LONDON: An 11-year-old Muslim boy has been reported to Britain’s anti-terrorism watchdog after he told his class he wanted to give “alms” to the needy, which his teacher mistook for “arms.”
A legal challenge issued by the parents against the school states that the teacher had asked what members of the class would do if they received a large sum of money.
The boy, whose family said he is deeply interested in medieval history and described him as “intelligent” and “widely read,” said he responded by saying he would “give alms to the oppressed.”
Alms is another, somewhat archaic, way of describing charity, and it is often understood as being provided by religious people to the most vulnerable and needy in society.
However, the boy’s teacher is said to have panicked and reported the child to Britain’s anti-terror watchdog, Prevent, after mistaking the “alms” for “arms.”
Despite the school acknowledging that the boy is “highly intelligent,” the report appears to focus on the fact that his comments are “non-typical” for a boy of his age.
Police quickly closed the case after determining there was no substance to it, no sign of radicalization or extremism, nor any threat to national security.
The parents’ legal challenge against the school is demanding a written apology, damages, and the expunging of the Prevent referral from the boy’s record before he moves on to other schools.
They claim that the teacher broke anti-discrimination laws by applying a stereotype about his racial and religious background in their treatment of him.
Attiq Malik, director of Liberty Law Solicitors, who is representing the boy’s family, told MailOnline: “Yet again we see another example of a ‘fail’ by the Government’s Prevent program on vulnerable impressionable children, highlighting why the program is potentially harmful and needs to be scrapped as it simply does not work.”
Malik also warned that despite the accusation being completely unfounded, the Prevent referral could still come back to bite the family.
He told The Guardian: “Every time a Prevent referral is made, it generates a record with the Home Office and various other intelligence agencies.
“And it’s very unfair that a child, who has done nothing wrong, is suddenly having data created about him which may not ever be deleted.”
Britain’s Prevent program was established to identify and support people deemed as vulnerable to any form of radicalization and in danger of becoming terrorists. It forces staff in schools and hospitals to report issues they consider concerning.
While the number of potential far-right extremists referred to the program has been steadily increasing, Prevent is still regularly accused of concentrating on Muslims.
The referral, the boy’s father said, is “especially distressing” because the school failed to discuss it with the family beforehand as required.
It is “having a massive impact on us as a family,” he said, adding that his wife “hasn't slept properly since this happened.”