Covered Up or Not

Islamophobia v Inclusion

You wouldn’t be wrong to think that the UK today, is unquestionably at its most hostile in decades. The political climate is not ‘strong and stable’, with Brexit looming and poverty increasing, anger and scapegoating are rife. The turbulent nature of today’s society, along with more recent terrorist atrocities, has added to the growth in hate crime which is up by 29%. Of these crimes, ethnic minorities and Muslims seem to be the main recipients.

Switzerland is set to hold a referendum next year to prohibit the wearing of full-face veils. If successful they will join the growing list of European countries that over the past 10 years have chosen to exclude, and punish women who choose to wear headscarves or face-coverings from society. Both France and Belgium have introduced blanket bans on the wearing of face-veils in any public place both of which were affirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014 and 2017 respectively. Headscarves haven’t escaped scrutiny either, with schools in the UK, and schools and workplaces in France, being just a couple of examples where veiled women are unwelcome.

In 2016 Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, endorsed a ban on face veils which she claimed are, “…inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible.” In the same year, France caused controversy when several seaside towns excluded women wearing burkinis from their beaches.

Some have argued that the bans assist social integration and even defend women’s freedom. How exactly excluding women, and policing their clothing can be construed as integration or as an act, to defend their rights is difficult to determine.

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Women are increasingly fighting back with positivity and inclusion. Furthermore, surprisingly Muslim women are seeing support from the fashion industry. An industry once ruled by a painfully white aesthetic, regurgitating and reinforcing the Eurocentric status-quo, whilst simultaneously cashing in on cultural appropriation, in recent years has seen a marked diversification take place. Icon and bona fide business woman, Rihanna launched her massively successful Fenty Beauty campaign in 2017. She’s had us rejoicing in how she has catered to a wide variety of skin tones, particularly women (and men) with darker skin. Her inclusivity did not stop there. Rihanna, went a step further with her video campaign that not only starred darker skinned women slaying on our screens, but also featured a plus sized model, as well as, hijabi model Halima Aden in her video campaign.


Halima has also previously starred in New York Fashion Week for Kanye West’s Yeezy season 5 launch in her hijab.

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Rihanna isn’t the only one. Nike has been working on the Nike Pro Hijab for the past year which they hope to launch early next year. Figure skater Zahra Lari and weightlifter Amna Al Haddad have worked with Nike to develop the product and have publicly expressed their support for the brands willingness to help Muslim women overcome barriers to pursuing sports in comfort.

Not one to be left behind, the UK fashion scene has similarly begun to embrace a more diverse idea of beauty. Hijabi models were in high demand, and highly appreciated at the London Modest Fashion Week 2017, set to return in February 2018.


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British model, Mariah Idrissi, also starred in the Swedish multinational company H&M’s campaign for recycled clothes back in 2015 as their first hijab-wearing model.

Embracing hijab wearing women has not been restricted to fashion and beauty. Syrian-American Muslim activist and artist, Mona Haydar, released her single “Hijabi” on the 27th of March, Muslim Women’s Day, and we are so here for it! It stars veiled women of different ethnicities, shades and sizes dancing with Mona, herself pregnant in the video. Her biting lyrics include telling the audience “even if you hate it I still wrap my hijab” and “covered up or not don’t ever take us for granted”. She raps to celebrate Muslim women and says that “The way I practice my religion is mine, it’s not someone else’s.”, when some criticised her decision to celebrate religion through music.

We at JAN Trust support the acceptance and empowerment of all women, whatever they choose to wear and hope that Muslim women will continue to be better represented in all areas of society.

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Why is there a culture of shame when it comes to speaking out about harassment?

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Countless women have come forward in the last few weeks accusing the Hollywood producer star, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault and rape; Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow being amongst them. The Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has claimed that these kinds of sexual harassment stories in the Hollywood industry are in fact “endemic” and that Weinstein is simply the top of the ladderof an industry plagued with this issue. The news is a stark reminder of the issues prevalent in the film industry – harassment being at the top of the list, and that we need to have a serious discussion about how society treats both the perpetrators and their victims.

