Jihadi Bride Heading Women’s Cell

This week news reports emerged that British widow Sally Jones is leading a secret army of female jihadis who are aiming- along with their children, to launch a violent wave of suicide attacks in Europe.

The mother of two has been hailed by Daesh as a figurehead for the recruitment of western girls and women. Bragging about her plans to release hell on the UK through planned attacks and suicide missions, Sally Jones has been able to maintain a presence on social media despite her accounts repeatedly being taken down. She is also believed to have recruited other females through social media.

Elsewhere, Jihadi bride Aqsa Mahmood has also been instrumental in recruiting young girls from Europe. She has even written a checklist for schoolgirls wanting to travel to join Daesh.

The ex-Glasgow University student, who left her home in 2013, is on a UN wanted list because of her significant role in brainwashing females into travelling to Syria using social network sites, luring them into believing that a perfect life awaits them. Through social media, she has urged Muslims unable to travel to commit terrorist acts in their home towns.

Aqsa’s parents made desperate pleas for her return and have described her as becoming a “bedroom radical” who betrayed her family.

Sally Jones and Aqsa Mahmood’s stories are further proof of the dangers of online radicalisation, and the risk our children and loved ones face when it comes to extremists lurking online waiting for their next victim to brainwash.

Though Twitter has recently announced that it had removed 235,000 accounts for violating their extremism policy, bringing the total number of removed to 360,000 since the middle of 2015, it is still up to all of us to do more. Parents in particular must play a huge role in the fight to protect our young people.

At Jan Trust, we are working extremely hard through our Web Guardians© programme to ensure that mothers are able to protect their loved ones against the threat of online radicalisation.

The programme equips parents with the necessary tools to safeguard their children from the dangers of online radicalisation. It is more important than ever that parents are at the forefront of this battle. We run workshops across the country to thousands of young people, parents and practitioners aimed at educating on the dangers of online radicalisation. If you want to get in touch and find out about workshops near you get in touch athttp://webguardians.org/contact/ 

Join us and become part of the fight.

Posted in Extremism, ISIS, Jihadi Brides, Radicalisaton, Sally Jones, Syria, Terrorism

The forgotten women: Muslim women, misogyny and Islamophobia

In recent weeks, there have been a spate of attacks targeting Muslim women both in the UK and abroad. Last week, a man was arrested for kicking a pregnant Muslim woman who it was reported on Tuesday lost her baby as a result. In the US, a Scottish Muslim woman visiting New York had her blouse set alight as she waited near a store. Attacks on Muslims have sadly become the norm. Everyday hate crime and discrimination seem to inform the daily lives of British Muslims but this doesn’t make the above any less shocking. In the US, Islamophobic rhetoric being spewed by Republican presidential frontrunner Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia whilst in the UK, hate crime has risen rapidly since Brexit. As Linda Sarsour, executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, wrote in an opinion piece for the Guardian last week, ‘not only is wearing my religious headscarf in public an act of faith, but it has also become an act of courage.’

These attacks against Muslim women, particularly those who are visibly Muslim, highlight the link between misogyny and Islamophobia, the fixation on the veil and the role of women in Islam. Muslim women are not only suffering online hate but offline hate as well in the form of physical and verbal attacks. A report published by Tell MAMA, an organisation that reports, records and analyses hate against Muslims, in June 2016, found that women are more likely to be attacked than men. 61% of cases reported were incidents involving women. A recent example of the targeting of Muslim women by the state was in France when the Mayors of 30 French coastal resorts decided to impose a ban on the burkini (a type of swimming costume worn by some Muslim women that covers their arms, legs and hair). In Europe, hate crimes against Muslim women have increased by over 300% with 46% of all hate crimes being experienced by visibly Muslim women.

Hate crimes against Muslims must be taken seriously. At the same time, we must ask ourselves what can Muslim women do individually and at community level. A research project carried out by the University of Cambridge last year revealed the coping strategies employed by British Muslims when dealing with Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate. These included the role of religion in responding to Islamophobia and hate crime for example, forgiveness of perpetrators based on religious practice, pre-emptive courtesy, and a reliance on strong community networks. Some involved in the research project expressed resilience in stronger terms for example, speaking back to those who spout verbal abuse or preparing themselves in the event of a physical attack.

