There has been some coverage across news and broadcasting of figures obtained by the Press Association on the number of referrals to the Channel programme between June and August this year. Referrals to Channel are part of the Government’s multi-agency approach for “protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism”.
The PA obtained the figures under Freedom of Information from the National Police Chiefs’ Council which show that within the three month period there were 796 people referred with more than a third, 312 cases, children under the age of 18.
The PA article includes a sentence noting that earlier figures obtained under FOI revealed that only 20% of referrals are deemed to require “supportive interventions”.
The PA story fails to cover a number of alarming reports which have come to light in recent months which raise serious concerns about the way in which the Channel programme is being used and referrals made. There is no mention whatsoever about recent cases involving a Muslim student who was subjected to a conversation with a child protection officer for using the word “eco-terrorism” in the classroom. Nor any mention of the Muslim student who was singled out for referral for engaging in Palestinian human rights activism at school. The article also omits the disturbing case of Mohammed Umar Farouq, a student at Staffordshire University, who was accused of being a ‘potential terrorist’ after he was observed reading a course text in the university library.
While figures bandied about on the number of referrals are used to “suggest authorities are identifying potential extremists at a rapidly rising rate,” there is no scrutiny of the evidence used to justify a ‘referral’.
This kind of alarmist reporting is journalism at its most irresponsible.
The Channel programme and the statutory duty imposed on nurseries, schools and universities, among a whole host of public bodies, has been widely condemned for turning the teaching profession into an arm of the security services and for harming the wellbeing of Muslim schoolchildren.
Quantifying the number of referrals under FOI tells us nothing of the negative qualitative effects on the Muslim children subjected to unwarranted intrusions into their private lives.
The Press Association would do well to look beyond the numbers and instead focus attention on scrutinising the way in which Channel referrals are being conducted.