The British state’s failed “anti-extremism drive” directed at Muslims living in that country “risks stigmatising Muslim students” and most adherents of that faith express “discomfort” at “British values of tolerance and democracy,” a report from Coventry University has found.
The report, based on in-depth interviews with about 70 education professionals across 14 schools in West Yorkshire and London, and eight council-level Prevent workers, as well as a national poll of 225 school and college staffs, found that there is “discomfort” about the requirement to promote fundamental British values, such as tolerance and democracy, particularly the labelling of these values as “British.”
The British government’s official anti-extremism program, which it calls the “Prevent strategy,” was introduced two years ago. It requires authorities such as schools, colleges, prisons and health professionals to “refer any concerns or suspicions they have about individuals as part of attempts to stop people being radicalized and drawn into terrorism.”
However, the new study found that, in general, there was no widespread opposition to Prevent, with staffs feeling confident about their responsibilities to refer any concerns, understanding it is part of school or college safeguarding duties.
There were concerns that Prevent can make Muslim students feel “singled out.”
“We found widespread—and in some cases very acute—concerns about increased stigmatization of Muslim students,” the study says.
It also says a small number of those questioned argued the responsibilities put on schools and colleges by Prevent “might, in fact, be counter-productive to the prevention of extremism—either because they might lead to Muslim students withdrawing from sharing concerns and questions with staff due to feelings that they are being singled out for more attention and scrutiny, or because they might more generally stoke feelings of being marginalized by the state and society.”
In terms of British values, the study says: “We found widespread discomfort and uncertainty around the focus on the specifically British nature and content of these values.”
Lead researcher Dr Joel Busher, of Coventry University, said: “Linking the duty to the promotion of ‘fundamental British values’—and in particular the pressure on schools and colleges to emphasize the ‘Britishness’ of these values—is often seen as more problematic.”
He added: “Widespread and sometimes acute concerns about possible feelings of stigmatization among Muslim students highlight an urgent need for systematic evaluation of how, if at all, the Prevent duty has impacted on student experiences.”