JAN Trust aims to raise awareness of hate crime through its Say No To Hate Crime campaign. On our website we provide a range of information on hate crime for both victims of hate crimes and those working to tackle hate crime. Hate crime is an issue which is discussed in our centre and in the training and services we deliver where we receive anecdotal evidence from Muslim women about the anti-Muslim hate they and their families have experienced. We educate Muslim women about their rights and how to stand up for these rights. We inform the ladies we support about the mechanisms available for them to use to report anti-Muslim hate but also how to be assertive in responding to Islamophobia be it challenging it online by reporting it, in the media by submitting a complaint or standing up for oneself on the street.

Posted in discrimination, Hate Crime, International, Islam, Muslim, Online abuse, Online hate, Violence Against Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Burkini ban busted!

Arundhati Roy

Nearly two weeks ago, mayors in about 30 French coastal resorts decided to impose a ban on the burkini (A burkini is a type of swimming costume that some Muslim women wear, which covers the arms, legs and hair). The ban prohibited women from wearing a burkini on public beaches or in the sea. If the ban was violated, a fine would have to be paid. Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet argued that in light of the recent attack on Nice it was ‘necessary, appropriate and proportionate’ to implement the ban in order to prevent public disorder. A French NGO, Human Rights League, and the Collective against Islamophobia in France challenged the ban arguing that the mayors had no right telling women what they can and cannot wear on beaches. They were successful and last week the burkini ban was overturned by France’s top court which ruled that the ban ‘violates basic freedoms.’ However, the mayors are refusing to lift the ban. The ban was also condemned by the UN who described it as “a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms” and a “stupid reaction” to recent extremist attacks.

Within the French cabinet, most supported the ban but there was some disagreement over it. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that, “For me the burkini is a symbol of the enslavement of women.” Both the Education Minister and the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, spoke out against the ban. The former said that the debate was fuelling racist rhetoric whilst the latter wrote on her website that “To pretend that swimming veiled or bathing on a beach dressed is in itself threatening to public order and the values of the Republic is to forget that those (secular) values are meant to allow each person to safeguard their identity.”

The burkini ban reached its climax last week when a photo was published of a Muslim woman on a beach in France surrounded by armed Police officers who made her take off her burkini. This sparked widespread furore which led to a protest against the ban outside of the French embassy in London in the form of a beach party. Despite being organised last-minute the protest received a lot of attention. Women in the city came together to show their solidarity with French Muslim women. The Mayor of London even spoke out against the ban telling the Evening Standard newspaper that “I’m quite firm on this. I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that”.

Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet’s claim that there is a security threat from women who show their religious affiliation is untrue. It is utterly absurd to link a piece of clothing with terrorism and in fact it is irresponsible to do so. The burkini ban is anecdotal of France’s rampant Islamophobia particularly against visibly Muslim women and follows the country’s ban on wearing the veil. There has been a wave of conservatism sweeping Europe and the rest of the world. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are calling for a partial ban on the niqab, whilst in Austria right-wing politicians have called for a ban on the burqa. In Switzerland there are calls for a popular vote on a ban on the burqa. Civil liberties are being curtailed on the pretext of national security which is very worrying.

State-sponsored Islamophobia is weakening community cohesion and has the potential to sow the seeds for conflict and hatred. The argument that the burkini is oppressive is offensive and ignores the fact that many women choose to wear the swimsuit because it allows them to go to a public beach or pool and swim and feel comfortable whilst doing so. It encourages social integration and can help overcome certain communities from being socially excluded. In the UK, many leisure centres hold women’s only swimming sessions where women of no faith and women of faith can swim. For many women from faith communities this enables them to undertake a healthy activity.

JAN Trust has done a lot of work on fostering community cohesion. Our experience of working on community engagement and community cohesion, as a charitable organisation, includes the delivery of training, projects and services aimed at socially and economically empowering women. For example, through our City and Guilds Fashion course and our IT for Beginners course we are not only skilling women but helping them to acquire the knowledge and tools to enter today’s challenging workforce. At the same time we are also promoting the enhancement of women as active members of society. Through our training, projects and services we are enabling independence and resilience by building the skills, resources and capacities of the BAMER community. Many of our women have gone on to become employed, self-employed or started volunteering.

