A British teenager has recounted how he found himself being questioned by anti-terrorism police for wearing a “Free Palestine” badge and wristbands to school. Teachers at the Challney High School for Boys in Luton reported Rahmaan Mohammadi to the police last summer while invoking the Prevent program.
While supporters describe the controversial program as an effective anti-radicalization strategy, it has been accused of being prejudiced and counter-productive. Critics claim that it has fostered an oppressive, anti-Muslim atmosphere that is more likely to fuel radicalization than prevent it.
Internal police statistics show that over 2,600 incidents have been reported between 2007 and 2013, while 22% of people referred were assessed as being at risk of radicalization and received additional support.
Mohammadi described his experiences at a meeting of campaign group Students Not Suspects at Goldsmiths University in London on February 8.
During his speech, the 17 year-old student said, “I’m targeted in the UK because I’m from Afghanistan. If I go back to Afghanistan, I’m targeted because I’ve lived in the UK. So I don’t really have a home.”
Having asked for permission to raise funds for children affected by the Israeli occupation and in possession of a leaflet advocating Palestinian rights, Mohammadi said he was characterized as an “extremist” and was “interrogated” by police, who warned him not to talk about Palestine in school. He also claimed that his brother was spurred to tell him to “stop being radical.”
The Bedfordshire Police released a statement saying: “The officers spoke to the boy and were satisfied that he was not at risk and he was given advice and support.”