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My NHS counter-terrorism training session

This statement is the first ever published account of an NHS counter-terrorism training session.  Some 44,000 healthcare professionals have gone through this training which they were told was designed to help them detect potential terrorists. However, this statement shows that backward assumptions and stereotypes about Muslims remain an integral feature of British counter-terrorism efforts, with actual substance hard to come by. 

I work as a nurse for the National Health Service in England. I recently attended a mandatory counter-terrorism training session at the Trust where I work. The training session, called WRAP (Workshop to Raise Awareness about PREVENT), is a Home Office initiative that was delivered so that we could play our part in stopping individuals becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. PREVENT, name of the government’s counter-terrorism policy apparently functions in strictly ‘pre-criminal space’ to prevent radicalisation; thus the training being provided to NHS professionals would enable potential ‘radicals’ to be caught whilst in hospital or attending an appointment, rather than after a crime has been committed.

The training was delivered, interestingly, by my Health Trust’s organisation and development leader as opposed to a PREVENT officer. The presenter declared that a “large number of managers requested that we make available the health WRAP training workshops” and that was the reason it was being delivered in all departments of the hospital.

I wasn’t sure if she even believed that proud announcement, for a certain unease lingered in the air throughout the entire presentation. The presenter avoided making any eye contact and didn’t really engage with the audience. She seemed scared to be there, and appeared relieved when she had finished – probably because we allowed her to present the controversial subject of PREVENT as a respectful, accepting audience.

The whole workshop was read off a script and delivered though a DVD film, provided by the Home Office. This made it less prone to being subjected to scrutiny and prevented important issues arising. Two case studies that broke up the training were the only opportunities the participants were given to engage, and even then, a very limited time frame was given to debate or discuss any aspect of the discussion at hand. Strangely, even questions had to be asked in private.

After the disclaimer of no questions during the pseudo-presentation had been given, we were told that PREVENT was not targeted at a particular faith, religion, ethnicity or minority although definite links to Muslims, Islam and Al-Qaeda were made in the latter part of the training session.

Moreover, although we were informed that PREVENT has no profile, checklist or standard protocol of what constitutes a radical; a repetitive list of behaviours, ideologies and actions were provided of what constitutes a “vulnerable” individual at risk of becoming radicalised.

So, why exactly is this WRAP training being delivered to healthcare professionals who have a million more important issues to be worried about rather than learning how to chase ghosts? Well, some statistics were pulled out to try and justify delivering WRAP to NHS professionals. We were told that the NHS is currently staffed by 1.3 million staff, which constitutes approximately 350,000 patient contacts daily which in turn increase the likelihood of coming into contact with a terrorist.

We were asked if we thought terrorism was a 21st Century problem. Examples of the 1883 London underground bombings, 1999 Bristol nail bombings and 1996 Manchester city centre bomb were given to represent the fact that it was not a 21st Century issue, but this evidence didn’t matter. It was reaffirmed time and time again that we are living in times more dangerous than any other, and we had a role to play in keeping people safe.

The first clip of the WRAP DVD, which had been directed by Dr Phil Hammond and Amani Zain, was played. Contributor Roger Griffin (a historian at Oxford Brookes University) explained that the “typical terrorist” had no particular identity but often the ‘lone wolf’ syndrome rang true for terrorism as in the case of David Copeland, responsible for the London nail bombings. Next we were shown a clip from the film This is England. After the clip, we were invited to relay our observations of the film. The presenter asked the participants what was telling about the language and setting in which the extract of the film took place.

General observations were given: the group seemed deprived; there was an older person that acted as a leader; the group members did not seem very educated. Despite stating the obvious the presenter felt she needed to infuse her own script-written energy into discussion: the standing leader speaking down to his sitting followers was ‘taking advantage of a preacher setting’; the leader was manipulating the emotions of his followers by creating an “us and them” mentality; and ultimately the leader gives his followers a reason to fight. I wasn’t convinced by these answers, they sounded desperate. It really did feel as though PREVENT was being forced upon us regardless of whether it made sense or not.

The explanation of terrorist ideologies then followed. The presenter read from her script claims that the greatest threat the United Kingdom faced at the present time was from Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism.  No statistics were given to back up this sensational claim.  ‘Al Qaeda recruits come from ethnic minority groups’, I was told. The racial suggestiveness of this second claim astounded me. This would have made it clear to participants the sorts of people they would need to be looking out for – basically, arabs, blacks and asians.

We were then shown another clip of the WRAP video in which Jahan Mahmood, a community historian in Birmingham defined what an ideology is. The process of radicalisation was then explained as starting with vulnerable groups who could be easily exploited i.e. those who may have a local grievance that would then be extended to a national or international grievance. Moreover, significant weight was given to the point that our target suspects would not necessarily always be from deprived backgrounds.

