#NHCAW- Twitter has become a breeding ground for online hate and enough is enough.

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Content Warning: Hate Speech

There have been numerous hashtags springing up across social media in the last few days such as #NHCAW, #NoPlaceForHate and #WeStandTogether. That’s because this week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week – which not only aims to remember those who have tragically lost their lives to vile acts of hatred, but also to spark real momentum in tackling hate crime. This initiative couldn’t have come at a more pressing time with the recent Home Office statistics showing that hate crime has risen by 29% in the last year alone, with the incidents spiking around events such as the Westminster terror attack and Brexit.

Although this campaign has caught wind predominately on social networks, those who commit acts of hate find no better place to thrive than on those same platforms, especially Twitter. The combination of a lack of face to face confrontation, an emboldening mob mentality and for some, the disguise of anonymity, means hate speech has intensified at unprecedented rates.

The most striking example of this is how the Alt Right and those who are ideologically affiliated to the movement utilised this platform to mainstream their prejudices. Nazis and white supremacists involved in this movement such as Richard Spencer and David Duke (Former Grand Wizard of the KKK) use their accounts to spout racist bigotry and amass a legion of followers to spread their views and harass others. These are a few examples of their tweets and retweets that are easily accessible and can currently be viewed on the platform:

In the UK figures such as former EDL leader Tommy Robinson and public commentator Katie Hopkins use Twitter to espouse similar views, especially about Islam. Reports of hate crimes related to Islamophobia are rising dramatically and tweets that discriminate based on religious beliefs only serves to create further division in British Society:

These tweets are the tip of the iceberg in a toxic online culture which normalises and protects hateful speech towards marginalised people as free speech, yet punishes those who defend themselves from it.

In this way, Twitter has recognised white nationalist Richard Spencer as an account of interest and bestowed upon him a verified badge, yet suspended actress Rose McGowan’s account after she recently spoke out against sexual assault.

Twitter has shielded Donald Trump and let him use the platform to personally bully and incite the harassment of members of the black community such as Jemele Hill. The tech giant also remains silent when prominent feminists such as Lindy West are threatened with rape on a daily basis, as neither seemingly violate the site’s terms of service.

We echo Amber Rudd and Theresa May’s recent acknowledgement that social media platforms should do more to stop the spread of inappropriate content.  Although Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made promises to curb online abuse on the platform, we believe enough is enough and that those who commit or actively incite hate speech must no longer be coddled and turned a blind eye to. More effective filters for inappropriate content must be explored and social media giants like Twitter need a renewed sense of responsibility in dealing with abuse, as opposed to tacit complicity.

Online hate remains under-reported with low prosecution rates. At JAN Trust we take online hate extremely seriously and pioneered the first ever online tool to report hate crime. We believe that freedom of speech does not extend to infringing upon another person’s right to be free from harmful language and abuse. Moreover, the right to free speech does not mean freedom from receiving criticism for the words you speak. Whether those words are said out loud, or typed on a computer – All forms of hate crime should be offenses punishable by law.

If you want to find out more information about hate crime or how to report it please visit our Say No to Hate Crime website at http://saynotohatecrime.org/.

 

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Posted in Active citizenship, british, Campaign, Campaigning, Crime, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Facebook, Far right, girls, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, International, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, London, MET, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, National Hate Crime Awareness Week, Online abuse, Online hate, police, Politics, Prime Minister, Racism, Representation, Sajda Mughal, Society, Twitter, Uncategorized, Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Do People Feel Compelled To Tell Women What To Wear?

“What is she wearing?!” is a question many women have probably heard whispered behind their backs at least once in their life – especially women who dare to dress a bit differently than what is the norm in their society. Both men and other women feel like they are compelled to tell women what they can and can’t wear. This blog post will take a look at the different wardrobe requirements across the world and throughout history, and try to figure out just what makes people think it’s OK to tell someone what to wear.

