The Government's problematic 'Prevent' policy

By: Masrur Ahmed, History student, East London. Twitter: @Masrur_95

Being Muslim in Britain today is far from easy. It can be lonely, unsettling and intimidating. The government’s Prevent strategy does very little to challenge this – if anything, it adds to the feeling of isolation.

The government’s Prevent strategy is one of four in the government’s counter-terrorism strategy: prepare, protect, peruse and prevent. Prevent looks to eradicate and challenge the possibility of young people being radicalised by noticing “signs” of radicalisation at school, college and university. Therein lies the issue; what constitutes as signs of radicalisation? And what is this new strategy doing to our educational institutions?

Government documents which present outlines of what teachers should look out for are quite frankly, absurd. What is described in many Prevent documents as signs of radicalisation seem to be what any normal adolescent experiences during their confusing time at school.

Some of the factors listed as likely to contribute to joining racist and far-right groups are: seeking excitement and action, and seeking family and father substitutes. It is bizarre that an adolescent who is looking for excitement and is perhaps alienated from their family as he/she grows up, is an adolescent who is susceptible to radicalisation.

It almost goes without saying that family tensions are something that come natural to adolescent life. Yet, the government highlights this as a sign of radicalisation. Another local government board remarks that young people may be vulnerable due to personal circumstances, such as “grievance that is triggered by personal experience of racism or discrimination in aspects of Government policy”. It is bewildering that one can be subject to racism and discrimination, be upset by that, and then deemed as vulnerable to radicalisation.

The issues with Prevent go beyond absurd “signs” of extremism. Having such a policy implemented in schools will undoubtedly disrupt the learning environment. If children as young as three could be accused of radical affiliation due to what they say in class, does this not cast a shadow over a child’s right to education, as well as his/her freedom to speak, learn and make mistakes?

However, the problems with this government policy go beyond class and lecture rooms, and into homes. Parents may now fear that their child will be taken aside and social services involved, solely due to an innocent remark or mistake. Parents cannot be blamed for considering whether or not they want the religion of their child to be public. The choice to do this is the effect of the Prevent policy being implemented by the government - one which leads parents to deciding that the anonymity of their child’s religion is the safe option, out of fear, rather than to disclose this information.

Prevent also falters academically. The policy is one that puts religion at the heart and root of extremism. This is a contentious point, and one that is still fiercely debated by academics religion as the driving force of radicalisation might just be barking up the wrong tree, according to some academics, who feel terrorism has its roots elsewhere; geo-politics perhaps. This ought to be something the government takes into account.

The crux of the problem lies in the ridiculous terminology and vagueness of this policy. It is unquestionable that radicalisation, extremism and terrorism need to be challenged at a grassroots level to ensure that we never face the situation of a terrorist attack. But to do so at the expense of isolating young people for being young people, in the learning environment, in the manner in which the government currently proposes, is not the way to go about it. 
The Government's problematic 'Prevent' policy The Government's problematic 'Prevent' policy Reviewed by Admin on 20:59 Rating: 5


  1. I heard this guy works at Smyths Loooooool

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article. it was concise, clear and eloquent and really highlighted the core issue with Prevent which is imo silencing a generation of students. I especially liked the listed factors part however I think some added examples about how Prevent has demonised the youth would make it even better such as the 14y/o who mentioned eco-terrorism in French and got interrogated or the Waltham Forest scandal or the UoN student who was arrested for 7 days without charge for downloading the Al-Qaeda training manual (from the US gov website) for his phd on counter-terrorism. Real life examples really highlight Prevent's silliness but it's just a suggestion of course. :-)


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