We have also delivered a number of workshops across the country encouraging civic awareness amongst grassroots communities. In 2008, JAN trust organised Haringey’s first community cohesion conference called ‘One Community Many Voices’ (2008). The conference gave members of the public, in particular BAMER women, the opportunity to question the leader of the Council, their local Member of Parliament, the relevant portfolio holder for Communities and the local Police force.

If you’re interested in our work to promote community cohesion, please get in contact with us.

Posted in Active citizenship, Citizenship, discrimination, Extremism, International, Islam, Muslim, Politics, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Muslim mothers v Extremism

Here at JAN Trust, we had a very busy start to 2016 travelling across the UK to deliver our innovative and highly acclaimed Web Guardians© programme.

We began working on the issue of online radicalisation and extremism after being approached by mothers who had concerns about their children. We found little research had been done on online radicalisation and extremism and so in 2006 we began conducting our own research into this area. This culminated in a report titled ‘Internet Extremism: Working Towards a Community Solution’ published in 2012 and the creation Web Guardians© a programme targeted at Muslim mothers. The programme educates and equips women and mothers with the ability and essential skills to tackle online radicalisation. Our programme has received praise not only from former Prime Minister David Cameron and both current and former members of government but most importantly from the women and mothers with and for whom the programme was developed. Web Guardians© is successful because of our technical expertise and cultural knowledge.

This week we would like to introduce you to one of our programme participants, Fatma a 39-year-old mother of two, who is originally from Somalia. When asked why she was participating in the programme, Fatma replied, ‘I have two children, a boy and a girl … Since I have two children who constantly use the Internet and ask me questions [about] whether things are appropriate, I want to know how to answer them.” Although Fatma’s husband is an IT technician, she wanted to learn herself and not from him.

We were delighted to receive an e-mail from Fatma during the course which read:

“I would like to thank you and everyone at Jan Trust for the amazing work you do to educate our communities about the benefits and dangers of new age technologies.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the Web Guardians© course and plan to implement what I learned into my daily work and family life.”

At the end of the programme, Fatma spoke about her motivation to participate in the programme and what she would be taking away from it. She felt very strongly about other mothers having the opportunity to attend the programme saying that “I want other mothers to be made aware by you, not just about how to protect themselves and their children, but also how to reach out to others in their community.”

A fortnight ago, JAN Trust caught up with Fatma to see how she was getting on. She said,

I am always talking about the programme with my friends. I’ve told them about what I learnt and now they can protect their children.”

To find out more about Web Guardians©, take a look at our website: http://webguardians.org/ or give us a call on: 0208 889 9433. If you’re an organisation that is interested in partnering with us, please fill in our partnership form.

Posted in Active citizenship, Citizenship, Education, Extremism, International, ISIS, Muslim, Online abuse, Online hate, Prime Minister, Radicalisaton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Muslim women and unemployment

A report published yesterday commissioned by the Women and Equalities Committee titled ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK’ has revealed that many Muslim women face “triple penalties” which affect their job prospects – being women, being from an ethnic minority and being Muslim. 12.5% of Muslims are unemployed, compared to 5.4% of the general population and if we analyse these figures further Muslim women are more likely to be unemployed than Muslim men.

Muslim women face the ‘double bind’ of gender and religious discrimination particularly visibly Muslim women who are on the front line of attacks as we have written in previous blog posts. Muslim women who wear the hijab told the Women and Equalities Committee that they felt wearing the headscarf limited their employment opportunities. This discrimination prevents them from fully integrating into the society in which they live and fosters a sense of inequality and unfairness. Last month, JAN Trust wrote a blog on how institutional racism affects Muslims and about the difficulties they face in finding employment or rising to a managerial role. We highlighted the work of Dr. Nabil Kattab of the University of Bristol who conducted a survey in 2015 revealing that 71% of British Muslim women are up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.

The committee identified several factors including the following: discrimination and Islamophobia, stereotyping, pressure from traditional families, a lack of tailored advice around higher education choices, and insufficient role models across education and employment. It is true that discrimination and Islamophobia are affecting Muslim women as are the other factors identified by the committee such as poverty and language barriers. However, the work done by efforts made by JAN Trust to lift these women out of poverty by empowering them economically can be thwarted when they are not given access to the same opportunities as other women with similar skills and experience.