However, the incidents we have heard about in the last week are not exclusive to the Hollywood film industry. A 2015 survey found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 have encountered some form of sexual harassment at work, with only a mere 29% reporting it. The figures here highlight a continuing culture of shame surrounding speaking out about these issues, which has arguably only allowed it to continue as perpetrators get away with being brought to justice. Many may ask – why don’t women report their experience? They do. A TUC report found that around 80% women thought that reporting the incident was of no benefit, with around 16% claiming the situation actually got worse. So why aren’t women being listened to, and their claims being taken seriously? Feminist activist Beatrix Campbell claims that it’s due to the “knowledge of and tolerance of sexual harassment”, whereby women have come to accept such experiences as a part and parcel of being in the workplace; where their complaints have all too often fallen on deaf ears. But this is the root of the problem. This culture has enabled harassment to go ignored because there have not been any major efforts to tackle the problem. Only recently, after a viral social media campaign, has France’s gender equality minister proposed a bill in the French parliament that would fine street harassment and aggressive catcalls.

The #MeToo campaign which has taken off on social media recently has aimed to tackle the culture of shame surrounding speaking out, encouraging victims of abuse to share their stories in highlighting how prevalent the issue still is in society today.

The campaign has gone a long way in removing the shame and silence that has been normal for those at the receiving end of sexual harassment. Victims of abuse now feel empowered to tell their story and remind others that they are not alone and that their experiences do not define them nor will they determine their future. Subsequently the #ItWasMe campaign started, with men ackonwledging their past sexually inappropriate behaviours and endeavouring to raise awareness about problemtic behaviour, whether it be coming from themselves or witnessing it in the people around them.

A few days ago, more instances of sexual harassment have come to light as a Tory Minister and MP have been accused of “paying women off” in attempting to keep Westminster as far away as possible from the topic of scandal and misdemeanor that it has previously been associated with. It is shocking to learn that around 40 Conservative MP’s have been listed in a ‘dirty dossier’, and it does much to highlight that this is a persistent problem which needs to be effectively addressed if any change is to occur and take place.

Perhaps much of the shame surrounding speaking out about the experiences of harassment has much to do with the way in which we have dealt with perpetrators, or even our lack of action regarding this. Women are not going to speak up and share their story if it is not going to make their situation better or help them seek justice. Famous Hollywood producers like Weinstein get their name all over the papers and more often than not have to resign due to the bad press they face once the allegations make headlines. But what about those not in the public eye – should they simply be left to accept things as they are and continue to put up with sexism in the workplace? Because if we don’t provide safe spaces for women to talk about their experiences, aren’t we just allowing the problem to get worse? In fact, worryingly, Tory MP’s have resisted attempts by David Cameron to make them sign a code of conduct; which would effectively safeguard those in the workplace agaisnt sexual harrasment, indicating that we have a long way to go in creating a culture that prioritises and recognises the importance of create a safe and comfortable environemnt in the workplace. At JAN Trust we believe in the importance of empowering women and ensuring they have the confidence and tools to combat any form of oppression be it in the work place or any other arena that discriminates against them.

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My Week Dressed As A Caricature Of A Muslim

The most off the mark show of the year goes to…

When we at JAN Trust saw the advert for, My Week as a Muslim, our first thought was wait, there’s a show with a woman in brownface and fitted with prosthetics to become a Pakistani Muslim woman? OK, well this we have to see.

Katie Freeman is an NHS healthcare assistant who had previously served in the armed forces and continues to hold frighteningly close-minded views. She lives in Winsford, Cheshire, apparently one of the least ethnically-diverse towns in the UK. Katie holds Islamophobic views and previously supported banning the burqa. At the beginning of the hour long programme she says “You see them and you just think they’re gonna blow something up”.

The first problem with this programme, aside from Katie’s blatant prejudice and racism, is that according to Channel 4, in order to believe that Muslim women are ordinary people you need to play dress up, and pretend to be one. Freeman is ‘transformed’ into a Muslim woman: she is dressed in a hijab, given brown contact lenses, has her skin darkened, and is fitted with a prosthetic nose and teeth to complete the offensive image. It begs the question, why Channel 4 did not consider that some would find this offensive, and why the broadcaster believed that this approach would teach us more than speaking to the Muslim community itself.

During the programme, Katie meets a white woman who converted to Islam several years ago, which prompts us to ask again, not only why couldn’t the show simply ask Muslims about their experience but also why was it important for Katie to be a brown ‘Pakistani’ Muslim.

The programme aired only a couple of weeks after Dove’s racially insensitive advert for a body wash depicting a black woman taking off her brown shirt to reveal a white woman, suggesting that a clean body is a white body. Followed by Nivea’s, ‘Natural Fairness’ cream, which a woman applies to restore her skin to its natural fairness, after which a man compliments her beautiful skin furthering the idea that white, is beautiful.

