JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

Online extremism - saving the next generation, by Nazir Afzal OBE

By Nazir Afzal OBE

Empowering women to be active members of society is essential to building resilient communities. By unleashing the potential marginalised women can offer through education and training we can ensure women are integrated and valued members of society.

In my own career as a prosecutor, I have spent decades working to defend women from violence and injustice, giving me insight into the vast range of difficulties faced by women, and the best strategies to tackle them.

In the aftermath of four horrifying terror attacks in quick succession, the UK needs to do all it can to tackle extremism from its roots. One of the best ways to do this is by putting women at the heart of counter-terrorism.

As anchors within the family, mothers have a unique insight into the activities of their family members, and therefore the ability to safeguard their children and protect them from the dangers of online radicalisation.

Too many families have been torn apart through extremism. The pain of those who have lost loved ones in terrorist incidents, including the families of attackers, is immeasurable.

Collina, mother of Youssef Zaghba, one of the London Bridge attackers, expressed her sadness and regret that she had not been able to do more to prevent his radicalisation.

In an interview with Italy’s L’Espresso magazine she said that she “always kept track of his friends and made sure he didn't fall in with the wrong people, but he had Internet and that's where everything comes from”. She added he tried to go to Syria after being fed a “fantasy that was transmitted by the internet”.

This shows us the vital need for the mothers to be educated on how to combat the signs of online radicalisation. The work of JAN Trust’s unique Web Guardians™ programme, educates and empowers mothers to prevent and tackle extremism and online radicalisation effectively protecting them from this issue. It has been exceptional in tapping into the potential of mothers.

Before the launch of their programme in 2010, JAN Trust’s consultation within the community unveiled that 93% of Muslim women lacked IT skills and 92% did not know what online radicalisation was.

During my career I have learned that government counter radicalisation programmes, such as Prevent, can prove successful, but only to an extent. Community schemes get the best results, as they develop using community consultation, building trust, and have the ability to adapt strategies to the specific needs of an area. Therefore, it is essential that we work with the Muslim community to tackle radicalisation, rather than against them.

JAN Trust, who have been working from within the Muslim community for decades, have delivered their Web Guardians™ programme near to a thousand Muslim women, but at present do not have funding to continue and expand this much needed programme.

Without the programme being delivered, children will remain vulnerable to being radicalised online. I hope the government recognises the individual approach of JAN Trust and the successes of its work.

FGM - Not Only a Problem Abroad

Many are aware that FGM, Female Genital Mutilation, is a huge international problem affecting around 200 million girls and women globally. However, a new report from the NHS shows that FGM is still very much a problem, not only globally, but also in the UK.

The NHS report was released last week, and the data covers the period from April 2016 to March 2017. Within this period, 9,179 cases of FGM were reported across the NHS. This includes cases where FGM was identified, treatment was given, or a woman with FGM had given birth to a baby girl. Out of the 5,391 cases which were recorded in the system for the first time, 114 were girls under the age of 16.

The report marks a slight drop in numbers from the previous year, when 9,223 cases were reported, of which 6,080 were newly recorded. It is positive that the numbers are dropping, but they are not dropping nearly fast enough. Out of the 26% who reported the country in which the FGM took place, 1,229 reported that it took place in an African country, while 57 reported that it took place in the UK. This is a rise from the 18 newly recorded cases that were reported to have taken place in the UK in 2015-2016.

A girl or woman who has been subjected to FGM will likely suffer the consequences of it for the rest of her life. FGM can lead to infections, increased risk of HIV and AIDS, cysts and neuromas, infertility, complications in childbirth, psychosexual problems, and trauma. These are only a few of the issues that can arise from FGM, but it is apparent that they are varied and can affect every part of a woman’s life.

Currently, 63,000 girls aged 0-13 in England and Wales are at risk of FGM, and JAN Trust works hard to raise awareness to those at risk and to provide support to victims of FGM. We offer workshops in schools, colleges, community groups and statutory agencies. These workshops aim to raise awareness of how to detect cases of FGM, as well as offer advice on how to support victims. In the last 4 years, we have delivered over 200 school sessions. We have worked with over, working with 20,000 young people and practitioners across the UK and have worked in over 25 boroughs.

See how you can help us continue this vital work here http://jantrust.org/projects/against-fgm

Twelve years on – Muslim 7/7 survivor dedicated her life to working with her community to fight extremism

Had Sajda sat on the first train carriage on the Piccadilly tube 12 years ago on 7/7, she wouldn’t be alive today. 7/7 is a day that she remembers just like yesterday.

