Police ask nursery staff to monitor children for signs of Islamic radicalisation
Counter terrorism police have turned their attention to pre-school tots in their attempts to stamp out fundamentalism.
A leaked e-mail sent by a terrorism officer from the West Midlands to community groups suggests that the police see very young children as posing a real potential threat.
The unnamed officer writes, "I do hope that you will tell me about persons, of whatever age, you think may have been radicalised or be vulnerable to radicalisation ... Evidence suggests that radicalisation can take place from the age of 4."
The policy was derided last night by opposition parties with Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, branding it an "absurd waste of police time".
Police spokesmen also seem to be trying to distance themselves from the leaked memo, with Sir Norman Bettison from the Association of Chief Police Officers describing it as a "clumsy" attempt to explain policy.
He added, "There is absolutely no example, nationally, of the police engaging with nursery-age kids specifically on this issue. That is the age for learning about 'Stranger Danger' and 'The Tufty Club'."
Arun Kundnani, of the Institute of Race Relations spoke to the officer who wrote the email. "He did seem to think it was standard. He said it wasn't just him or his unit that was doing it."
"He said the indicators were they [children] might draw pictures of bombs and say things like 'all Christians are bad' or that they believe in an Islamic state."
The idea of monitoring very young children for warning signs of fundamentalism will seem Orwellian, intrusive or even pointless to many parents who are well aware of the bizarre things a four-year-old is capable of coming out with.
However, these concerns arise from genuine incidences, such as the convicted terrorist who was caught on camera indoctrinating his five-year-old son. He asked him "Who do you love?", until the boy replied "I love Sheikh Osama bin Laden,"
Whilst most would agree that they want the country to be safe from the threat of terrorism, whether we are happy to let police officers into nurseries to monitor our children in the name of national security is another question.
Sir Norman defended the work of the government's anti-terrorism strategy, known as Prevent, saying, "It is easy to give Prevent initiatives a kicking because it is viewed as intrusive."
"But the next time there is a terrorist outrage involving young people who have been radicalised, there will be a wringing of hands and people will say, 'What more could we have done?' "
Do you think the police are going too far, or is this what it takes to keep us safe from terrorism?