OPEN and frank discussion in schools must play a vital part in combating radicalisation among young people That was the message to emerge from a conference on radicalisation staged by Slough’s Iqra Islamic Primary School at Pinewood Hotel, in Wexham Park Lane, on Monday last week, before events in Parish.

The school’s headteacher Noeman Anwar told a packed conference room from across the community: “No prejudices are accepted in our school. We challenge stereotypes. Young people need a range of role models.”

He said meeting an Asian police officer had opened the eyes of some of his pupils, who had a simplistic view of the police.

The school’s chairman of governors Zafar Ali called on schools in the town to get to know all elements of the community they served, Islamic and non-Islamic. But he warned that governments had to play their part by listening to what communities were saying.

He said: “Governments have a duty to engage and listen to people who disagree with them. The trend has been to be dismissive which has led to people becoming radicalised.”

But ultimately his message was positive. He said: “There is no conflict or contradiction between British values and Islamic values. Those who say differently are lying.”

He said that the biggest risk came from ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to how people looked.

Geraint Evans – Ofsted inspector and specialist advisor on extremism – admitted that in the early days of the watchdog’s prevent strategy it had been accused of trying to shut down discussion, but he said this was totally wrong. Ofsted wanted young people to be able to discuss challenging issues in a safe environment in their schools.

Superintendent Simon Bowden, policing area commander for Slough emphasised the answer to prejudice was education. But he warned that no school should ever be complacent about potential radicalisation and had to be aware of the potential risk.