This year has been particularly difficult for her given the four terror attacks that the UK has experienced in quick succession. Every time she witnesses such a tragedy on the news, she is reminded of what happened to her on 7/7, where she remembers the sounds, the smells and the images of tragedy.

Hearing mothers’ accounts is particularly hard for her as she is reminded of the panic and anguish her own mother felt after the attacks, when she had no idea whether she was alive or dead.

It was 7/7/ that changed Sajda’s life to quit her City job and devote her life to preventing extremism within her community, the Muslim community.

One positive is that the issue of online radicalisation is now publicly recognised in a way that it wasn’t after the 7/7 bombings. This is partly due to the hard work Sajda has done at JAN Trust to highlight the dangers of online radicalisation, and tackle it from a grassroots approach.

She developed and delivers the award-winning Web Guardians™ programme which is the first of its kind educating and empowering Muslim women and mothers to prevent and tackle online extremism, building community resilience.

The programme has reached the homes of the most vulnerable in the UK where mothers have been empowered to be effective Web Guardians™ of their children protecting them from being radicalised online.

Sajda says:
“I didn’t become a fatal victim of extremism as 56 others did, and countless more have since. If someone had been watching out for the signs of Germaine Lindsay’s radicalisation, we might have been able to prevent what happened on 7/7. We might have been able to save the lives of those who died.”

What is important is the need for my work and the Web Guardians programme to continue in order to prevent online radicalisation and save lives. Sustained funding would enable us to reach as many mothers, children and communities as possible. Without it, we run the risk of more individuals, particularly young people, being brain washed online, and then I dread to think what could happen. I do not want another 7/7 and I need your support so enough really can be enough.”

BBC’s ‘The Betrayed Girls’ highlights ground-breaking work of JAN Trust Patron Nazir Afzal

JAN Trust’s Patron Nazir Afzal OBE features prominently in a 90 minute documentary for BBC One - ‘The Betrayed Girls’. The programme explores Afzal’s instrumental role in delivering justice for the victims of the Rochdale child exploitation scandal.

Over the course of almost four years, 47 young girls endured horrific abuse, grooming and trafficking in Rochdale, Manchester. The response from police was actively criticised, with MP Simon Danczuk stating that the Greater Manchester Police were ‘actively ignoring abuse that was going on’.

In the face of the police’s complacency, this powerful documentary follows Afzal’s decision as former Chief Crown Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service for North West England to reopen the case. The programme highlights his crucial role in building a case around girl ‘A’ - a victim previously disregarded- which proved to be a clear turning point in the investigation, and ultimately led to the sentencing of nine perpetrators in 2012, and a further nine in 2016.

‘The Betrayed Girls’ illustrates the pervasive culture of victim blaming that still exists for many crimes, including these horrendous offences against children. It also, however, emphasises the role that just a few brave individuals can have in achieving justice, as Afzal did.

What the series did not draw attention to however was the subsequent racist abuse Afzal received. Far-Right extremists called for Afzal to be “sacked and deported” creating a particularly challenging environment for Afzal to endure while pursuing justice.

At JAN Trust we believe that every girl and woman deserves respect and equality in terms of human rights and opportunities, so that everyone has a chance to be an active member of society. Therefore, we at JAN Trust are very proud to have such a brave and inspiring person as our Patron and we are pleased that his achievements have finally gained the wider public recognition he deserves for his incredible work.

‘The Betrayed Girls’ is currently available to view on BBC iPlayer.

JAN Trust’s view: What has the Queen’s Speech told us about new counter-terrorism measures?

In the final days of the election campaign, Theresa May announced “enough is enough” – terrorism was not to be left unchallenged.  She revealed a readiness to weaken human rights laws if they “get in the way” of apprehending terror suspects. Last Tuesday, the Queen’s Speech detailed the Government’s plans for tackling terrorism.

Queen Elizabeth II revealed that a “Commission for countering extremism will be established”. Interestingly, she expanded that the commission would aid eliminating extremism in “all its forms”, including “on the internet”.

JAN Trust has long emphasised the dangers of online radicalisation – publishing a pioneering report on this problem in 2012. The majority of the culprits of recent terror attacks, including the Manchester arena bombing, the London Bridge attack and the Westminster attack, were all exposed to extremism on the internet. The role of the internet in the process of radicalisation is becoming increasingly clear.