The concept of men telling women what to wear goes back for millennia. As far back as Ancient Greece and Rome, men were telling women that it was “disgraceful” for a woman to wear a man’s toga. In relation to the restrictions on wearing the toga, women’s rights were decreased. From then on, women were restricted in many ways all over the world: from foot binding in China to mandatory corsets in France. In the 1890s, women in the UK had to wear dresses that covered everything down to their ankles, as well as everything up to their chin. As late as in 1919, less than 100 years ago, Luisa Capetillo was arrested and sent to jail in Puerto Rico, simply for wearing trousers.

As you can see, men telling women what to wear is not new. In fact, it goes back almost as far as we have historical records. From being made to cover up their whole bodies, to walking around in crop tops and short skirts, it is safe to say times have changed. However, the way people feel compelled to tell women what to wear has not. In the West, many people see women as “liberated”, and insist that they can wear what they want. However, there are many people who then criticise or harass Muslim woman for wearing a hijab, or a slightly over-weight woman for wearing a crop top.

Women have historically been judged on a binary scale, where they are either seen as “pure and innocent” or “dirty and offensive”. If you dress in a way that covers “too much” of your body, you are either a religious fanatic, oppressed or a prude. If you dress in a way that covers “too little” of your body, you are deemed promiscuous and “asking for it”. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. In France, they wanted to ban the use of burkinis, while in Saudi Arabia women have to cover up in public. Recently a young girl in Saudi Arabia was arrested by the police and publicly vilified for posting a video of herself walking through empty streets with her hair uncovered and wearing a knee length skirt. It seems that women are free to choose what to wear anywhere in the world. This serves to suppress religious freedoms. In France, a Muslim is not free to dress as she pleases, nor in schools, workplaces or on the beach, and in Saudi Arabia, women are offered no choice as to whether they follow Islamic prescriptions of dress, coercing them into taking a religious position, and reducing their freedom to decide.

Not only are women’s characters judged by what they wear, but across the world they are continually victim blamed for their choice of dress. In Italy, a man was acquitted of a rape charge because the woman was wearing “very tight trousers”. It is incredibly common across the world for rape victims to be told they were “asking to be raped” because of what they were wearing, and in many countries the law supports this rhetoric, placing the blame on the victim of the crime rather than the perpetrator. Just the concept that women are saying, in their choice of clothing, that they want to be sexually assaulted is preposterous. It is also incredibly insulting to men to imply that they cannot control their urges.

Proponents of freedom and equality are speaking out against the hijab because it is a “symbol of oppression”, but these people seem to be oblivious to their hypocrisy. They say that women should be able to have freedom to do and dress how they want, yet they do not accept the decision to wear a hijab, even when the women wearing it insists that they are doing so of their own free will.

If you truly believe in equality and freedom, you will let women wear what they want to, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. Whether their choice is to cover up or show a lot of skin, that is their choice and none of anybody else’s business. The most important thing is that women are allowed to decide what they want to wear, without this restricting their ability to live their lives and without this deciding how they will be judged by others.  At JAN Trust, we work to empower women every day. Find out more and support our work at www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, discrimination, Diversity, girls, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

‘The rain begins with a single drop’ – Does the end of the driving ban mark a shift in consciousness for Saudi Arabia?

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Last week, King Salman announced through royal decree that the long-standing ban prohibiting women from driving in Saudi Arabia will be lifted by 24th June 2018. Saudi Arabia is currently the only country in the world where women cannot legally drive; a law which has received widespread condemnation and has become a signifier across the globe of the country’s strict patriarchal regime.

The news of the ban being lifted has been much anticipated and celebrated, especially by the brave activists who have been fighting tirelessly for years to change the law; jeopardising their own freedoms in the process. One such activist, Manal al-Sharif, who galvanised the women’s right to drive campaign after being detained for filming herself behind the wheel, made an emotional statement on social media:

There is no doubt that this decree is a huge step forward for women’s rights in the notoriously conservative region and it has been deeply moving to witness the outpouring of joy and a brief moment of respite across social media. Activists are now witnessing the culmination of their efforts over the years and the foundation for change is starting to emerge. However, the attitudes which have given rise to and emanate from the system cannot change overnight and whether this ruling marks a monumental shift in the consciousness of the Saudi Arabia is still murky territory.