Maria Miller MP said that “Muslim women particularly, face really unacceptable levels of discrimination and that discrimination comes from the workplace, from employers, but also from within communities as well.” The committee has told Ministers that a plan must be introduced before the end of the year detailing how this issue will be tackled. Recommendations have already been made to the Government as to how it could begin confronting the employment inequalities being experienced by Muslim women. These include: raising awareness among employers of what constitutes illegal discrimination, pushing universities to introduce a dedicated careers advice service for BME students, and training Jobcentre Plus staff on the issues faced by Muslims.

The discrimination faced by Muslim women is not a new issue. Since it was established in 1989, JAN Trust has been campaigning for discrimination against Muslim women to be addressed. Founder, Rafaat Mughal OBE, sought to draw attention to this issue “the elephant in the room.”

In our work with women Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities we have been told by Muslim women about the discrimination they and/or their families and friends have faces. In one area where JAN Trust delivered its Web Guardians© programme we were told by one lady about how her daughter’s friend had taken off her hijab prior to attending a college interview worried that she would not be given a place to study. Another lady told us of the discrimination her daughter had faced in the workplace because she wore hijab. Discrimination, in whatever form, must not be tolerated and organisations such as JAN Trust who work on a day-today basis with Muslim women should be listened to by the Government and supported to continue doing the work they do.

Posted in discrimination, Islam, Muslim | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Sarla!

Sarla Dave-2

Sarla

“Before I had no confidence to write English but now I write WhatsApp [messages] and I’m trying to use the computer as well.”

This month JAN Trust would like to introduce you to Sarla. Read her profile below:

Name: Sarla

Country of origin: India

Ethnicity: Indian

Sarla arrived in the UK in 1975 with her father-in-law from Gujrat, India. Her in-laws were already settled in the UK in London. She came to join her husband who was born in Kenya and had gone to university in India.  When she came to the UK she knew a little bit of English but was not confident in speaking.

Sarla had been in the UK a long time before she heard of JAN Trust. She learnt of JAN Trust from a friend who she met through her work. One day her friend was in a rush to get somewhere and Sarla asked her where she was going. “I have to go to school now. I’m going to JAN Trust. Aunty, why don’t you come with me?” And this is how Sarla ended up at JAN Trust by word of mouth.

When asked what she likes the most about JAN Trust, Sarla responded with a smile “I like everything. People are friendly.”

Sarla feels coming to JAN Trust has definitely helped her. “Before I had no confidence to speak and write English but now I write WhatsApp [messages] and I’m using the computer as well. My daughter has bought me a small computer now.”

To find out more about our ESOL classes and other classes we run, take a look at our website: www.jantrust.org or give us a call on: 0208 889 9433.

Posted in Active citizenship, Citizenship, Education, International | Tagged ,

The rise of the trolls!

The rise of the trolls visual

Top left: Leslie Jones, Top right: Melanie Jeffs, Bottom left: Jessica Valenti, Bottom Right: Sajda Mughal OBE

“One person said I should get cancer, I had somebody threatening to find me and tie me up”.

Last week, best-selling feminist author, Jessica Valenti, decided to take a break from social media following death and rape threats directed at her 5 year-old daughter. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in online hate and abuse directed towards women. A fortnight ago, JAN Trust participated in a conference held in London organised by Reclaim the Internet, to address the issue of online abuse. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign which brings together media platforms, tech companies, campaign groups, think tanks, employers, trades unions, politicians, the police, teachers, students, journalists, public figures, youth organisations and young people to take a stand against online abuse.

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, has been the target of online hate speech a number of times. Recently, she was subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter following a tweet she posted about the Fireman Sam Quran incident which sparked an Islamophobic row. This week, Nottingham Women’s Centre manager, Melanie Jeffs, who successfully campaigned for misogyny to be considered a hate-crime spoke out about the abuse she’s received since Nottinghamshire Police started recording misogyny as a hate crime. The most recent high profile case of online abuse was that of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones who received a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. This led her to quit the social media platform but before doing so she spoke out against racist Twitter trolls and urged Twitter to do more to fight racist abuse saying we need to “stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones.”

A study has revealed that in the space of 3 weeks from the end of April, 6500 Twitter users received 10,000 misogynistic tweets in the UK. Internationally, the figures were 200,000 misogynistic tweets sent to 80,000 people – surprisingly, over 50% of offenders were women! A report was released by the United Nations in January 2015 which “suggests 73% of women worldwide have been exposed to or are the target of some form of cyber violence. In the 18 months since then, online abuse – particularly of women, and, in the wake of the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, female politicians – has come under greater scrutiny”.