The second case study was shown, which was about Andrew Ibrahim who had planned to detonate a bomb in a Bristol shopping centre in 2009. The audience were made to think of the contributing factors that led to this plot and the answers that came out were that: Andrew was a convert to the religion of Islam; Andrew became radicalised via the internet by listening to ideas of Osama Bin Laden; Andrew admired the 7/7 bombers; and he was against British foreign policy. Continuing with the video, Andrew’s mother, Vicky Ibrahim, gave a verbal testimony in which she stressed the importance of early intervention. Vicky discussed the signs of radicalisation that were evident in her son Andrew. She said that after Andrew converted to Islam, he started becoming radicalised via the internet by accessing extremist sites i.e. those linked to Al Qaeda. Vicky also explained how Andrew would conceal things from herself and her husband, such as his plans for making biological weapons. Vicky laid great importance on her incompetence at dealing with Andrews’ views about ‘troubling things’ such as flyering against the War in Iraq and his persistence on British troop withdrawal from countries where Muslims were being killed.

The session was wrapped up with a reminder of why we as health professionals were being equipped with skills of being able to recognise and refer potential terrorists to the PREVENT scheme. As frontline staff, we were told, we were best placed to spot potential terrorists early on and stop the process of ‘radicalisation’. The Trust, as with every other Trust delivering the WRAP training, had developed an system for staff to refer to in the instance of dealing with potential terrorists who needed to be passed onto the Home Offices Channel programme; the next stage for ‘early intervention for potential terrorists’. We were also signposted to the guidelines that the Trust had developed for the PREVENT programme. As things came to an end, we were thanked for listening, and then allowed to escape from the training room, ultimately brainwashed.

By a TRULY concerned health care professional

Source: www.islam21c.com

Cross-posted from CAGE UK

Notes:

CAGE has campaigned about the discriminatory nature of PREVENT, including a report that can be found here and an appearance on AlJazeera English’s The Stream which can be seen here.  

About Cage UK

3 comments

  1. OMG, MUSLIMS JUST PRAY THAT OTHERS, THE DUMBLINDEAF, DO EVENTUALY EFFECTIVELY OPEN REALLY THEIR MOUTHS/EYES/EARS ONE DAY ASAP JUST AS OUR BELOVED PROPHET MUHAMAD [SA] PRAYED THAT ONE DAY HIS ASSAILANTS IN TAIF WOULD FIND THEIR SENSES.

  2. Just out of interest apart from insinuating Muslims who were black Arab or Asian (or indeed a white convert) were any other clear “tell tale signs” give ?

    I’ve heard about the whole “them and us ” attitude to look out for but was hoping for something more substantial. Wearing Islamic clothing? Having a beard? Trousers above ankles? Having an alternative opinion to the establishment?

    As Muslims we really need to wake up and smell the coffee. But we’re too busy being “happy” to realise the attack our people are undergoing.

    Sad times.

  3. According to British writer and lecturer, Karen Armstrong, the west is deeply Islamophobic and the Islamophobia is the result of a long process of prejudice, dating back to the Crusades. The recent events have strengthened the prejudiced belief that “Islam is the religion of the sword”. Islamophobia can manifest itself directly in verbal or physical attacks on Muslims but also indirectly in negative images of Muslims presented by the media. Islamophobia was worsened by anti-Islamic policies, publications and activities in Europe and the US. Islamophobia is not only a cause of discrimination against Muslims but also an open threat to world peace. The western media and intellectuals play a significant role in spreading Islamophobia. Hate-mongers have come out of the woodworks in full force. Now, not a day passes without the newspapers, magazines, radio and TV talk shows, Hollywood movies, computer games and even children’s cartoons and the myriad of internet websites and chat rooms, attacking Islam and Muslims. Muslim communities in the western world and its so called leaders have taken the Ostrich-approach. They have buried their heads in the sand hoping the problems would go away. It is not going to go away. The neck of the Ostrich will be cut. Entire Muslim communities living in the west are under attack. According to a survey, 70% of Americans do not want to see Muslims living in their neighborhood. There is not a single day when Islam and Muslims are not attacked by the mainstream news media outlets. Muslims are referred barbarians who must either be civilised or banished before they pollute the egalitarian societies in which they were born or now live. According to a survey in Scotland, half of Scots see Muslims as a ‘cultural threat’. Scotland would lose its identity if more Muslims went to live there. According to DEMOS, British public is more worried about violent crime and immigration, but the British establishment has focused too heavily on terrorism.

