LONDON: An 11-year-old boy from a Muslim family was referred to a UK government anti-extremism program, called Prevent, after telling a friend that he hoped his school would burn down.
His mother told The Guardian newspaper: “Being a brown, Muslim, Asian boy does not make you a terrorist.”
She admitted that her son’s comments were unacceptable but added that they were “isolated” and the result of stress. The child is said to suffer from anxiety.
An investigation by the boy’s school into the incident found no evidence of any links to extremist groups or prior instances of radical rhetoric.
“Prevent guidance places clear emphasis on appropriateness and proportionality,” his mother said.
The Prevent officer who examined the case decided not to take any further action but, as per protocol, the boy’s personal information was due to be logged for six years in a police counterterrorism database until his mother intervened.
She also complained to the school, in the north of England, that she had not been informed about the incident or the referral, and is set to receive an apology.
“I was told by the Prevent officer that the matter would not be taken any further as it looked like a matter related to an 11-year-old boy struggling with school,” she said. “My son had become so unhappy and stressed about the demands placed on him relating to homework.”
She added that she had to fight to have her son’s name removed from the counterterrorism database, she added.
“I’ve achieved a partial victory because the police have agreed to remove his name from their database but I am seeking further information from his files, which are held by the UK Home Office,” she said.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Prevent is a safeguarding program helping people to turn away from radicalization. Prevent referral data is only held temporarily by the police, and parents or carers can request for it to be deleted sooner, where appropriate.
“All data is kept completely confidential, other than where a serious security risk emerges. Information and guidance on the use of, and access to, the central Prevent referral database is owned by the police and not by the Home Office.”