This reality only highlights the importance of our Web Guardians™ programme. This is a course that empowers mothers to prevent and tackle online extremism, building community resilience.

However, without funding we are unable to continue this vital work. JAN Trust is calling out to the new government to support a programme that protects our young people from the dangers of the internet. We must put an end to online radicalisation.

In the wake of these recent terror attacks in Britain, we welcome the government’s renewed emphasis on tackling terrorism. We believe that our grassroots approach to preventing radicalisation and extremism will be integral in doing so, and we hope to receive recognition and financial support to carry on our work.

We want all our children, families and communities to be safe from violence and extremism. To learn more about the Web Guardians™ programme, watch this testimony.

Please support us in designing Haringey!

JAN Trust needs your help! We have launched a crowdfunding campaign with the Mayor’s Crowdfunding scheme. The aim of our project is to raise money to create the opportunity for marginalised women in Haringey to excel. We want to provide Fashion & Design workshops for these women, and then help them sell their creations in a pop-up shop. If we receive enough support from supporters of our charity, then the Mayor of London may match the funding that we get!

This opportunity would deliver real, tangible change to the lives of women here in Haringey. Talent would be unlocked. More women would have the chance to be empowered economically. More women would have the opportunity to feel fulfilled and challenged.

This is a great opportunity for us to support marginalised women, but this is where we rely on your help. Please click here to fund our project and make Haringey a more vibrant and creative area. We believe that with your funding, we will further show London what the women of Haringey have to offer. Let’s strengthen the fabric of society. 

To be represented in British society, make your voice heard by voting

June 8th has finally come – Election day. After an intensive six-week General Election campaign, we now have a chance to go to the polls and have our voices heard.

This election will decide who holds power for the next five years. Today is the single opportunity to influence this. We have a chance to make decisions over so many vital issues: how our NHS will be funded, how our schools are run, how Brexit negotiations will be carried out. Politics matters as it can alter every aspect of life.

The importance of this election is only highlighted further by the particularly contrasting nature of the policy promises made by the two leading parties, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The course of the UK over the next five years will differ greatly depending on this election result. It is therefore of the upmost importance that everyone can have their voices heard today to influence the direction the UK will take.

It is particularly important for ethnic minorities to vote. Historically, the BAME community have had a very low voter turnout. The interests of ethnic minorities will only be most accurately and strongly represented through the ballot box.

Through simply marking a cross on a ballot paper at your local polling station today, we can influence the laws and policies that will affect us for the next five years. At JAN Trust we believe that voting is an important way to make your voice heard and represented in British society.

#WeStandTogether JAN Trust's View on the Manchester Attacks

Here at JAN Trust we are devastated to hear about yet another attack that has taken the lives of 23 people and injured at least 59 others. Our thoughts are with the families, friends and loved ones of the victims at this awful time.

The attack, which took place after an Ariana Grande concert at the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena last night, is particularly shocking as it seems to have been targeted at children and young people.

The unnamed man who carried out the attack died in the explosion. So far one 23-year old has been arrested and a flat in south west Manchester has been raided.

For our director, Sajda Mughal, terrorist attacks always take her back to the time 12 years ago when she was a victim of terrorism in the 7/7 attacks in London, which killed 52 people and injured many more.

But for Sajda, these events also highlight why she dedicated her life to work at the heart of communities to prevent and tackle extremism. Since the horrific events of 7th July 2005, Sajda has been at the forefront in working with mothers and families in preventing others suffering this fate by developing the pioneering Web Guardians ™ programme, aimed at preventing radicalisation and online extremism via an intensive educational programme.

What this latest attack makes clear is the need for more pre-emptive action to prevent people from becoming radicalised by predatory extremists, rather than attempting to make arrests in the aftermath. With the growing presence of extremist groups online, both from the far right and extremist Muslim groups, this should be a matter of national priority. Ultimately, it is only with education that we can defeat this scourge.

At this terrible time it is important to remember that we need to stand together and that we don’t let terrorism achieve its aims of division and hatred.

And, as was the case in London in the aftermath of the recent attack in Westminster, this is what is happening in Manchester. In the wake of the attack, Mancunians showed a heart-warming level of solidarity – taxi drivers offered free lifts to people who had attended the concert, many people offered rooms in their homes to victims, with the hashtag #RoomForManchester immediately trending on Twitter, and blood banks have had to start turning donors away as so many people have turned up to donate.

