Most of us are aware of the government’s PREVENT strategy, with many, predominantly from the Muslim community sceptical about its counter-terrorism strategy.
But as they say – “the proof is in the pudding”, and there’s no one better than Sadia Hussain to talk about the success of the intervention programme to tackle the spread of extremist ideology.
Sadia who is a PREVENT coordinator for Calderdale Council, works with schools, colleges, public bodies and communities across the area, with one clear vision – to safeguard young people from radicalisation.
With a firm belief that the process of radicalisation is different for everyone, she says that this is not an issue of religion but an issue of extremist ideology, which can take many different forms including far right extremism and neo-Nazi terrorism.
Keen to ensure that all communities, especially young people, have the opportunity to debate and discuss issues, she’s also engaged with some 200 parents to teach them about how to keep their families safe online.
“One of our most successful projects is Safe Online, which is run by the Peace Museum in Bradford,” says Sadia.
“It teaches parents and young people how to keep themselves and their families safe online. The course covers a range of issues including radicalisation, child sexual exploitation and online gaming.
“We do not subscribe to the conveyer belt theory of radicalisation, where people move from feeling angry, to being radicalised, to becoming violent.
“By looking at the choices and decisions made by people historically we look at what it means to be a hero and what impacts the decisions that we make and how we can make a difference to the community around us in a way that fits our universal values.”
Now, led by Sadia, ten Calderdale schools were some of the first in the country to showcase their work on the Heartstone Odyssey, at a special event held at the House of Commons.
The Heartstone Odyssey – created by Heartstone, is a not-for-profit organisation, encouraging children aged from 9-12, to think about extremism, cohesion, identity, racism, tolerance.
Representatives from schools in Calderdale, London, Slough, Luton, Nottinghamshire, Oldham and Liverpool were invited to share what they had learned during the project with MPs, Councillors and community activists.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, Councillor Susan Press said: “I’m delighted we had the opportunity to share our experience of the Heartstone Odyssey at the House of Commons.
“This is a really inspiring project which encouraged the children to think and debate the big issues which we’re facing in society today. They learned how to discuss their opinions and to listen and challenge the views of other people.
“By highlighting our shared values the project helps to protect our children from the dangers of extremism and intolerance.”
Sadia Hussain says she’s keen to ensure that young people have the opportunity to debate and discuss issues as this helps them become resilient to the extremist views and encourages critical thinking skills.
“This has been such an exciting project and we’ve all been delighted by how the schools and young people have worked so well together, getting to know each other and creating a sense of community between the schools involved,” she says.
“When I initially approached local teachers they were enthusiastic and full of ideas. The children really valued the opportunity to have a safe space to talk about the issues and this culminated in a very popular exhibition of their work at Halifax Town Hall, a number of plays, artwork, poetry and even origami.”
The project is being extended in 2017 to schools across Calderdale.
If you are concerned that someone you know is at risk of being drawn into terrorist-related activity please contact: Sadia Hussain, Calderdale Council’s PREVENT Co-ordinator on mobile: 07702 656834 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org