,” head teacher Hazel Pulley told the Radio 4 Today program.
“The children, were for example, on a residential trip. One child, particularly was emphatic about having to have a prayer room, yet we don’t have one in school.”
She went on saying, “We respect our community wholeheartedly but the fact is this was a change from the practices we have in school. It came with other behaviours at that time.
“It was as if in a different environment I can do different things, which was concerning.
Last May, a new study has found that almost a third of school pupils believe ‘Muslims are taking over our country’.
Amid government’s failure to tackle the issue, UK teachers’ unions and anti-racism groups have warned that the rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in schools would foster an atmosphere of “uncertainty and fear” among Muslim students.
British Muslims are estimated at nearly 2.7 million. (T/P006/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)