A leaked email to The Times suggests that police in the West Midlands have been contacting community groups encouraging them to be on the lookout for radical islamification in children from the age of 4. They are under the belief that a child may give away such indoctrination by drawing a photo of bombs or decreeing that ‘all Christians are bad’.
As the unit acknowledges it is unlikely to yield any real results, so all it does is perpetuate a society focused on surveillance and distrust. Also, one would assume that educated and compassionate humans such as nursery teachers would use their initiative and monitor and report any child’s behavior they found unsettling without prompting from the police. Police initiatives undermine individual responsibility and encourage citizens to act in a certain way ‘because the police said so’ and not because of any individual moral judgment.
The surveillance of young children for ‘abnormal’ behaviors ties in with criticism of the government’s ‘Prevent’ programme, which uses £140m to tackle extremism in the UK. The initiative has been accused of gathering data on Muslim households, stigmatizing communities & encouraging neighbors to spy on one another. Culture Secretary John Denham has recently pledged to make the project more transparent and to deal with complaints from Muslim communities that such a scheme is imposed upon them, instead of working with them.
Acknowledging shortcomings in attempts to stem extremist ideologies is a positive thing. Communities feel distrusted and treated as a threat from such schemes; as such they are given more incentive to alienate themselves from British culture. Similarly, knowing that government-directed projects are focusing in on your religious beliefs and everyday lives is likely to lead to resentment and backlash.
The best way to tackle any form of extremism is to step back from media frenzy and show the benefits that a genuinely tolerant, multicultural society that invites both diversity and debate can bring.