Andy Nash / CC BY 2.0

Not long ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron made this foreboding announcement: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens, ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.’ ”

As a recent Al-Jazeera article observes, “Teachers have claimed that they are being pressured to spy on their own students because of new counterterrorism laws which they say risk scapegoating Muslim school children and stifling discussion of controversial issues in the classroom.”

Under the government’s Prevent scheme, schoolchildren who express support for Palestine could be questioned by police and referred to a counterradicalization program for young people deemed at risk of being drawn into terrorism.

According to Al-Jazeera:

One schoolboy told Al Jazeera he was accused of holding “terrorist-like” views by a police officer who questioned him for taking leaflets into school promoting a boycott of Israel.

The case reflects concerns raised about the expansion of the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy into schools, with critics complaining that teachers are being expected to act as the “eyes and ears of the state”.

Since the beginning of July, teachers have had a statutory duty to monitor and report children who they believe may be susceptible to radicalization, although Prevent engagement officers, who are usually also police officers, have long been active in schools in areas with significant Muslim populations.

The boy, who was then 15 and attending school in a southern English town, said he was also told that “Free Palestine” badges that he wore were “extremist”. Al Jazeera is not naming the student or the school to protect his identity.

“He asked me what I thought of the leaflet,” the boy said, describing how a police officer told him he had been brought into the school to “deal with this sort of extremism”.

“I explained to him my views about freedom and justice and that I supported Palestine. I said I thought Israel should have tough sanctions put upon it and he said these could be radical beliefs,” the boy said.

“He said these are terrorist-like beliefs that you have. He explicitly said you cannot speak about this conflict at school with your friends,” the boy said.

Read the rest here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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