Women aren’t the only ones being attacked online. There are countless news stories about children being afraid to go to school or college or committing suicide because of cyber-bullying. There are also stories about young people with health issues such as anorexia who face a barrage of abuse online.

Although some perpetrators have been prosecuted, civil society organisations have said that there isn’t enough being done to tackle online hate. Social media companies have been told by the government that they need to do more. Currently, Twitter’s website provides it users with instructions on how to stop abuse received via its platform. This can be done by either blocking the Twitter account, or reporting it. However, if Twitter deletes the account, the same person can create a new account. People won’t stop abusing others online until there are stricter community guidelines and they realise the consequences of violating these guidelines.

At JAN Trust, we are standing up against the hate; through our Web Guardians© programme, we educate women an mothers on how to they can protect themselves and their children when online.

Posted in Active citizenship, Campaign, Campaigning, Citizenship, discrimination, girls, Hate Crime, International, Muslim, Online abuse, Online hate, Politics, Violence Against Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Kelvin Mackenzie and Islamophobia

Fatima Manji

Nearly two weeks ago, on Bastille Day, the city of Nice was attacked; 84 people were killed and 303 people injured. The killer was a divorced, father of three named Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Born in Tunisia, he later immigrated to France, settling in Nice, in 2005, where he worked as a delivery-truck driver.

Four days after the attack, a news article was published by The Sun, written by one of its former editors Kelvin Mackenzie who wrote that he “could hardly believe (his) eyes” when he saw “a young lady wearing a hijab” presenting the news following the Nice attack. Mackenzie believes it was inappropriate of Channel 4 to have a Muslim woman reporting the news when “there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim.”  This woman is Fatima Manji, a news reporter who joined Channel 4 in 2012, and has covered several news stories during her time with the channel such as the Natwest banking problem.

Since the release of the article, there have been over 1700 complaints sent to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) as well as a formal complaint made by Fatima Manji herself and one from the CEO of the Independent Television News (ITN) who produce content for Channel 4 and other channels. The article has sparked a national outrage and once again questions what the authorities are doing to tackle the rise in Islamophobia in the UK.

As of September of last year, there has been a 70% increase in Islamophobia in the UK, with 60% of this hate being targeted towards Muslim women. In the last year, particularly since the attack in Paris, there has been a 300% increase in attacks on Muslims, mainly women. Prominent figures in the community are speaking out against this rise such as ex-Conservative Party Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, who highlighted this figure in a letter she sent to The Sun’s editor to complain about the article. These are shocking statistics, yet news stories like the one written by Kelvin Mackenzie continue to be published.

Since writing the article, The Sun has published another article written by Kelvin where he seemed unapologetic and mocked people for complaining:

“Instead of accusing me of Islamophobia (yawn! yawn!) Channel 4 might like to try finding a Muslim presenter to front a documentary about Islam’s attitudes towards the gay community, or perhaps on how women are treated as second-class citizens in Muslim countries.”

Kelvin Mackenzie and others who hold the same views as him are clearly out of touch with what’s happening in this country right now. Muslim women are being spat on, beaten and bullied for wearing the hijab. Fatima Manji has also written an article expressing the same concerns as JAN Trust about the rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes targeted at Muslims. Since the Paris attack last year and Brexit last month, hate crime against Muslims has soared and articles like Mackenzie’s only serve to add fuel to the fire.

At JAN Trust, we work with women and young people affected by Islamophobia and hate crime. We aim to raise awareness about how these impact Muslims living and working in the UK. We are at the forefront when it comes to tackling complex and sensitive issues such as Islamophobia and extremism. Using our knowledge and expertise, we have designed and delivered workshops addressing these issues to the communities which we advocate on behalf of, as well as to professionals working on these issues. We have worked with over 10,000 young people and practitioners across London and the UK. You can visit our website Say No To Hate Crime to learn more about the work we do at community level on hate crime and how to report hate crimes.

