Teachers in Britain are scared of reporting suspected Islamist extremism among their students out of fear of being labelled ‘Islamophobic’, the head of an anti-radicalisation group has said.
From July this year, British teachers will have a legal requirement to report students they believe to be at risk of radicalisation. But Sara Khan of counter-extremist group Inspire told The Guardian that many teachers could be too scared to perform their new duty – a fact that the newspaper saved for paragraph 20 of its 26 paragraph report into the monitoring of students.
“Some teachers have told us ‘we’re scared of being accused of being Islamophobic’ … and when some Muslim and Islamist organisations are saying this is Islamophobia, or other teachers say this is spying on Muslim kids, you can see why some feel like that.
“Safeguarding children from extremism is not Islamophobic, but you’ve got to make sure the way you do it is appropriate. If people don’t understand the issue or don’t seek expert help, they will tend to make mistakes.”
Khan said that “lots and lots” of schools have told her about students attempting to join Islamic State, and that Inspire had been contacted by “hundreds” of teachers who don’t know how to deal with extremist views.
She also said that many schools were contacting the organisation because they fear a backlash from local communities and feel “unequipped” to deal with the issue.
The legislation comes after numerous incidents at schools across Britain over the past year. In February, three schoolgirls from the Bethnal Green Academy in London fled to Istanbul to join Islamic State fighters in Syria.
In a similar incident last July, 16-year-old twins Salma and Zahra Halane left their family in Manchester to become jihadi brides for IS fighters. The previous year, their older brother Ahmed had also travelled to join Islamic State.
The girls were reportedly both highly academically successful, achieving some of the best exam results in their school with one of them expressing a wish to become a doctor.
Sara Khan said that many cannot grasp why intelligent students would be attracted to Islamism. “They don’t understand what it is that Isis are calling young people to. Many of them A-grade students,” she said.