A British Muslim seven-year-old reported to police over a piece of metal
A seven-year-old was reported to police after suggesting a piece of brass was a bullet (Pixabay)
A seven-year-old British Muslim boy has been referred to the police by his primary school, after he claimed a piece of brass was a rifle bullet, the Guardian has reported. The boy had also told teachers at St Edward’s Catholic Primary School in England’s second biggest city Birmingham that his teenage brother, who had attended army cadet training, had held a gun.
Officers soon established that the item was not a bullet, and “no further action was taken”, according to West Midlands Police.
The case has yet again raised controversy in Britain over the government’s Prevent program which compels schools and childcare providers to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” (Department for Education document “the Prevent Duty”). The idea is that teachers report those they perceive as at risk from radicalization, who can then be referred to the government’s deradicalization program, Channel.
However, many have suggested that Prevent has created a climate of heightened suspicion towards young Muslims in the UK. The boy’s mother, who remained anonymous, told TellMAMAUK, a service for reporting anti-Muslim incidents, that she did not think that her son’s case would have escalated in this way had he not been a Muslim, and that she felt the system had placed the onus on them to prove the child’s innocence, rather than on the police to provide any evidence of wrongdoing.
She told TellMAMA: “It immediately became apparent that neither the school nor the police thought it was a real bullet, yet nobody thought to use some common sense.”
This is not the first time individuals have been overzealous in their reporting of children’s activities under the scheme. In March a nursery in Luton, a town to the north of London, referred a four-year-old to the deradicalization program after he drew a picture of a knife cutting a cucumber, and staff misheard is pronunciation of the vegetable as “cooker bomb”. Last year, a 14-year-old was pulled out of class for questioning at his school in London, following his use of the term ‘ecoterrorism’ during a discussion on the environment in a French class.
Such incidents can cause great distress for the children involved; in this most recent case the mother of the boy described how he was was “very distressed and intimidated” when police arrived at his home to interview him, with the school having failed to alert his mother to their concerns beforehand. Indeed, such incidents can also serve to alienate the very Muslim community that is so integral to preventing extremism in the UK.
Many responding on social media suggested that the incident was clearly a case of Islamaphobia:
My son is 7. Boys this young are profiled & harassed b/c bigots believe profiling works & Islamophobia doesnt exist https://t.co/3O3OsrAOAS— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@MuslimIQ) November 6, 2016
Others took the opportunity to call for the ending of the Prevent program:
While the school ultimately apologized the mother of the boy on this occasion, they denied any discrimination, insisting that they had behaved in the same manner with previous cases involving non-Muslim children. Some commenters on Facebook took a similar view, suggesting that the school had a duty to investigate the supposed “bullet”:
Whether it was deliberately discriminatory or not, such cases which appear to place greater suspicion on Muslim children do nothing to curb the wave of Islamaphobia in Britain following June’s decision to leave the EU.
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