Does your toddler scream when he/she sees new people? Is he/she storming around nursery destroying Lego towers and ripping doll heads off whilst simultaneously shrieking and causing terror? Does he/she fling himself to the ground prostrating before his/her Lord and refuse to be touched? If you answered yes to any of those questions then I am sorry to tell you, your toddler might be a terrorist. I am not joking.
The Government has stated that “Nursery staff and child-minders are given duty to report toddlers they risk of becoming terrorists under new Home Office measures.” So basically if a child-minder thinks your toddler is showing concerning behavioural traits they have to report them, as if being a toddler isn’t hard enough already.
I dread to think what the Home Office would make of my soon-to-be two-year-old. Let me tell you a little about him, his name is Yah’ya Khalil – yes I know he’s never going to be allowed into the US with that on his passport – and he is going through the tantrum stage at the moment, so if he doesn’t get what he wants he will scream and he will writhe and he will contort his body into many spectacular shapes just so you give him that chocolate digestive he so badly craves.
He also recently received a mini thobe, a long gown that Arab men typically wear, from Saudi Arabia. My parents, who recently completed the lesser pilgrimage, Umrah, brought it back for him as a present. He wears this wherever he can, mainly because it’s so comfy. My mum has just taught him the declaration of faith, so in between “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” you will hear him bellow “LA ILA HA ILLAH MUHAMMAD RASULLULAH” (there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger). I find it cute, it makes me laugh and I get a fuzzy feeling hearing him twine the different cultures together. My husband and I have worked very hard along with our families to give our children an enriched upbringing so they are proud British Pakistani Muslims - note all the labels - but it appears that this is not enough.
A Home Office spokesperson has said “it is important that children are taught fundamental British values,” pray tell me what are these British values? We, just like pretty much every other parent around the world, are bringing up our children to be loving, kind, empathetic, generous, curious, brave, confident, compassionate, honest and everything else you would expect from a decent human being. Are these different from British Values? I am sick of people telling me I and my children have to conform to these elusive British Values without specifying what they are.
My parents came to this country and worked hard, my dad had practically nothing and today he is a successful businessman, respected by Muslims and non-Muslims alike because he was taught UNIVERSAL VALUES. My mother is the most selfless woman I have ever met, just ask our neighbours. These are the values I pass onto my children, are they not British enough? If we start attaching more labels to our children we isolate and marginalise them before they can even express themselves.
If we tell child-minders to be watchful of toddlers are we not breeding a culture of suspicion and distrust? Do we not have enough of that already? Would it not be better to unite as a society to teach all our children tolerance and respect: would that not be a more successful way to prevent terrorism and stop the growth of the far right (which should be seen in the same light)? These seem like the kind of questions even a toddler could answer...