As an ordinary Leeds lass who spent two decades embroiled in a foreign terrorist organisation in the 1980s and 90s, I was deeply disappointed by the NUT’s vote to reject the Home Office’s Prevent strategy (Report, theguardian.com, 28 March). Last week, in a presentation to the Suffolk Prevent conference, I was able to explain in detail the mechanisms behind how radicalisation takes place. That the psychological manipulation involved in radicalisation is similar to that which underlies domestic violence and child sexual exploitation. That the different belief systems espoused by various violent extremist groups are almost irrelevant because their radicalising behaviour is the same.
The audience response was overwhelmingly positive. They understood Prevent not as a political or ideological assault on their communities, but first and foremost as a safeguarding issue. They unequivocally understood that schools and colleges need to make space for challenging conversations and that through listening to explanations like the one I give as a former terrorist, everyone in the public sector can gain the confidence needed to effectively fulfil their obligations under Prevent. I can only assume that NUT members’ reaction is due to the undeniably patchy and poor Prevent training which is being delivered by people who don’t have a clear grasp of the issue. But as somebody who might have been rescued if the Prevent and Channel programmes had existed when I was radicalised, I can only say that it would be a disaster if the fallout from weak and incoherent training is allowed to blight the future of the Prevent duty.
Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton)
Congratulations to the NUT for coming out against the government’s ludicrous Prevent strategy. Prevent is a paranoid and counterproductive initiative which has traumatised innocent children in the name of “fighting terror”. In January police questioned a 10-year-old boy for writing a essay in which he mistakenly wrote he lived in a “terrorist house” instead of a “terraced house”. In March a four-year-old boy who mispronounced the word “cucumber” as “cooker-bomb” was threatened with counter-terrorism measures.
Last September a 14-year-old pupil at Islington’s Central Foundation used the term “ecoterrorism” in debate during a French lesson. A few days later he was interviewed by two adults, without his parents’ knowledge, who asked him if he was “affiliated with Isis”. The experience left the boy “scared and nervous”. The fact that he – an Asian Muslim – was singled out from the class as a potential terrorist was not lost on his white, non-Muslim colleagues who had also spoken of “ecoterrorism”. Prevent is racist nonsense which is stopping young people doing what they should be doing in school – learning about and discussing the world.