For those who uphold the conservative values of the state and its strict interpretation of religious doctrine, the lifting of the driving ban has been met with resistance. On the eve of the landmark announcement, one of the top trending hashtags on Saudi Arabia’s twitter feed was “The women of my house won’t drive.”  This unfortunately demonstrates that there is a lot of work to be done to change people’s hearts and minds, which the lifting of a law can’t immediately solve.

This outlook is also characterised by the continued enforcement of the kingdom’s male guardianship system; a binding set of regulations which prevent women from being able to truly govern their own lives. In this way, women are obligated to gain the permission of a male guardian in order to study or travel outside the country, start their own business, get married or even leave prison. There has been no official comment as of yet from Saudi officials as to whether the lifting of the driving ban marks the start of a U-Turn on these types of policies, which dominate the daily lives of Saudi women. However, Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman, has stated the new driving procedures will ensure that women will be able to drive alone and apply for their licenses without gaining permission from their male guardians.

Although the practicalities of the implementation of this ruling will be discussed by a new specialised committee in the next 30 days, this detail, if true, has the potential to be hugely significant. If this comes to fruition, it would mark a loosening of a facet of guardianship legislation; setting a precedent which holds a mirror up to the guardianship system itself. The inconsistency of allowing women to drive without a male guardian, but still needing the permission of a guardian to travel or start a business is stark. The example set by this ruling sparks hope that it will act as a catalyst for the undermining of the guardianship system altogether.

Moreover, the recent news of a mixed audience being permitted to celebrate in the national stadium, and the proposal of new legislation criminalising sexual harassment, spells promising change for the kingdom. Equality for the women of Saudi Arabia feels like it is inching closer, but it is not a given. At JAN Trust we believe it is possible to celebrate these victories yet still acknowledge that there is much work to be done to ensure that societal attitudes are changed and that women’s rights are fully enshrined in law. For those of us witnessing this moment in history, it is vital to not get complacent and continue to support and fight for the rights of women in the UK, Saudi Arabia and around the world.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Citizenship, discrimination, Diversity, girls, Islam, JAN Trust, Muslim, Muslim women, Society, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Fake News, Cyberbullying and Extremism: the Downsides of Social Media’s Global Reach

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The ability to promote discussion through social media is a critical tool for people and organisations to create much-needed conversations about issues that matter, but aren’t talked about enough, in societies around the world: from young Nigerians promoting dialogue about taboo subjects like domestic abuse to a US non-profit creating a viral hashtag about race and equity in the country’s education system. Many even accredit the Arab Spring as the first ‘Twitter revolution’, as it is widely acknowledged that social media facilitated interaction and communication amongst participants of political protests.

But, despite internet access being a fundamental human right, as declared by the UN in June last year, the internet now represents much more than informing and connecting people. Discussions of major events have shown that, particularly where social media is concerned, the internet also has the power to misinform, divide and even harm people.

News coverage is one example: ‘fake news’ is now often used, by individuals and organisations alike, as a weapon to promote or push back against competing ideologies online. During the 2016 US presidential election, fake news stories were widely published and circulated with ease across all major social media platforms. A survey of teenagers aged 10 to 18 in the US found that 31% had shared a news story online in the last 6 months that they later found out was false. Although the current influence of fake news is entirely unclear, incidences of fake news articles spreading like wildfire across social media platforms has become a common occurrence.

Despite the possible benefits of young people now relying more on social media than television as a news source, since coverage and commentary of live events arrive much faster online, the rise of fake news means that genuine solutions for preventing the spread of misinformation on social media are desperately needed. To combat the spread of misinformation on its platform, Facebook announced plans in December to create a fact-checking system, but, nine months on it is not clear whether this has been effective in reducing the scale of fake news circulating on the network.