Posted in Active citizenship, Citizenship, discrimination, Extremism, Hate Crime, International, Muslim, The Sun | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Masculinity so fragile a woman only needs to breathe to hurt it’: The killing of Qandeel Baloch

Artwork by Raheem Yar Khan

Artwork by Raheem Yar Khan

“As a women (sic) we must stand up for ourselves. As a women we must stand up for each other … As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe that I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thought free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM. J Qandeel Baloch wrote just three days before her murder.

In the early hours of Saturday, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch (born Fouzia Azeem) was given a tablet and then strangled to death by her younger brother Waseem in a so-called ‘honour killing’. Her brother admitted at a press conference in the presence of police that he had murdered his sister because “she [had] brought dishonour to the Baloch name” with her provocative posts on social media.

Feminist groups in Pakistan immediately launched an online petition condemning the murder of Qandeel Baloch and demanding that the government put her killer on trial. Since her murder on Saturday various opinions have been expressed with some including those who support the petition blaming her death on the way in which the media attacked her and revealed information about her private life. The Pakistani Government was also blamed for failing to respond to Baloch’s request for protection.

According to the BBC, 1,096 women were killed in Pakistan by relatives in ‘honour killings’ last year. This represented a 21% increase between 2013 and 2015. In February, Punjab, the country’s largest province, passed the Protection of Women against Violence Bill, a landmark law, criminalising all forms of violence against women. This was met with an uproar by religious groups and all mainstream Islamic parties who want the law repealed. They fear that the law will encourage women to divorce thereby destroying the country’s traditional family system. In reality, what is feared is the loss of control of women and the dismantling of a patriarchal society.

In a recent and rare development the state has become the complainant in Qandeel’s murder making it impossible for her family to pardon her killers by using blood money laws. Blood law is a traditional law which involves the payment of blood money.  It is usually the avenue taken by families but leads to the dropping of murder charges. What is needed is reform of such laws so that those who commit such acts are tried in court.

‘Honour killings’ are not just a problem in Eastern culture but in Western too as Pakistani feminist groups pointed out in their petition citing the following cases: 31-year-old Maria Nemeth disembowelled by her boyfriend Fidel Lopez in Florida, United States; 27-year-old Farkhunda beaten to death by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan; 37-year-old Miriam Nyazema stabbed 26 times by her British soldier Josphat Mutekedza; the multiple victims of Elliot Rodger a violent, anti-woman killer with a manifesto in California, United States.

In the UK, 11,000 UK cases of so-called ‘honour crime’ have been recorded in five years from 2010 to 2014. Since it was established in 1989 JAN Trust has worked tirelessly to tackle honour-based violence (HBV) in its various forms for example, murder, assault, forced abortion, disfigurement, enforced suicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment or any other crime motivated by honour in order to uphold perceived cultural and/or religious beliefs.

Not only do we work with communities and religious groups and seek to influence government policy but we also provide training on HBV for agencies across London and the UK. Our training is culturally sensitive and explores religious stipulations. If you are interested in attending or arranging a training session please contact us at: info@jantrust.org

 

Posted in Advocacy, Campaigning, International, Islam, Politics, Violence Against Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust’s Sajda Mughal OBE: Fighting extremism 11 years on after the London bombings

Sajda-Mughal-PA - OBE

Sajda Mughal OBE

Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of the London bombings, a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bomb attacks in Central London that killed 52 people and injured many more. As we remember those who lost their lives, and those who were injured on that terrible day 11 years ago, we chat with our Director, Sajda Mughal OBE, a survivor of the 7/7 bombings, about that fateful day and how it changed her life.

Today marks the 11thanniversary of the London bombings. How does it make you feel thinking about that day 11 years on? Are you still affected by it, and if so, how?

It’s been 11 years but I am still haunted by what happened to me on that day. It’s a day I will never ever forget. It changed my life forever. Tragedy struck that day in the form of an indiscriminate attack which resulted in innocent lives being lost. Every year, around the anniversary of 7/7, I suffer flashbacks and on a day-to-day basis I try to avoid travelling on the tube because I still find it very difficult. It brings back memories of my tragic journey to work that morning. Had my OCD of wanting to sit on the first carriage got the better of me I wouldn’t be alive today. Germaine Lindsay detonated his bomb 10 seconds after the train departed Kings Cross, killing innocent people and injuring many more. I am fortunate to be alive today and to be able to make a difference by trying to prevent such an attack from happening again.

