Muslim Children’s Rights in a Cold Climate? Problematising the Recruitment of Schools in the ‘War on Terror’ in the UK

Vicki Coppock

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    In the post-9/11 era many European countries widened their counter-terrorist policing strategies to include ‘counter-radicalisation’ policies aimed at the prevention of violent extremism. The UK Government ‘Prevent’ programme is one of the most systematic and elaborate examples of this to date. ‘Prevent’ selectively directs resources at local organisations to undertake ‘community development’ and ‘anti-radicalisation’ work and is premised on winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of young Muslims to unite around ‘shared British values’. The ‘Prevent’ budget in 2008/09 was £140 million (Kundnani, 2009). The UK Institute of Race Relations (2010) has expressed deep concern about the implications of ‘Prevent’ for the professional norms of teachers and youth and community workers many of whom have reported being pressured to ‘share information’, effectively colluding with the ‘mapping’ and surveillance of Muslim children and young people. This paper is derived within an ongoing larger research project by the author investigating the impact of UK Government anti-terror / counter-insurgency law and policy on Muslim children and young people. The paper will focus on and problematise the recruitment of schools and teachers to assist in the ‘War on Terror’ in England. Specifically, it engages with structural issues of power, politics and the implications for Muslim children and young people’s rights of the implementation of one dimension of the UK Government ‘Prevent’ strategy – the introduction in October 2008 of Learning Together to be Safe: a toolkit to help schools contribute to the prevention of violent extremism (DCSF, 2008). This toolkit gives practical advice to schools on “equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to challenge extremism”. It instructs staff to monitor for ‘warning signs’ of extremism and gives guidance on detecting ‘trigger points’ (including support for “the Islamic political system”; “a focus on scripture as an exclusive moral source” and “literalism in the reading of Muslim texts”). It also advises the formation of “good links” with the police and other agencies to share information. While acknowledging the real and ongoing risk of terrorism in the UK, the paper will nevertheless challenge the legitimacy of such surveillance practices in the classroom. It will be argued that the content and use of this toolkit abuses the concept of ‘citizenship education’, reinforces Islamaphobia and undermines the spirit of the UNCRC (1989) in relation to the rights of Muslim children in the UK - specifically, • Article 13 – the child’s right to freedom of expression • Article 14 – the child’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion • Article 29 – the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations • Article 30 – the child’s right to learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether these are shared by the majority of the people in the country or not
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2011
    EventEuropean Educational Research Association (EERA) European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) - Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
    Duration: 13 Sept 201116 Sept 2011


    ConferenceEuropean Educational Research Association (EERA) European Conference on Educational Research (ECER)


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