Manchester Head Leads Fight Against ExtremismHeadteacher Ian Fenn has been appointed “lead head” of Manchester’s campaign against violent extremism, the Guardian reports.

The Headmaster of Burnage Arts and Media College has been enrolled as one of Britain’s first leaders in the Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE) programme, designed to identify and tackle violent extremism in schools.

Speaking to the Guardian, Fenn explained that he would be working closely with schools to create discussion groups and extra-curricular initiatives intended to engage and inform young people about community cohesion and violent extremism.

Fenn noted that his priority was to enable a receptive space wherein young people could freely and openly express their thoughts and ideas, while not being made to feel vulnerable. He added that this is why a teacher such as himself is ideal for the role, as this so closely aligns with the nature of the profession.

“Everything should be discussed. There should be no subject that is taboo”, Fenn told Martin Wainright of the Guardian.

“It makes no sense whatsoever to educate children and to have blind allies, areas that you won’t go because it’s a bit difficult, it’s a bit controversial.

“You have to get them to share their feelings, you’ve got to get it out into the open and you’ve got to, if you like, ‘lance the boil’, so that it’s not there to be used by somebody else in the future.”

As a practicing Muslim and Religious Education teacher, Fenn is critical of notions that Islam or any religious faiths encourage or facilitate violence. He believes that his thorough understanding of the intricacies of religious faith and scriptures is fundamental towards the effort to curb extremism.

“You don’t want to look too ridiculous when you try to teach Islam to children who know more about it than you.

“The issue of the day is Islamic extremism - although of course PVE is much wider than that, and deals with all forms of extremism. But it is helpful to have that background knowledge.”

Fenn has faced some criticism from those expressing fears that the initiative would amount to snooping on children. However, he has dismissed these claims as naïve.

“Schools do not live in a bubble, separate from the world of terrorism and suicide bombing. We cannot act as though it did not exist.”

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