In times in which security is becoming society’s main concern, a spelling error has costed a Muslim child a police interrogation. In his assignment for his English class he wrote that he lived in a ‘terrorist house’ instead of ‘terraced house’. Without realizing that this was simply a spelling mistake and in accordance with the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, the teacher alerted the police who interviewed the boy. Authorities also examined a laptop found at his home in Accrington (Lancashire).
In force since July 2015, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act is the British government’s strategy to prevent terrorism and radicalization. According to the act, local authorities including NHS trusts and schools are obliged to report any suspicious activity.
According to Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, other similar cases have been reported. While the child’s relatives say that the boy has been traumatized by the experience, the episode clearly shows how in times of emergency some individuals are rendered guilty until proved innocent. In particular, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act does not spare anyone and children become part of this anti-radicalization strategy. In this context teachers are obliged to report any suspicious activity or statement and do so for fear of breaking the law.
As mentioned in one of our earlier posts (here), children are not excluded from discourses of security and terrorism, but are increasingly becoming the focus of surveillance practices aimed at preventing the radicalization of society. Whether effective or not, this strategy risks estranging a part of the population.
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