A 15-year-old British schoolboy, who thought “Muslim women shouldn’t be allowed to wear the niqab”, was identified as a potential terrorist and put through the government’s most strict de-radicalisation programme.
Channel is part of the Prevent scheme and is reserved for the most serious cases of radicalisation, targeting “individuals at risk of being drawn into violent extremism” and terrorism.
The unnamed boy, who comes from a predominantly white area, was required to spend time with an imam as well as visit mosques and a “multi-faith project”, where he was signed up as a volunteer.
The workings of Channel are usually kept secret, but authorities made the unusual decision to publicise the targeting of the white schoolboy after activists claimed Prevent was “racist” and “unfairly targets Muslims”.
Police told The Yorkshire Post that the boy was dragged in after he made comments in school about Muslims “trying to take over the country” and was “vocal in his views around what Muslim people should or shouldn’t be allowed to wear”.
Full face coverings are banned or restricted across much of continental Europe, and a poll last September found that that British public back a ban on burkas by two to one.
Describing the process where the West Yorkshire teenager was referred to Channel, Detective Superintendent Nik Adams, the North East regional coordinator for Prevent, said he had shown a “genuine vulnerability”.
“He was saying that Muslim women shouldn’t be allowed to wear the niqab and he had his head filled with nonsense that Muslims were trying to take over the country,” he added.
Despite reportedly helping to stop numerous terrorists, and France and Germany planning similar schemes, Prevent has been relentlessly attacked in the UK.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has called for it to be scrapped and the National Union of Students (NUS) says it is “racist” and has worked with Islamists to organise workshops instructing students how to “resist” it.
Even parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee described it as “toxic” and discriminatory towards Muslims. In April, the United Nations’ (UN) special rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly intervened claiming it created a “spectre of Big Brother”.
However, back in 2011, Prevent was refreshed to make it explicitly clear it was about targeting all forms of radicalisation, not just Islamic extremism.
Sources insist the schoolboy’s case is “fairly typical” of the work of Prevent, and as of last month, one in ten referrals had links to the “far-right” nationwide. In Yorkshire, “far-right” referrals account for nearly 50 per cent of their caseload and 30 per cent of the caseload in the East Midlands.
Det Supt Adams told The Yorkshire Post that there was a recently renewed focus on the “far-right”.
He conceded the “far-right” was predominantly known for street protests and damaging “community cohesion”, rather than terrorism, but said things had changed since the murder of Joe Cox MP by a Nazi sympathiser in June.
“Historically what you would see from the far-right was public disorder, public protest, that would have an impact on community cohesion, people’s sense of wellbeing and belonging,” he said.
Adding: “Whilst we are not looking at intelligence suggesting we have got a growing number of Thomas Mairs, it is a concern that if left untapped and unchallenged, there is a real risk that [it could] grow and we could see further incidents.”