    Masajid and Muslim organizations are regarded as training centers for terrorists. Thousands of innocent Muslim youths are being searched in streets and hundreds of them are behind the bar with out any trial. No religion advocates terrorism. However, West has directed its anger against Islam and Muslims by inventing Islamic Terrorism. It is the western extremism which is portraying Islam as an evil. It is the extremism in France, Turkey and other European countries where Muslim women are not allowed to cover their heads. Now the Turkish education chief wants headscarf ban lifted. In Britain, there is a social and economic pressure on Muslim women not to cover their heads. Despite international outrage and the US authorities’ own stated wish to close Camp Guantanamo is still holding detainees illegally… in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions.

    There is an undeclared World War III going on in the name of War on Terrorism. The fact of the matter is that Islam is all peace and hence this war is war of terrorism and not against terrorism. Deception and lies are frequently part of the wars and with powerful Hollywood film tools and other media communications devices people of the world are thoroughly fooled, deceived and made confused. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is an unmitigated disaster that had brought the west generally into disrepute. Inter Milan, the Italian foot-ball team played with an Istanbul team, wearing a strip with “Crusader-Style” red crosses which is offensive to Muslims. The red-cross brings to mind one thing: the symbol of the “Templar Knights”. The cross also symbolised “western racist superiority over Islam”. Inter Milan had manifested in the most explicit manner the superiority of one religion over another. Many EU countries are against Turkey joining EU on the ground that majority of Turks are Muslims with secular constitution. Widespread ignorance and Right-wing groups is the main culprit behind the demonized image of Islam in the west. Islamophobic west has become politically motivated. Western media and politicians are portraying Muslims as “satanic figures”. A recent British study has found that a torrent of negative and imbalance stories in the British media demonize the sizeable Muslim minority and their faith by spreading prejudices and portraying them as the enemy within. Many people in the west, including researchers and those working in the media, unintentionally provide a blemished image of Islam because they are ignorant about Islam and Muslims. The republication of Danish cartoons clearly shows the prevalent ignorance about Islam. The United Nation wanted to introduce a universal law to protect Muslims from Islamophobia, which is spreading like wildfire, but the so-called civilised western establishments, voted against it. It is the fundamental duty of Muslims settled in the west to raise awareness of the spirit and core of Islam.

    One by one all Muslim Organizations are going to be classified as ‘Terrorists’. BBC Newsnight has already branded world Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) as terrorist. According to TES, dated 1st Feb2002, Muslim teacher’s website has been condemned for links to militant Islamic groups. It is absurd to brand Muslim teachers website as a terrorist. Its aim is to provide guidance, share experience and discuss every day issues and problems facing Muslim teachers. It is also going to help British teachers to learn to respect and understand Islamic culture and most misunderstood British Muslim community. Racism in schools is alive and well was recognized by the Focus Institute on Rights. Staff in many schools is unwittingly racist but in my view, all British teachers are chicken racist. Racism is rife in National Curriculum. There is no mention of Muslim contribution in the world. Schools reinforce the racism that has been promulgated for centuries. The curriculum is supposed to encourage respect for different nationals, religious and ethnic identities and encourage pupils to challenge injustice. A report on teachers from the minority communities found that racism coupled with a lack of support and career progression is holding some back. Even teacher trainees were encountering racism at placement schools. They would like to discuss their worries more, but only if the senior management team was visibly open and supportive. The management at schools was very defensive about any mention of racism, so the issue could not be discussed in any meaningful way. If a teacher in English school calls a teddy bear Jesus Christ, there would be seriously hostile comments in much of the media. While in Sudan a British teacher was tried and imprisoned for insulting Islam for fifteen days but was pardoned by the President and released after eight days. She said after her release that she encountered nothing but kindness and generosity from Sudanese people. She was treated well in a Government Villa instead of a prison cell. She could have been imprisoned for six months and forty lashes. It is a fact that British teachers have no respect for Islamic faith and subsequently Muslim community, according to research by the University of Derby.

    All the Masajid and Muslim organizations are there for humanitarian, educational and youth works. None of them promotes acts of terrorism or support so called Islamic Terrorism. They are busy in those aspects of education, which are neglected by state schools. They satisfy the needs and demands of the Muslim children and teenagers, which were denied by state schools and LEAs. Without their support and guidance the young generation of Muslim would have lost its Islamic Identity crucial for mental, emotional and personality development. Their contribution will be more effective if all Muslim pupils attend Muslim schools with Muslim teachers. It will help to develop positive co-relation between school and home resulting in raising the standard of education of future Muslim generations. For this purpose, I have a proposition that those state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority may be designated as Muslim Community Schools, managed and controlled by Muslim Educational Trusts and Charities. They are in a better position to educate Muslim children according to their needs and demands. A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research confirmed that all faith schools had better results than their secular counterparts. Conservative spokesman on education has praised schools affiliated to religious groups, saying Muslim schools deserved “support” not suspicion.
    IA
    London School of Islamics Trust

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