‘Musa’, a regular student, was approached by PREVENT officers for deradicalisation, but was never given any explanation. This is his story of how on one day, PREVENT officers came knocking on his door. You can read his interview here, or watch this short film where he recalls his story.
I am not really sure when I first came into contact with PREVENT or came to the attention of the security services.
In school I remember we had a discussion in religious studies class. One of the pupils asked how come I have all the answers, and after that a teacher, a Muslim teacher, jokingly said if I carried on like that he’d call MI5. I also gave a khutba at school, and one of the teachers warned me not to give khutba anymore. I then thought they had their eyes on me. It was a surprise to me that It wasn’t my teachers, but my doctor who tried to question me.
This happened when I was 17. I went to the doctor and he was very, very friendly. He met me at the door and held it open and everything. I was so surprised. He started to ask me what college I was at and so on, all these innocent questions. Then he started taking my blood pressure, and he asked me about my political opinions. Being young, I just stayed quiet. Then I said “What do you mean?”
He replied: “Oh nothing. Are you left wing or right wing?”
Then I got a bit anxious and I asked him: “Why, are you right wing?”
He said “No, no, I’m not right wing.”
When I got home I saw articles about PREVENT operating in the NHS buildings. I thought the incident could be linked so I wrote up a post on Facebook talking about what happened that day. It gained a lot of traction and I feared that it may become out of hand and cause alarm to too many people, so I removed it. Then I got a call from a friend and I told him what happened, and he said: “That’s PREVENT.”
Even then I didn’t believe him. He explained to me that I should talk about it so more people would know about what was happening. If I didn’t speak, young Muslims might find themselves in a similar situation and they might say something like they were depressed at what was happening in Syria, and then they would end up getting referred.
This first encounter didn’t really have that big of an effect on me.
The following year at college was 2015 and the CTS Act came into law. Most universities and human rights groups did a campaign against it. I led a campaign at my college. One of the PREVENT officers was supposed to come in and do PREVENT training for staff at my college, but many teachers were uncomfortable about him coming in. When we asked Muslim members of staff why they did not raise complaints, they told us they were too scared to. Even non-Muslim students regarded the PREVENT trainer as an Islamophobe.
I, along with other students, put a petition together against him. After that, he couldn’t come and his training was cancelled. But then our event on Islamophobia was cancelled – we think it was PREVENT getting their own back on us.
I’m not sure if it was the charity work I do, or the campaigning, but shortly after that I woke up in the morning, on a Friday at about 8.45am, and the police were outside my house. This was 2016.
My mom got a fright. I thought it was a case of mistaken identity. So I went down the stairs. My dad said, “Don’t let them in!”
When I opened the door, there were two normally dressed people standing there, and they asked to come inside to have a chat. I said no. They asked three times. They said I was not in trouble, so I said let’s talk outside then. They said they didn’t want the neighbours to hear. They said because you’re 18 your parents don’t have to hear this. So I stepped outside and as soon as I closed the door, they said they were counter-terrorism police from the Channel programme.
Immediately, I turned round and rang the doorbell. I think they were happy because they thought I was going to ask them in, but I didn’t. Instead, my dad answered the door, and the police started saying to him they were concerned about me, that they really wanted me to join the Channel programme. He told them to back off, and so did I. I said I didn’t want to join their programme.
That whole day, my heart was pounding. I didn’t know if I should tell anyone, what I should say. I stopped walking to mosque for fajr. I got a bit paranoid. Every single time I went home I was looking over my shoulder. Whenever I was out and I heard police sirens, I got worried that they were going to stop and cause a big scene. This happens even now.
I told a few friends. I told my Quran teacher, who advised me to tell as many people as I could, so that’s what I did. But there were some that I didn’t tell. The thing is when you tell people it leaves a stain on them. And in the community, if you want to help someone out, or carry the message of Islam, if you’ve been in touch with the counter-terrorism police, it doesn’t feel good to the people you are trying to help.
I changed my name on social media. I continued with my activism but I was more subtle, a bit smarter with my words.
There was a third incident. After college I left and got a job. I was turning 19 and I thought that the whole thing was over. You get on with your life. But when I was working at a school, I got a call on my mobile. I have no idea how they got my mobile number as my number is not linked to my name.
A police officer asked me to come into the police station. He said they respected my views about not wanting to be a part of Channel, but after I asked them why I should come in, they said they wanted to talk to me about safeguarding in the area. They persisted and said I should come in and help them regarding preventing children from being drawn into radicalisation in the local area.
After that, I was so angry. My manager was looking at me, and she asked if I was okay. I just felt so messed up. I thought: Why? It’s going to continue.
I am more vocal now. I always pass things through my dad. My mom and dad are understanding. They have always been politically aware. They know everything. So my mom is alright. She’s strong. My dad’s okay. The rest of my family don’t really know. It’s a big deal for people when it involves the counter-terrorism police.
After these incidents, I consulted CAGE and the brother here said he had similar cases and that it sounded like they were trying to recruit me.
Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have a feeling that something is going to happen. I’m 20 now and it’s been a year since my last contact with them. After I spoke to CAGE, they told me what I could do, that I could put a complaint in against the police. After that, I knew where I stood and things became clear. If anything happens, I talk to CAGE and they explain how to best deal with the situation.
If I were to advise other people going through the same thing I would tell them that if you think they are trying to silence you, don’t let them win. Carry on being vocal. They are going to do this on a mass scale, to organisations and individuals, to scare them and silence them. But if we give in to their intimidation, they’ve won.
You should consult people, consult your parents and speak to people like CAGE and make sure the case is documented somewhere. Now CAGE has my whole case recorded and written down.
Looking back I don’t find my story that crazy or as damaging as others. There are so many stories now. But the best thing to do is don’t keep it secret. Don’t keep it hidden.
Watch this short Film about ‘Musa’s’ story:
(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.)