Muslim boy, 4, referred to Prevent 'after discussing Fortnite'
The boy – from west-central England – was referred to the Prevent scheme in September 2019 after saying his father had "guns and bombs in his shed" and making reference to the video game.
Transcripts of a subsequent conversation with a club worker revealed that the comment was a linked to Fortnite, an online video game with more that 350 million registered players, in which characters collect guns and bombs.
The mother of boy, who spoke anonymously to the British newspaper, described being upset at police arriving at her home late in the evening.
"It could have gone really wrong. I worry armed police could have come to my house and, you know, arrested the parents with social services getting involved."
Following the boy's referral, it emerged he had been at his father’s house the previous night, where his cousin had been playing Fortnite.
The four-year-old followed up the alarming statement about his father by telling a club worker his cousin had played the game.
"The office sent me all the information, including the transcript of that conversation. It's quite clear he mentioned Fortnite," she said.
"He's just a little boy with an imagination. The teachers should know in this setting that [children] have imagination. They know exactly what kids are like, and what young boys are like," she added.
The boy's mother told The Guardian that she believes her son would not have been identified as being at risk of radicalisation if he was White or was not Muslim.
The police officer who arrived at her home appeared uneasy but explained that he had to follow protocol, according to the mother.
"He was in the same place as me really. You know: 'Why have they done this?'," she said.
Based on figures obtained by The Observer, between 2016 and 2019, 624 under-sixes were referred to Prevent, a British government scheme, which has been harshly criticised since its inception for being anti-Muslim and discriminatory.
Schools and nurseries, as public bodies, are obliged to report concerns about radicalisation.
Tabetha Bhatii, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "These latest figures and the example of the four-year-old Muslim boy reaffirm our view that Prevent is a flawed policy, presenting fundamental issues that must be subjected to a robust and truly independent review".
The controversial strategy was again bought under the spotlight last week when William Shawcross – who presided over the UK's leading charity watchdog while it was strongly accused of anti-Muslim bias by right groups – was appointed to spearhead a review of the programme.
Read more: UK slammed over appointment of 'anti-Muslim' Prevent strategy reviewer
Shawcross is on record for having made a number of contentious comments about Islam and Muslims.
While serving as the director of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society think-tank in 2012, he promoted the idea that a clash of civilizations is underway between Europe and Muslims, saying that "Europe and Islam is one of the great, most terrifying problems of our future".
In his book published that year - 'Justice and the Enemy' – he appeared to endorse the United States’ use of torture at Guantanamo Bay, labelling waterboarding as an "enhanced interrogation technique" which was "very likely" to produce valuable information for interrogators.
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