World, Europe

Muslim children victims of UK's counter-terror policy

Report released by advocacy group documents unjust practices by Prevent strategy

Ekip   | 21.09.2018
Muslim children victims of UK's counter-terror policy

London, City of

By Muhammad Mussa


Muslim children are being falsely accused of radicalization by the British government as part of its counter-terrorism strategy Prevent, a report said Thursday.

The report released by the human rights advocacy group Cage details how Prevent has erroneously targeted Muslim communities throughout the U.K. on the pretext of tackling radicalization and extremism and has even separated Muslim children from their families. 

“CAGE is offering documentation that the removal of children, and the attempted removal of children, is taking place in the family courts of the United Kingdom.

“It is being done using an unreliable and highly subjective method of measuring extremism and radicalization, themselves subjective terms that have not been adequately defined,” it said.

Cage has been in contact with the families affected and has represented them on many occasions, concluding that in many cases, the judicial system employs a “flawed and inaccurate method” to separate Muslim children from their families and that these methods are often politicised and based “on the notions of ideology”.

The advocacy group quoted current statistics from Mark Rowley, head of the counter-terrorism policing unit, who has said that around 100 children have been separated from their families and has called for a response from British society to confront the dangers of extremism even though, according to Cage, there is no agreed upon definition of extremism.  

 Victim accounts 

Cage also included personal testimonies from four family members affected by Prevent.

One of these testimonies is from Mariam, whose house was raided by counter-terror police just after she had given birth to her son, based on the evidence that Mariam’s ex-husband, who she hadn’t seen for two years, was jailed for offences unrelated to terrorism.

Mariam then goes on to explain how social workers and officers would come and visit her and ask questions not regarding child neglect or abuse, but her religious beliefs, whether she was sending her children to religious schools and what aspects of the religion she was teaching to her children.

Furthermore, the social workers warned Mariam that if her daughter went to school with her headscarf, “we, the local authorities, will seek the removal of your children, and if you teach your children Arabic or the Quran we will remove them from you”.

“I will never forget the mental abuse local authorities and police have put on me and my children. My children and I have witnessed such hatred from the police and local authorities for being a Muslim,” Mariam said.

“They used my children as tools. At no point do I remember the counter terrorism officers mentioning any concerns for me as a mother or the children in terms of abuse. They just wanted information and they were ready to destroy my children’s lives at any cost,” she added.

Another victim, Yusra, had two of her children questioned by the police in school without the knowledge of their mother.

Yusra explained how she had a one-on-one meeting with social workers and that “they asked me what I thought of ISIS and what I thought about democracy, whether it was a viable system to live under. It was all about my belief.”

“I felt like it was my religion and belief that was on trial. It was not about whether I was caring for the children properly. The whole thing was led by the police. I saw on the form, the referral was made by counter-terrorism police, SO15,” she added.

Asim Qureshi, who wrote the report, stated: “We had to be completely transparent, in our research and in the way we interviewed and portrayed the stories of those families who have been, and are in the midst of being, subject to the attempted removal of their children.”

“We deliberated carefully over making such statements and were mindful that we were absolutely sure of them, and could back them up, not only with legal evidence, but with real testimonies, from real people who had experienced, and are still experiencing, what is to us -- and we are certain to most people -- the most terrifying form of state oppression,” he added.

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