JAN Trust would like to reiterate the statement made by Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, who has said has said, “Let’s not descend into a situation of mutual distrust between our communities. The individual who carried this out is an extremist and doesn’t represent any of our communities and does not represent the people of Greater Manchester in any way, shape or form.” We at JAN Trust stand together in the face of terrorism and will not let fear seep into our communities and divide Britain.

Nazir Afzal becomes a Patron of JT

JAN Trust is delighted to announce that Nazir Afzal OBE has become our Patron.

Nazir Afzal has had an extensive and distinguished career in the Crown Prosecution Service. He was Britain’s most senior lawyer within the Crown Prosecution Service and made history as the first Muslim to be appointed to such a position.

Throughout his extensive career, Afzal has worked on numerous high profile cases, such as that of the Rochdale child abuse ring and has been CPS lead on tackling Violence Against Women, having been moved by traumatic accounts of women's suffering within his own Pakistani community. His
ethos very much aligns with that of JAN Trust, he has described that through his work he wanted to give "a voice to the voiceless" and champion the vulnerable. He pioneered work to tackle honour-based violence and forced marriage, both key concerns of JAN Trust, initially bringing these issues to the top of the public agenda through a CPS conference in 2004.

Afzal was made OBE for his services in 2005 and has been the recipient of many awards including lifetime achievement award British Pakistani Foundation in 2012 and CPS public servant of the year 2007.

Speaking about his appointment as Patron, Afzal said, “I have always been impressed by the work that Sajda and the JAN Trust carry out protecting the most vulnerable in London. They are rightly regarded as one of the finest NGOs working in the fields of violence against women and preventing extremism. It is a distinct honour to be asked to be a Patron and I am delighted to play my part in its continuing success.”

Mr Afzal is currently Pro Chancellor Brunel University, and works as an independent advisor on criminal justice and earlier this year was given the title of honourary doctorate of law from the University of Manchester.

JAN Trust is proud to have someone that we have long admired as an Ambassador and we are looking forward in working together to continue our vital work t

 

The Growing Problem of Knife Crime in London

As a London-based charity, JAN Trust has been shocked to witness the dramatic rise in knife crime that has occurred across the capital in the past year. To date, 9 people have been killed in the capital in 2017 and nationally knife crime is at the highest levels since 2011.

And this is without even considering the hundreds of people injured in such attacks. In the 12 months until March this year, this figure was 2028. In Kings College Hospital in London, one surgeon notes that 25% of the trauma injuries they see are directly related to knife crime.

While this is an issue across the country, Met office figures show that in the past year in London gun and knife crime have both risen particularly sharply – by 42% and 24% respectively.

Metropolitan police report released last month indicated that between 2014 and 2016 the number of children carrying knives in London schools rose by almost 50%, while the number of knife offences in London schools rose by 26%.

This is a devastating situation that clearly cannot be ignored.

Far from an issue which has suddenly appeared in the last year, this has been a growing problem for many years because of funding cuts, both to police services and youth facilities.

Many have noted that this tragic situation in which so many young people have lost their lives has been the direct result of funding cuts to the police system. In London, the estimated effect on the Met’s annual £3bn budget ranges from a £100m to £700m reduction.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said he would fight any further cuts but clearly this is only part of the solution.

Until now, prevention has largely focussed on short-term measures such as limiting the sale of knives to young people, controversial stop and search policies, or punitive sentencing in the aftermath of attacks.

Recently, the father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor has called for an increase in stop and search to prevent knife crimes, and there have even been suggestions of the introduction of metal detectors at school entrances to prevent students from bringing in knives.

However, the murder of a 23-year old man on Tuesday – making 7 knife-crime related deaths in the space of a week – has prompted the MET to take a different approach.

On Wednesday, Scotland Yard announced the creation of Operation Sceptre which will a task force of 80 specialists but also, crucially, a focus on prevention work in schools.

Finally it has been accepted that limited short-term measures are not enough. There needs to be a more holistic approach.

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher has said that, “Strategies focused upon particular offences should be complemented by…. broader long-term initiatives against poverty and social exclusion…with messages which are delivered by communities”.

This community-based approach is a measure that JAN Trust wholeheartedly welcomes. With funding we have devised and delivered programmes to mothers and young people raising awareness and tackling knife crime, gun and gang-related violence.

Initiatives such as ours are clearly ones that need supporting and we welcome the MET’s plans to take a more community-based holistic approach to tackle this tragic problem.

Visit our website at http://www.jantrust.org to find out more about the work we do.

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