The boy, named Zain in the human rights charity’s damning report on the programme, was reported to Prevent after he said he hoped the school would “burn down”.
His mother told Amnesty she had since “told him not to make jokes at school and to keep his opinions to himself”. She filed a complaint about discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, although this was not upheld.
“She [the teacher] looked at my son, saw a brown Muslim boy, and she made the Prevent referral not based on evidence but based on her own bias,” she said.
The human rights group said the scheme was ”fundamentally incompatible with human rights” and has called for it to be scrapped.
It comes after nearly a third of referrals to Prevent were found to be under the age of 15 in the 92-page document entitled This is the thought police. A further 30 per cent were aged between 15 and 20.
Another person affected by the anti-terror legislation, which encourages the use of “gut feeling” when making reports was Irfan, a 30-year-old teacher based in the north of England.
Before his referral, he filed a complaint about Islamophobic harassment against his employer when he was called a “terrorist” and taunted about his beard.
He was called for a disciplinary meeting and told he would be referred to Prevent over absences from the school for a religious pilgrimage. He subsequently resigned.
Police visited Irfan at home and questioned him about his religious practice and asked why he prayed five times a day. Irfan, who held Friday prayers for Muslim students in an empty classroom told Amnesty one of his students had told him they’d been asked if Irfan had tried to recruit his students for ISIS.
Other findings from the document, which involved interviews with over 50 professionals, suggest that the incidence of autistic people being referred to Prevent is “staggeringly high”. One professional said: “It is as if a social problem has been unearthed and fallen into the lap of counter-terrorism professionals”.
Connor, who has autism, was referred to Prevent by a social worker who raised concerns about his taste in music and interest in Warhammer. Further worries about his interest in “darker right-wing comedy” led to a referral to Prevent.
The “chilling effect” identified by the report includes limited free speech and expression, which is reflected in a survey. It suggested 109 out of 153 Muslims questioned self-censored due to fears of being perceived as “extreme”. One in ten students said they feared engaging in discussions on terrorism or Palestine for fear of being referred to Prevent.
The report recommends:
Abolishing the Prevent duty under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, and leaving professionals to use ordinary safeguarding processes to refer individuals at risk of harm, including children facing recruitment to non-state armed groups
Withdraw the Prevent strategy and refrain from associating non-violent groups and their views (‘non-violent extremism’) with terrorism.
Refrain from attempts to delegitimise criticisms of the Prevent strategy by journalists, academics, and civil society, and instead engage meaningfully with issues raised.
Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The first duty of government is to protect the public and Prevent is a vital safety net against the threat posed by terrorism. Encouraging disengagement with the programme undermines its ability to reach at-risk individuals – and is irresponsible and dangerous.
“Since 2015, more than 3800 people have been supported through the Channel programme and countries across Europe and beyond have developed preventative programmes inspired by the Prevent model.”