Have you heard of Prevent? Stripped back to its bare bones, Prevent is based on a conveyor belt theory. It identifies three stages that lead to acts of terrorism; the first being extremism. This means having staunch unwavering views, a bit like most of the world; those of faith and atheists alike. These extremist views will lead the person to radicalisation; meaning to change their peaceful views fundamentally, leading them finally to turn to acts of violence. Prevent is based on this idea that if you interrupt this process you can prevent terrorist violence taking place.
Now I ask, what teenager does not go through most of those? This is the danger; it impacts everyone.
Or does it?
We wouldn’t notice the average Jo isolating himself, but you would for Mo! This is because minorities are a racialized subject, seen through the filter of race. We are categorised first and foremost as that. This is our main identity. If a white person coughs on the train, it’s a cough, but if I do it, I’m signaling brother crow from 4 lions to attack. Once we create this environment of hate, it’s everyone who suffers. The first person to die after the 9/11 attacks as a retaliation to the terror was a Sikh. Islamophobia targets the Muslim community but it impacts all. It is rampant – it is colonial and exists in the white structures of power that oppress colour and the flavour of the decade is Muslims.
A work I would encourage you all to read is ‘ The Environment of Hate: the New Norm for Muslims’. This book was researched on behalf of the Islamic Human Rights Commission by an amazing hijabi sister Arzu Merali. and brother Saeid Reza Amelie. It discusses that Prevent is a strategy to shut down debate; which is a branch of freedom. Why listen to these people, they’re already different and suspicious? A real-life application of the fear and suspicion spoken of in this book is the four-year-old child who drew a picture of his dad holding something. He told nursery staff it was a cooker bomb. This boy was referred to Prevent because he couldn’t yet pronounce the word cucumber. Another example is the 10-year-old child who was subjected to an investigation by police and other ‘officials’ because he described his house as a terrorist house, instead of writing terrace.
The point I am making is – and I’ll say it extra loud for the people at the back – if these children came from White heritage, the mistakes would have been quickly spotted and laughed at instead. Prevent is a racist policy. When we refer children to things like Prevent, we are emboldening far-right groups to attack, because we’re actively showing that the systems in place to protect us actually bullies us and so they think we’re fair game. As a steward at the Jerusalem march and rally, I saw first-hand how aggressive the far right are. Answer me this, how could 15,000 people come together in one place, at one particular time, with the intention of hurting a faith/race-based group of people, knowing there would be armoured police and still not care, if there wasn’t something in the structures of power telling them this was okay?
Most of us in the UK are second/third generation migrants. We’ve been told to keep our head down, work hard, avoid being political so that we can make the most of the opportunities in this land of milk and honey. It’s time we did just that, but by keeping up to date on the policies that are put in place by the politicians that WE elect to serve our best interests. Staying ‘away’ from politics is a political statement in itself. Being aware of your environment is the first step to making it better.
Let’s choose knowledge over ignorance.