Given the massive backlash to these two adverts it is shocking that Channel 4 would insensitively ‘BROWNFACE’ a woman in 2017. Whilst yellowface and blackface seem to have thankfully been phased out of popular culture, brownface continues to resurface, such as Gemma Arterton browning up for her role in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time back in 2010. The result is offensive in movies but even more imperceptive for a programme supposedly made to highlight discrimination and encourage dialogue at a time when racial tension and xenophobia in the UK are increasing.

We at JAN Trust, as a charity that empowers marginalised women, believe that My Week As a Muslim is a misguided attempt to show the Muslim experience. Viewers do not need to see a white woman have obscenities yelled at her outside her local pub to believe that Muslim women are subject to Islamophobia. Viewers do not need props, prosthetics and altered skin tone for ‘authenticity’ or to understand discrimination and viewers do not need more misguided cliché stereotypes being portrayed as enlightening.

Visit to see the work we do to combat Islamophobia.

Posted in discrimination, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, hijab, Inclusion, Islam, islamophobia, Muslim, Muslim women, Racism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Happy United Nations Day! JAN Trust Celebrates Over 70 years Of Global Support Of Women And Girls

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To commemorate this day we’ve compiled some of the UN’s work in supporting women and girls this year.

The United Nations has supported the rights of women since its founding charter.  Among its purposes it pledged to, “Achieve international co-operation…in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Since then, the United Nations has made progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment with figures boasting that two thirds of countries in developing regions have achieved gender parity in primary education.

The UN’s HeForShe campaign, launched by everyone’s favourite Brit Emma Watson, also propelled feminism into the mainstream media several years ago where it has remained ever since.

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Yet women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence across the globe. So today, as UN turns 72 years old, we celebrate the UN’s continued support for the advancement of women.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Falling on the 6th of February, the focus for 2017 was; Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.

FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of women and girls human rights with no medical benefits. Globally, it is estimated that 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut for cultural, religious or social reasons. Progress has been made since 2007 but the UN continues to push forward.

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International Women’s Day

The UN uses the 8th of March to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women. It is also a day which focuses on the continuing need for gender parity. It has become a day in which girl power rules and social media comes alive with women sharing their strength and success, motivating one another in a truly inspirational fashion.

The UN’s theme this year focused on, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. It emphasised fighting the pay and leadership gaps prevalent in today’s society.

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

This year, on the 30th of July, ‘Act to Protect and Assist Trafficked Persons’ was the focal point of the day. The theme highlights the mass movement of refugees and migrants caused by conflict and natural disasters and the subsequent risk of human trafficking.

Women and girls account for 71% of human trafficking victims. As many are never identified providing aid is problematic and often victims struggle to access it themselves.

VAWG – Violence against Women and Girls

On the 22nd of September the UN and EU launched a global effort to end violence against women. Violence against Women and Girls is one of the most extensive and devastating human rights violations in our world with facts and figures estimating that 35% of women and girls around the world have experienced sexual or physical abuse. Furthermore, in 2012 half of all female victims of homicide were killed by a partner or family member. Therefore, with the intention to leaving no woman or girl behind, the Spotlight Initiative has been launched to end VAWG by 2030.


The use of sexual violence during conflict as a tactic of war is reprehensible and the day was used to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world.


International Day of the Girl Child

Since 2012 the UN has dedicated the 11th of October to the Girl Child. It has inspired activism from superstars such as Beyoncé who lent her voice to the cause in their #FreedomForGirls video. The young girls featured are angry, powerful and they demand change! The UN’s theme this year was EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises.

We at JAN Trust believe that the UN plays a vital role in helping to highlight the struggles that many women and girls face worldwide, including a lack of education, forced marriage, and FGM, issues that we as a charity tackle ourselves.

We work with vulnerable women and young people from marginalised backgrounds to help them overcome barriers to integration. These barriers include a lack of key skills such as English as well as social isolation, low confidence and discriminatory practices such as hate crime. Additionally, some of our service users face restrictive and harmful cultural practices such as forced marriages and FGM. Radicalisation is an additional concern experienced by many, an issue which we work hard to combat with our pioneering Web Guardians™ programme. Please donate here to help us to continue our vital work.

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#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


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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

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‘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.

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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

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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.

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