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Muslim boy referred to UK anti-radicalisation scheme Prevent after teacher misheard ‘arms’ for ‘alms’

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The parents of a Muslim boy have taken legal action after a teacher misheard the 11-year-old saying “arms” instead of “alms” and referred him to the UK’s anti-radicalisation scheme.

The boy was referred to the Prevent programme, without his parents knowledge, after the teacher asked pupils what they would do if they inherited a lot of money and thought he had said he wanted to “give arms to the oppressed”.

His parents, who are both professionals, are concerned his details will remain on a security list permanently and affect his career and schooling.

The legal action against the school accuses it of applying a stereotype about his racial and religious background in breach of the Equality Act.

His parents have requested a written apology, the payment of damages and the removal of the referral from his record.

Attiq Malik, director at Liberty Law, said it had been a “frightening” experience for the child’s parents.

“The mere idea that their child has been reported to Prevent and that there is now data being held in some sort of ‘anti-terror’ database somewhere, is truly frightening for them,” he told The National.

“In the current economic climate teachers are barely equipped properly to carry out their teaching duties let alone the additional policing duties imposed on them by Prevent.

“This is yet another example of a ‘fail’ by the government’s Prevent programme on vulnerable impressionable children, highlighting why it is potentially harmful and needs to be scrapped as it simply does not work.”

The police have closed the case against the child, concluding that he showed no signs of radicalisation or extremist views.

The Prevent scheme has come under fire in recent years amid accusations it unfairly targets Muslims.

The government has launched a review into the scheme and this week the Independent reviewer of Prevent, William Shawcross, announced he would be launching three virtual public meetings across the UK to gather evidence on the government’s strategy for supporting people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. They will be held in July.

“I am conducting this review without fear or favour and would encourage anyone with a knowledge of Prevent, either through lived experience, or their paid or voluntary work to attend and share their thoughts”, Mr Shawcross said.

“I know there is a huge range of viewpoints and I am happy to hear from advocates and critics and everyone in between.

“It is important to me that I hear all the evidence, so I can make recommendations on how to better support people to turn away from terrorism and help keep the public safe. Please do consider taking part; this is your opportunity to make your voice heard.”

On Tuesday, community group Prevent Watch launched its own People’s Review of Prevent, chaired by Professor John Holmwood and Layla Aitlhadj, director of Prevent Watch.

Prevent deals with all forms of terrorism, including Islamist and far-right extremism.

From 2012 to March 2020, almost 3,000 people were taken on by Prevent’s voluntary and confidential Channel programme.

As part of Prevent, the Channel programme provides tailored support for a person considered vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

In the year ended March 31, 2020, there were 6,287 referrals to Prevent.

Of those referred to Prevent in 2019-2020, 1,487 (24 per cent) were referred because of concerns related to Islamist radicalisation and 1,387 (22 per cent) were referred over concerns related to far-right extremism.

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