Other potentially much more harmful drawbacks to the influence of social media may stem from the ability of individuals to present themselves in a different image and thus behave differently online than they would in real life. For example, some use their virtual persona for the purpose of spreading harassment and abuse: 1 in 5 teenagers worldwide have experienced online abuse and more than half of those surveyed say that cyberbullying is worse than being bullied in person. Young people in particular have urged that major social media companies do more to tackle bullying on their sites. Other individuals may use social media to create a persona that they aspire to resemble in real life, often in response to societal expectations about, for instance, body image and career goals being presented on social media as the norm. A survey of young people in the UK found that 35% of girls aged 11-21 are most worried about comparing themselves to others online, and a third of girls are worried about how they look in the photos they post online. As well as having to deal with harassment and societal pressures online, obsession or even addiction to using social media is a genuine issue for many people. Researchers at the University of Chicago suggest that social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to cigarettes and alcohol, and can significantly impact a person’s daily and social life, as well as mental health.

Propaganda which glorifies the Islamic State aims to recruit vulnerable individuals online, in many cases persuading them to travel to Syria, or encouraging them to commit jihad on UK soil. The Home Affairs Committee tells us that in only 1 or 2 % of radicalisation cases had mosques or religious institutions been involved, but that online radicalisation was involved in almost all cases. Extremist content exists all across the internet, from both Islamic extremist sources and far-right extremist groups such as Britain First, whose party page has more Facebook likes than any other UK political party.

To combat the spread of vitriol and extremism, Tech giants Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft have created a collaborative forum to share best practices and potential solutions, and Google now allows users to report false or offensive information in their search suggestions and boxed-out answers. As for online harassment and cyberbullying, the Crown Prosecution Service will be ordering prosecutors to treat online hate crimes as seriously as they would offences carried out in person. However, many hate crimes go unreported and critics say that social media companies have far done little to curb the spread of abuse on their platforms.

The steps taken by tech companies so far are a good start, but robust action is needed to tackle both the spread of misinformation and the harmfully antisocial side to social media. Vigilance when browsing the internet is key. Our Web Guardians™ programme aims to inform mothers that the internet is an endless source of information, but that it can also be extremely harmful for your child. To find out more about our programme go to www.webguardians.org.

Posted in Active citizenship, Daesh, Education, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Facebook, Far right, google, Hate Crime, Inclusion, International Affairs, islamophobia, JAN Trust, London, Twitter, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust welcomes Tez Ilyas as Ambassador

Tez Ilyas

JAN Trust is delighted to announce that Tez Ilyas has become our newest Ambassador.

Tez is a celebrated stand-up comedian from Blackburn, England. With both humour and serious undertones, Ilyas is celebrated for his material exploring what life is like for British Muslims today.  Ilyas entered the world of comedy in 2015 and in this short time has risen to fame, performing at BBC Asian Network’s special comedy night, The Comedy Store’s Eid Special Comedy Night, and in a short film he made for the BBC’s British Muslim Comedy series. He has just finished performing for the third time at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival in his show ‘Teztify’ which explores the experience of Muslims feeling on trial by society, and the need to shirk the many assumptions people make about his faith.

His act is unique as he incorporates comedy with his experience as a British Muslim in order to bring to light issues surrounding increasing Islamophobia in British society, whilst also making his audience laugh.

For a sample of his comedy, watch this:

 

 

In an interview, Tez stated that ‘if you have a profile, you should use it for good’. JAN Trust is proud to have someone whose comedy career we have followed as an Ambassador, and who aims to bring attention to the important topics that our charity also tackles, such as Islamophobia, racism, hate crime and extremism. We are looking forward to working together to continue our vital work to empower BAMER women across the country!

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, JAN Trust, London, Muslim, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Empowering Mothers – A Bottom-Up Approach to Defeating Terrorism

BBC Inside Out aired a special episode on the 4th of September on the effects that recent UK terror attacks have had on us all. As the only Muslim 7/7 survivor, I was invited onto the show to tell my story, and explain how I have now dedicated my life to fighting online extremism.