You have spoken in the media countless times about what happened to you that day and how it changed your life. Can you tell us a bit about how exactly it changed your life and motivated you to do the work you have been doing for the last 11 years?

The London bombings changed my life completely. Before that day I was working in the corporate sector working my way up the career ladder and earning a good salary. I was in a good job but what I experienced set me on a new path.

I was left bewildered after the attack. I just couldn’t comprehend why someone would choose do such an awful thing. I wanted to find out who the suicide bombers were. When I read about them, and discovered that they called themselves Muslim my first thought was how can they call themselves Muslim because this was not the Islam I knew. I then thought about their families, particularly their mothers, and what they must be thinking. My mother is so important to me and I couldn’t imagine the pain and anguish she would feel if one of her children were to do such a thing.

In 2008, I joined JAN Trust, a multi-award winning charity working at the grassroots with women and young people from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities. The charity already had well-established links with mothers from communities affected by the issue of radicalisation and extremism. I wanted to work with these mothers because I saw them as the key to tackling radicalisation and extremism. In Islam a huge amount of respect is conferred upon mothers. We believe that heaven lies at the feet of your mother, and so I felt that working with Muslim mothers was the right way to go if we wanted to really address the issue of radicalisation and extremism. We conducted research and consultations over a number of years on Internet Extremism which we then used to design and develop our highly acclaimed Web Guardians© programme. We have been and continue to be at the forefront of working with women and mothers to tackle radicalisation.

There are organisations that are now realising, years later, that it is by engaging with families that we can address this issue, but JAN Trust has been doing this for the last 10 years with a genuine passion, commitment and dedication to making a difference. It’s what we’ve been saying all along and our experience of working with mothers who have challenged extremism from within the home has guided our work on de-radicalisation. We have campaigned that mothers are central to the fight against radicalisation and extremism. If they are provided with the right support, in terms of knowledge and skills from an organisation such as ours, with the knowledge, expertise and genuine interest and concern, they can be  empowered to challenge extremism.

One of the main issues you work on with women and young people is preventing radicalisation and extremism. Do you see any relationship between hate groups and Far-right ideological violence?

Yes, as well as working with women and mothers to address the issue of radicalisation and extremism we also work with schools with students, parents, teachers and governors on safeguarding against extremism. I think that the rise in Far-right violence is proof that there is a relationship between hate groups and Far-right ideological violence and there have been warnings from groups such as ourselves and Hope Not Hate about this.

A few weeks ago, we saw the tragic and brutal death of Labour MP Jo Cox who was killed by a man that was inspired by Far-right ideology. There are other examples such as Anders Brevik who sympathised with the views of Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), and Pavlo Lapshyn who murdered Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham.

We have continuously highlighted the threat that Far-right poses in our work with women and schools. We need to address the threat of Far-right extremism and ensure all forms of extremism are taken seriously not just extremist acts by people who claim to be Muslim.

What do you think needs to be done to tackle extremism? What is the way forward?

As I’ve just mentioned I think that all forms of extremism should be taken seriously – this is the first thing because extremism is not specific to a faith, race or ethnicity and it affects everybody as we’ve seen with terrorist acts being committed all over the world. By addressing one form of extremism, you alienate people, you make them feel marginalised which exacerbates the problem and you prevent yourself from being able to engage with communities because they don’t trust you.

I’m an advocate of the bottom-up approach. I believe it’s important to engage with communities, to understand what they are thinking and feeling in order to identify the root causes of the problem and then work with them to design the appropriate solutions. Our Web Guardians© programme has shown that this is the most effective way to tackle radicalisation and extremism. The feedback from professionals and women and mothers who have attended the programme confirm this. On lady told us“When I first came to the course I didn’t know that much about the internet or radicalisation and extremism but now I’ve learnt a lot. I can teach my children, and my grandchildren. I can show them the way because this issue affects everyone in the family and someone who is thinking of going to Syria must know this.’

We were told at the end of one session by a lady working for a local council “Thank you for today’s session. It was great. One of the mothers has her son in the Channel programme. This was hard hitting for her and will help.”

I would also say that another reason we have been effective is because the women and young people we work with are able to identify with us coming from the same religious and a similar cultural background. We understand the challenges they face. This immediately creates an atmosphere where honest debate and discussion about a highly sensitive and highly contentious issue can take place.

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