Muslim children as young as nine branded terrorists in wake of recent terror attacks, reveals Childline

Sessions about faith and race-based bullying almost double following Westminster atrocity

May Bulman
Wednesday 28 June 2017 00:35 BST
Muslim children told Childline they’ve endured constant name-calling, been accused of being associated with Isis and been threatened with violence
Muslim children told Childline they’ve endured constant name-calling, been accused of being associated with Isis and been threatened with violence (Getty)

Children as young as nine are being branded terrorists in the wake of recent terror attacks in the UK, Childline has revealed.

The helpline has seen a spike in children contacting them about faith and race-based bullying in recent months, with the number of sessions on these issues almost doubling following the Westminster atrocity compared to the previous month.

It recorded another spike in the fortnight following the Manchester Arena attack in May, when the helpline led nearly 300 counselling sessions with children concerned about terrorism.

Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Black, and Sikh children were among the children who have contacted Childline about racial and faith-based bullying — which has been the topic of more than 2,500 counselling sessions in the last three years.

Muslim children have told Childline they've endured constant name-calling, been accused of being associated with Isis and been threatened with violence. Young girls have frequently been victimised when they wear a hijab or headscarf, the helpline said.

Counsellors heard from young people who said the constant abuse and negative stereotyping was so cruel they had self-harmed, and many said they wished they could change who they are. Some were made to feel so isolated and withdrawn from society that they skipped school to escape the bullying.

It comes after a number of terror attacks occurred on British soil within several months, each of which saw a rise in racist incidents in the cities in which the atrocity took place.

Childline President and founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, called for heightened awareness among adults of the impact terror atrocities can have on children and how they treat one another, saying it’s “crucial” that those who might be targeted are protected.

“When these events happen we adults are so often overwhelmed with horror we sometimes forget about the children watching too,” she said.

“Childline is in a unique position to be able to hear from children who may be ignored or overlooked when there are major events, like terror attacks. It’s crucial adults are aware of this issue and protect those who may be targeted.”

Speaking in a similar vein and urging that the focus should be on "celebrating diversity", “standing together”, NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said: “No child should be targeted because of their race or faith and we cannot allow prejudice to make children feel ashamed of who they are.

“Instead, we should celebrate diversity and stand together. It takes huge courage for a child to speak up about this issue and they must be encouraged to speak up if they are being targeted.

“Some children don’t understand how painful and damaging their words can be, so adults must not turn a blind eye if they see young people turning on one another.”

The NSPCC urged that parents, teachers and adults should be aware of the signs of bullying, and talk to children who are both being bullied and doing the bullying, and reassure the bullied child it is not their fault that this is happening.

Responding to the news, Department for Education spokesperson said: “Bullying of any kind is unacceptable and schools should be safe places where children can be taught tolerance and respect for others. To help support this the government is investing more than £4million in anti-bullying projects.”

Any child worried about bullying can call Childline on 0800 11 11. Any adult who is concerned about a child can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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