As part of an exclusive YouGov poll ran for BBC Inside Out, the people of England were asked if they thought the terrorism threat was higher in 2017 than ever before. 90% said yes. BBC highlighted that actually, deaths from terrorism were falling, with 90 killed between 2000-2015 vs. over 1,000 from 1985-1999. This is of little condolence to the victims of recent attacks, and for the public at large due to the fear and xenophobia these attacks have instilled.

20% of people from the Midlands area responded to the YouGov poll saying that they were more afraid at large events and on public transport, 21% said they are less likely to attend any events at a concert hall or stadium, and 29% said they feel less safe in public areas.

Manchester Arena attack survivor, Kim Dick, told BBC that when she travelled to London she suffered from panic attacks on transport, terrified of everyone she saw with a backpack. BBC reporter Holly Jones, who narrowly missed becoming a fatal victim of the London Bridge attack, described her past self as sociable, but claims now she is anxious, stressed and more suspicious of other people.

I can empathise with this anxiety and fear, as I told BBC Inside Out: “each time an attack happens I relive the experience. You watch the videos of what people have filmed, you see the people running and the screams, and it takes me right back to 7/7.”

The exclusive poll also revealed that 52% of people across England, but only 44% of Londoners, agree that the security services should be given more powers to defeat terrorism, even if this meant sacrifices to our personal privacy. As I told BBC, I do not believe that this is the most effective way to defeating terrorism:

“We need a bottom-up approach. Those who are being radicalised are being brainwashed, so we need to change those hearts, and change those minds… we cannot put the reliance on police solely to defeat terrorism, as ultimately, this will not change those hearts and minds.”

Pioneering this bottom-up approach to fighting terrorism, our charity JAN Trust launched our award winning Web Guardians™ programme, which educates mothers on preventing and tackling online extremism with their children and loved ones.

It is likely that all of the recent attackers, both Muslim extremists and far-right extremists, were exposed to online propaganda and communication with recruiters that served to radicalise them. Richard Walton, former Head of Counter-Terrorism Command within the Metropolitan Police, told BBC: “it is inconceivable that there wasn’t a use of social media apps to connect those who carried out these attacks with terrorists from the Islamic State.”

BBC reporters posed as young British Muslims interested in joining jihad in Syria, and were met with support from IS recruiters who directed them to encrypted messaging services. From there they provided a link on the dark web to an online terrorist manual which detailed how to use a vehicle to carry out an attack, and what body parts to target when using a knife to inflict fatal injuries. IS recruiters suggested the young boy conduct a lone wolf attack and ‘kill normal people’ from within the UK, and even suggested Westminster and London Bridge as key targets as they were ‘crowded with disbelievers and civilians’, providing evidence that the 2017 attacks were planned by online ISIS recruiters.

This is hard evidence that the threat of online radicalisation is real and dangerous. It was clear to me that such a huge threat cannot go on being ignored.

We have won many awards and for our Web Guardians™ programme, which seeks to empower women to be at the frontlines of the fight against extremism from within their own homes, but we need support to continue this vitally needed work. Support would mean the programme can continue to change the hearts and minds of potential terrorists and innocent lives can be saved.

Posted in Active citizenship, british, Daesh, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Facebook, Far right, girls, Hate Crime, Inclusion, International, International Affairs, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, London, Middle East, Mosul, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, Online abuse, Online hate, police, Politics, Prime Minister, Racism, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Sajda Mughal, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Web Guardians, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My internship with JAN Trust

In the middle of June, I began my 6-week internship with at JAN Trust. With a role that was quite broad, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was excited to dive in and soak up any experience I could

With a fresh English Literature degree in the bag, I was ready to start exploring what the “real” adult world had in store for me. During my time at university, I had taken an interest in charity and volunteering, and working within the charity sector was something I was interested in. Therefore, I was over the moon when I was successful in securing the internship at JAN Trust.

