Muslim boy, 4, referred to UK anti-extremism program over video game comment
LONDON: The British government’s anti-extremism program Prevent is under
fire after it was revealed that a Muslim boy aged 4 was flagged by his
after-school club for talking about the video game “Fortnite.”
UK newspaper The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that the boy was referred to the program in September 2019 after saying his father had “guns and bombs in his shed.”
Following the child’s referral to Prevent, it was quickly established that he was with his father the night before he made his comments.
His cousin was playing the video game “Fortnite,” which has more than 350 million registered players and involves characters collecting guns and bombs.
After making the comment, he told a worker at the care club about his cousin playing the game.
His mother, in the first anonymous interview of a parent of a child aged 6 or under referred to Prevent, said: “The office sent me all the information, including the transcript of that conversation. It’s quite clear he mentioned Fortnite.”
She added: “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. I do think that if it was a white boy, they wouldn’t have actually gone to that extreme of referring him to the Prevent scheme.”
She told The Observer about her distress after the police visited the family home at 10:30 p.m. to discuss her son’s case.
“It could have gone really wrong. I worry armed police could have come to my house and … arrested the parents, with social services getting involved,” she said.
The mother added that the police officer who visited the family home appeared uneasy, as though he did not think the visit was necessary, but explained he had to “follow the Prevent flowchart.”
She said: “He was in the same place as me really. You know: ‘Why have they done this?’ He said if they had any major concerns, they wouldn’t have sent him by himself.”
Figures obtained in a freedom-of-information request have revealed that 624 children under 6 were referred to Prevent between 2016 and 2019. During the same period, 1,405 children between 6 and 9 were referred to the scheme.
Layla Aitlhadj, director at the community outreach project Prevent Watch, said: “It’s difficult to fully appreciate the impact this experience can have on a family.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Where someone is concerned a child may have been deliberately exposed to harmful terrorist narratives, it is right that they refer them to the necessary authorities. Prevent is first and foremost about safeguarding, and through this referral, the child will be able to receive the vital support they need.”