By Naila Ahmad, Casework Manager
I was watching a video on IGTV recently of a business owner – let’s call her Elizabeth – who had been attacked by cyberbullies. They had made multiple false reports to the police about her, which escalated to social services being called in to question her parenting.
As I listened to her share this experience, I could feel the pain in her voice. She was in tears as she described those moments social services came in and began putting her family under scrutiny.
She explained what she had gone through and that the allegations were all false and part of a cyberbullying campaign. She described that day as being the worst day of her life, during which she’d even had to call her mother and mother-in-law to expect a call from social services.
Just the mere interaction with social services alone had shaken her to the core. But in just a few hours it was over; they could see this for what it was, a cyberbullying campaign against her with a ton of false reports on her parenting.
I reflected then on how many Muslim mothers I‘d interacted with through CAGE, who’d had that same call or knock on the door from social services. Except in these cases, they were accompanied by a Prevent officer.
Thye’d had to face not only social services, but counter-terrorism intruding in their home, sometimes even during lockdown. These intrusions are not a result of genuine concern of safety or wellbeing but rather the questions raised are regarding what they are teaching their children, what mosques they might attend and what “sect” of Islam they might follow.
But many of these mothers aren’t as lucky as Elizabeth. For the Muslim mother, these ordeals don’t end in just a few hours or even a few days. Sometimes it can take months for things to come to a close – months in which they are left wondering what will happen next.
And what is their crime? That their child said something interpreted as “untoward” at school? Someone called the “terrorist hotline” about them? A disgruntled ex-spouse has cried “extremism”? Where is the line drawn in distinguishing fact from fiction?
Social workers have been trained to look for harm in the case of children in a specific way, and it is a great responsibility.
However, when it comes to a Prevent concern, the signs for which they are now trained to look for are far from the traditional playbook. Instead of the usual factors that one would think would be their priority, such as the child’s health, development, and wellbeing, they are now pressured to identify “ideological indicators” of “extremism” – a task more suited to the thought police. They ask questions about prayers and mosques trying to make spurious connections to so-called “extremism”, that often even they cannot truly define.
The sad fact is that over time, Muslims have come to internalise and expect these intrusions in their life, at the airport, and their schools, and now, for mothers, even in the sacred space of their homes.
It has become so commonplace that we don’t even question it anymore – but this is its intention and its desired outcome. So we must question it, and we must challenge it.
We should not come to accept this as part and parcel of our life as Muslims in the UK. We must as mothers and women push back. I am inspired by our clients, those mothers who protect their children and do push back against Prevent involvement in their homes.
When I speak to those mothers who have had that dreaded knock on the door from social services, I ask them about their social worker. I hope they have a social worker who is true to upholding the tenets of their job, who does not feed into the fear that Prevent officers create and instead see the well-rounded, well cared for child and realise there is nothing of concern.
After each knock on the door from Prevent and social services, these women often reach out to us. I can hear the dismay in the mothers’ voices, for this is yet another challenge to overcome, more nights of wondering and days of worrying.
But what I hear also is hope and faith in Allah, and a deep and growing practical experience that it is He who controls all things; He will never allow harm to come to a believer.
With that strength the mothers move forward. They accept His decree with beautiful patience whilst walking tall in the knowledge that they have defeated a great injustice from stepping over their small, but mighty doorsteps.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)