I didn’t know much about how a charity is run, and I did not know a lot about the sector and small NGOs. During my time at JAN Trust, I have had a varied set of tasks, which has given me an insight into how the charity is run. I have helped out with social media, blogs, fundraising, liaising with stakeholders, research, and much more. Through doing these different tasks, I have gained a deeper understanding of how difficult it is to run a small NGO. One thing that particularly strikes me is the passion and drive that is needed from all the employees to keep the charity running smoothly. With a small team, workloads can get quite heavy, and it is essential that everyone does their part. Sajda, the CEO of JAN Trust, has amazed me again and again with her passion and all the hard work she does for the charity. It is inspirational to be surrounded by people who care about making a difference, and who work hard every day to do so.

Through this internship I have been able to develop my skills in terms of time management, writing skills, communication skills, creativity and much more. As I said, my tasks have been quite varied, and as such I have been able to develop and grow in different ways. I have learnt how to write official and formal letters, how to run a social media account for an organisation, and recording information. I have also had some great colleagues, who have supported me and helped me develop as an employee.

Above all, I am very happy to have had an internship where I have felt like I have truly made a difference. I have been able to do work that I know will ultimately help people, and help make our society a better place for everyone. Considering the current situation in the world, one can easily feel hopeless, apathetic and powerless in creating change. Through my internship, I have at least made a small contribution towards making the world a better place, in terms of fighting online radicalisation, violence against women and girls, and hate crime.

At JAN Trust, they work every day to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged women can be happy and productive members of society, and I am so pleased to have been even a small part of that.

If you are interested in working in the charity sector, I strongly urge you to consider JAN Trust as your starting point. Either as a volunteer or an intern, there is much insight to gain from working with them. I leave JAN Trust with a wealth of new experience and an even stronger wish to work in the charity sector in the future.

Posted in Hate Crime, JAN Trust, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Sajda Mughal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Barcelona and the evolution of terrorism: how do we stop a terror attack when vehicles are used?

The Barcelona terrorist attack three weeks ago was horrifying. It left 13 dead and over 100 people injured. The weapon of choice? A van.

A ‘vehicle-ramming attack’ is one of the stealthiest forms of terror attacks due to the difficulty of its prevention. Those who are planning to carry out an attack using this militant tactic do not require the resources or skills needed to create a bomb. All that is needed is a driving licence, and access to a car.

This year alone there have been ten vehicle-ramming attacks globally. In the UK there have been three terror attacks that have involved the use of a vehicle: the Westminster, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park attack. It is an unsophisticated tactic compared to the creation of bombs. These vehicle attacks are also linked to the rise of home-grown terrorists, as access to a vehicle is easier if you are a citizen of the nation. The accessibility of gaining a vehicle has meant that it has appealed to ISIS recruiters. In September 2014, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani issued a call to kill non-believers using any resources available: “[S]ingle out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of his allies,” he said. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.” BBC Inside Out reporters went undercover as young British Muslims interested in carrying out an attack, and were directed to an online terrorist manual on the dark web by recruiters, which specifically explained how to carry out an attack using a vehicle. This shows the indiscriminate nature to which these militant tactics are being encouraged. Young people can easily be led astray by recruiters through social media and communication networks who glorify martyrdom, goading new recruits with the chance of achieving paradise in the after-life.

Governments have attempted to prevent further attacks through the use of vehicles. Security bollards have been added to areas, specifically at festivals and large gatherings, such as most recently, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Notting Hill Carnival. These are probably the most practicable prevention for crowded areas. Barriers have been erected on popular bridges in central London, protecting pedestrians from any cars that could drive onto the pavement in an attempt to target civilians.

The recent ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought together a plethora of far-right groups, neo-Nazis and racists, as well as many counter protestors. As tensions escalated, a neo-Nazi James Alex Fields drove his car at full speed into a group of counter protestors, killing 32 year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19. This is a tragic reminder that the threat of terrorism and van attacks come from both Islamist and far-right extremists.

