May 23, 2015 Faith Matters

Circulating ‘Cohesion’ BRIT Questionnaire in Buxton School Raises Eyebrows

We are aware of the following questionnaires being circulated in Buxton School in Leytonstone (Waltham Forest) and the questionnaires seemed to indicate that it is related to Prevent work. The project has been funded through the EU and through a call for proposals entitled, “Radicalisation Leading to Extremism.” The Prevent Steering Board of Waltham Forest oversight the project and the project is called BRIT (Building Resilience through Integration and Trust). The organisation that runs it is called Family Action UK.

The questionnaire looks to ascertain feelings and value systems that may be linked to political Islam or Islamism and Islamist thinking.

We believe that such a project must have been discussed or the questionnaire passed through a range of committees or officers within Waltham Forest. One of them may have been the Prevent Officer and we hope that objections were raised by her on this questionnaire. However, for the questionnaire to be implemented in schools raises more questions, as to how it was agreed and the processes that it went through without any changes to the questions.

What is clear is that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims follow the faith of Islam which provides them with comfort, support and a spiritual connection with God in their lives. For many, it gives them direction, purpose and a sense of value. All of these facets are to be welcome in a pluralist society and where the main goal is to ensure that communities get on, people’s lives are not affected by hate and intolerance and that society is a productive one where all communities gain. Such social activism through faith is to be welcome in our country and not shunned.

What is really problematic about this questionnaire is the fact that a majority of pupils in Buxton School are Muslims and the questionnaire was given out to 11 year old students – according to parents who sent us the questionnaire. The questionnaire is deeply troubling for the following points:

– It seems to be trying to ascertain Islamist thinking in 11 year olds in a covert manner in a school where the majority of the pupils are Muslims,

– We are concerned since were parents informed of the exact nature of the questionnaire and were they provided with a pre-release copy?

– How was the data to be used and could pupils be identified in any way? (Clearly, it seems, they can from the name slot at the top of the leaflet),

– The questions are frankly, appalling. One of the leading questions says – God has a purpose for me. Many people, Muslim and non-Muslim believe this and provides no real value in asking. The question is framed in a manner which actually means very little.

We believe that Buxton School needs to provide a detailed statement on why this questionnaire was implemented, who devised it, whether it was pre-checked by the local Prevent officer and whether parents were informed of it? These are real lives and the futures of young people that are being engaged at a time when parents of young Muslims are apprehensive of how the future lives of their children may be affected. Also, there are ways of countering views without such actions, it involves taking time to engage with and build trust with pupils. Questionnaires are not the way forward, especially when such questions are raised.

We look forward to seeing Buxton School release a further detailed statement on this matter.