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Paranoia gone wild: the incredible case of 'terrorist' toddlers

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:55 IST

The world's a scary place.

With extremist nutjobs running around on the orders of imaginary beings (and sometimes of their own volition), governments spying on each other (and us all) and the media bombarding us with messages of imminent doom, it's enough to make anyone weep. Or at least invest in tinfoil hats, curl up into a ball and never leave home again.

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So it's not surprising that people are paranoid about impending threats to their person.

But there's a fine line between wary and just plain stupid and we've officially crossed it.

A 4-year-old in the UK was referred to a counter-terrorism project for mispronouncing the word 'cucumber' in a nursery school in Luton.

The reason? It sounded like 'cooker bomb'.

What's worse, the staff even had context - the child, unsurprisingly a Muslim, was describing her drawing of a man cutting a cucumber.


Yeah, there are people in this world so paranoid, they're trying to rumble terrorist toddlers and their plans of culinary jihad. Mercifully the child was spared the UK government's 'Channel' de-radicalisation program but even then required a police and social services panel to dismiss the case.

It's enough to lead to an epidemic of pre-schoolers refusing to speak for fear of mispronouncing their names and being carted off to Gitmo.

The child was reported by his staff members as part of Prevent Duty, a legal obligation to report individuals at risk of radicalisation. You know what else is as much at risk of radicalisation as a 4-year-old?


And pretty much everything else.

Out of respect for the education profession, I would've liked to believe that the Luton case was a one-off. But it isn't.

According to a BBC report, Prevent Duty has led to the referral of 415 (excluding today's case) children aged 10 and below to the programme.

Even with the assumption that some of these kids are genuinely at threat of becoming mini-radicals, the numbers seem ludicrous. One under 10 roughly every three days at an age when most children are more worried about what's for lunch rather than bringing down the Zionist imperialist empire.

When you take into account that one 14-year-old was referred for using the word 'eco-terrorist', one shudders to think what the younger kids are referred for.

Just last month a family found the police at their doorstep after their 10-year-old made an unfortunate spelling mistake. The boy wrote that he lived in a 'terrorist' house in his attempt to spell 'terraced'. Forget Muslim children, dyslexics could be the surprising casualty in the war on terror.

A toddler in the UK was referred to a de-radicalisation programme for mispronouncing cucumber. In other news, common sense just died

While the city council and police claim it was more than just the spelling (maybe the fact he was also Muslim?) that led to the action, their timing seems curious - coming the morning after he made the mistake.

Across the pond in the US things are no better. While everyone remembers the case of Ahmed the 14-year-old Texas clock-bomber who wasn't, most people have never heard of Armaan Singh Sarai.

Armaan, a 12-year-old Sikh student spent three days in juvenile detention for the crime of wearing a 'power' bag - one with a built-in phone charger - to school. All it took was a bully saying his backpack was a bomb and paranoia and racism the Texas school system did the rest.

It's paranoia gone wild. Yes, some liberties may be lost in our battle against terror, but all common sense too? Terror does have its tentacles in the remotest of places, but should we be living in a world where we're so paranoid we're looking over our shoulders for fidayeen 4-year-olds?

More importantly, do we even want to?

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First published: 15 March 2016, 4:26 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.