There are plans in the UK in place to make British drivers face tougher vehicle hire checks by cross-checking against a terror watch list. Westminster attacker Khalid Masood had hired a 4×4, whilst Khuram Butt, the leader of the London Bridge attack, had hired a large white van. The problem with this is that hiring a vehicle garners very little suspicion. Some suggest making cities car-free in order to extinguish the threat of vehicles as a weapon altogether. However these tactics can only do so much to help protect citizens.

This evolution of terrorist attacks has further shown the importance of our award winning Web Guardians™ programme. One of the only ways to prevent potential terror attacks like vehicle-ramming attacks is to find out the root cause of radicalisation. Social media companies need to take an active role in weeding out extremist content, as videos, posts and other forms of propaganda can quickly go viral, and can have a lot of influence. Communication through encrypted networks can be extremely difficult to infiltrate.

With our highly acclaimed Web Guardians™ programme, we encourage, educate and empower mothers to prevent their loved ones from becoming victims to the dangers of online extremism.

Unfortunately there is no way to make areas completely safe from this modern form of terrorism. Such attacks have created a lot of fear in society, with people fearing for their safety and increasing xenophobic feelings towards others. People should not have to adapt their lives in order to avoid the threat of terrorism, and minorities should not take the brunt of people’s fears. We at JAN Trust can only hope that preventative measures are put in place, and that counter-extremism programmes like our Web Guardians™ programme find sustainable support in order to help prevent the roots of radicalisation taking place.

Posted in Crime, Daesh, Extremism, Inclusion, International, International Affairs, ISIS, Islam, JAN Trust, Middle East, Muslim, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Sajda Mughal, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Web Guardians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grenfell Tower: for how long will we ignore society’s most vulnerable?

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In our society, it seems that some lives matter more than others. Vulnerable and disadvantaged people who have merely been born in the wrong place or situation suffer for circumstances they cannot control. When will we stop ignoring the parts our population that needs our help the most?

The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower is symptomatic of how our government is failing vulnerable people. It also highlighted the many problems within the social housing system in the UK. However, the underlying problem that Grenfell has highlighted is that disadvantaged people are increasingly made more disadvantaged by society. In Grenfell Tower, an estimated 80 people lost their lives because the building they lived in was not “worth” prioritising in terms of refurbishments and safety, and countless more have been displaced because their homes were destroyed. Funds allocated for refurbishment were used to install cladding across the building for purely aesthetic purposes, following multiple complaints from richer residents that the tower was a local eyesore, which due to the cladding’s flammable nature, catalysed the inferno that engulfed the building.

Many of the people who live in social housing are disadvantaged and vulnerable because of situations they cannot control. These are people such as refugees, immigrants, single parents, and people who are unemployed for various reasons. People who are in these groups are already struggling in many ways, and often face discrimination on several levels in society. In the case of social housing in Grenfell Tower, it boils down to the fact that not even their home – what is usually a safe haven for most – could protect them. The residents in Grenfell Tower were not safe in their homes because the appearance of the building’s exterior was prioritised over the safety of the interior.

For most residents of Grenfell, like other social housing estates, the only choice they have is social housing. This means that even if you know that your home is not safe, you have to choose between that or be homeless. Residents of Grenfell repeatedly reported safety issues, including electrical failures and the lack of fire sprinklers, but their pleas were ignored. Complaints from richer residents about the building’s appearance were prioritised, it appears. The government and councils in charge of providing safe social housing betrayed the people of Grenfell Tower.

Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, wrote a public letter to Prime Minister Theresa May expressing his deep concern over the ‘decision to exclude broader social and political issues raised by the fire’ in the public inquiry, highlighting that it had ‘raised profound concerns about the way that social housing is provided and managed’. He stated that excluding these issues showed her ‘priority is to avoid criticism of your party’s policy failures rather than secure justice for Grenfell survivors’.

