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

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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.

#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.

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

The Barcelona terrorist attack 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 4x4, 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.

Mosul Families’ Resistance

Daesh’s heartless rule over the city of Mosul is a powerful, although horrific, story for today. But the other story – the story of the people’s resistance – is more powerful. This resistance is occurring beyond the military battle getting started to expel Daesh from the city; it is a quieter tale of extraordinary determination and courage.

Daesh like to run things.  They fancy themselves as administrators, not just as men with guns. So the largely empty classrooms, since the new school term began in September and until now, must have been a blow to their pride. Most families have resisted sending their children to school because of the Daesh “education” on offer: devoid of physics, maths, singing or sport, for example. Instead, “it’s just verses from the Koran, readings and chanting,” in the words of one mother. Her 8 year old son knows that Daesh killed his father. She is worried he will say something about that in the classroom and endanger his life – another reason she keeps him away from school.   

One school classroom in the liberated village of Tubzaw, just east of Mosul, is revealing. The writings on the board there were about different kinds of explosives, a ‘subject’ which had replaced maths and science classes. The necessity of resistance is powerfully urgent for one young boy who had once been taught by Daesh at this school. “They taught us about bullets”, he recalls, “they would say…these are infidels… my father told me to go to school and I said even if you kill me I won’t go to school”.  

Families, refusing to submit to the rule of Daesh, have sought every means to contact the outside world. Banned from using telephones, internet or satellite TV their determination to make their voices heard on occasion overcomes all odds. Via crackling phone lines they relate their horrific experiences to radio talk shows and TV stations in Erbil. They are trapped but they refuse to be silenced.  

Perhaps the most positive, profound consequence to emerge from the families’ nightmare under Daesh can be found in the words of one resident: “It has unified us”, she says, “there’s no difference between us now: not Sunnis, Shia or Kurds.  All of these people coming from all the different provinces to Mosul want to help Mosul.” Resistance doesn’t get stronger than this.

Muslim mothers v Extremism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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