Of course, housing is only one of the areas in which people are let down by the government when they are in difficult situations. Education, employment and cultural participation are also other areas where disadvantaged people are deprived of the same experience and support as people who are better off. They seem to get less support, while they are the ones who need it the most.

At JAN Trust, we work to support disadvantaged women in our local community. We believe that all people, no matter their circumstances in life, deserve support and help to live safe and fulfilling lives. Therefore, we offer classes and other support to BAME and vulnerable women. Our consistent work has helped women leave abusive relationships, economically empower themselves, and become productive members of society. To learn more and support our work, visit www.jantrust.org

Posted in Active citizenship, british, Campaigning, Citizenship, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Inclusion, JAN Trust, London, Politics, Prime Minister, Racism, Representation, Society, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Far-right extremism: Europe has seen this before, the time to act is now.

This past weekend, far-right activists and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia in the US. The protests escalated and one of the far-right protesters drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, leaving 1 dead and 19 injured. The man has now been charged with murder.

The brutal murder of Heather Heyer, 32, which took place at a “Unite the Right” gathering, is just the latest disturbing proof that the far-right, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, should be considered a real threat. We often hear about Muslim extremists, but the media rarely covers the rise of far-right extremism to the same extent. The group in Charlottesville were planning to rally around a Confederate statue that the city council had planned to remove, claiming that its removal was “an effort to erase white history”. The number of attendees is estimated at between 500 and 1,000 people, making “Unite the Right” one of the largest gatherings of its kind in decades, bringing together a plethora of white nationalist groups for the first time.

While there are many terms for the far right hate groups that gathered in Charlottesville, they have one thing in common: they are often violently racist. If people do not band together to stop the far-right in their rapid advance, they will only grow stronger and more confident. It is widely known that a significant part of Trump’s supporters are known white supremacists. The fact that the US President failed to immediately denounce these groups by name shows how institutionalised this ideology has become. Rather, Donald Trump’s initial statement blamed ‘many sides’ for the violence. After two days of considerable political pressure, he conceded and specifically denounced white supremacy. The next day, however, he was back to blaming ‘both sides’, noting that on each side of the protest existed ‘very fine people’, and used the far-right term ‘alt-left’ to describe anti-racism counter protestors. Several white nationalists expressed their gratitude that Trump did not immediately condemn them. Former KKK leader, David Duke, wrote on Twitter: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa [Black Lives Matter/Anti-Fascists]”. This is clear evidence of how Trump’s position as president empowers the far-right.

When figures of authority, such as Trump, are hesitant to denounce the horrible actions and values that the far-right stand for, they will continue with impunity. Media coverage, and their move to unify fractured groups, helps their values and ideas gain traction. Studies show that young people in America are increasingly exposed to far-right extremist content online. All of these different factors, especially in the context of the country’s polarised political spectrum, contribute to the rising threat of the far-right.

These incidents, and the attitudes held by the people causing them, should set off alarm bells and flashing lights. These people are walking around in the streets with swastika-flags, shouting “Heil Trump!” and making Nazi-salutes. They are not hiding what they stand for. Yet, some people refuse to see how dangerous the far-right is becoming. They bury their heads in the sand and ignore the alarm bells. Have we already forgotten how Hitler rose to power and the horrible events that his rule brought about? Have we forgotten our responsibility as citizens and leaders to take on dangerous groups like these, who champion white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and hatred of anyone different from themselves?

At JAN Trust, we work tirelessly to fight radicalisation and attitudes like the ones expressed at “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville. We see daily the abuse that minorities and vulnerable people suffer, especially in terms of racism and Islamophobia. Our work aims to fight hate crime, online extremism, and to support vulnerable and minority women. Through the work we do, we are taking on our part of the responsibility in defeating attitudes like these – are you doing your part?

You can support our work and learn more by visiting www.jantrust.org

Posted in Citizenship, Crime, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Far right, Hate Crime, islamophobia, Racism, Radicalisaton, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Violence | Tagged , , ,