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.
The Integration Report, released on Thursday by the Integration All Party Parliamentary Group, was based on previous findings of the controversial Casey Review which highlighted worrying levels of segregation in British society.
Alongside its findings, the report includes twelve recommendations on how to improve integration in British society. The first recommendation emphasises integration though education at the community level – supporting the emancipation of women, providing them with better employment opportunities and creating space for socialising opportunities –and is based on precisely what JAN Trust has long recognised and has been working towards since 1989, with little government funding. We contributed to the reccomendations of Dame Louise Casey's report. She came to visit our centre in 2015; the conclusions she has come to were influenced by talking to us and meeting our beneficiaries and hearing about their experiences and needs.
The need for greater provision of ESOL lessons as a means of promoting integration and inclusion is particularly highlighted. That speaking the language of a country is a key part of being able to properly integrate, find employment and feel part of the society in which you are in is not a shocking concept, of course.
What is shocking, though, is that the UK budget for ESOL classes has been consistently cut in recent years. The government pledge in January last year to provide £22million for ESOL classes came just months after funding had actually been cut by £45 million. Overall ESOL funding has been slashed by almost 50% since 2009.
At JAN Trust our provision of ESOL classes to vulnerable and marginalised women is based on our understanding that many women face a combination of barriers, including lack of English, which can create a vicious cycle of low self-confidence, isolation and poor awareness of the options open to them, all of which not only prevent them from being able to integrate and contribute to society but also leave them open to harmful cultural practises such as FGM or domestic violence. We have worked tirelessly with women at the community level to challenge this vicious cycle and promote integration since our inception.
Over the past three decades, we have helped thousands of women to not only improve their English, but to regain their confidence and improve their job prospects, through skills classes. Women such as Sarla, originally from India, who said: “Before, I had no confidence to speak and write English but now I write and I’m using the computer as well. My daughter has bought me a small computer now.” Or Jurgita, originally from Lithuania, who took one of our tailoring courses and now says: “I would like to do something more with these new skills I have gained – maybe open my own business or get a job.”
Our classes not only enable women on a personal level to further their careers and gain skills. They also support social inclusion in a supportive atmosphere and sense of empowerment that can even help women to prevent domestic violence, forced marriage, FGM and radicalisation, all of which are among the government’s top priorities.
Our Web Guardians© course, pioneered in 2010, provides a further help for mothers, educating them and providing them with the skills and support to protect their children and loved ones from online radicalisation. It is the only course of its kind in the UK.
Just some of the feedback we have received from our Web Guardian© programme is:
“I found this course excellent and it should be given to all mothers.”
“There’s no other programme like this.”
“You have really made me aware of the internet and its dangers.”
While long overdue, we hope the findings and recommendations from this report show that the government is finally ready to take steps that allow everyone to integrate and contribute to our society, and we hope that as a vital resource in this process, JAN Trust will be will be one of the recipients of the funding to enable us to continue our increasingly important work in local communities. We have decades of expertise in this area and, ultimately, make a real difference to the society that we all live in.
If you are interested in finding out more about the services we offer, visit http://jantrust.org/projects
Yesterday, in shocking and tragic scenes broadcast across the world, London suffered its first terrorist attack for over a decade. The British capital had not seen similar tragedy since the 7/7 bombings which claimed 52 lives and injured countless more.
The attacks yesterday, which claimed the lives of four people, including a police officer on duty at the time, and injured dozens more, took place at the heart of British democracy in Westminster when a truck drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the Palace of Westminster, armed with a knife.
While the attacks themselves were, of course, shocking, what has been heart-warming has been London’s reaction. People from all sides have condemned the violence and expressed sympathy for the victims and their families without falling prey to the divisive anti-Islamic propaganda the far-right has, inevitably, tried to whip up.
When Tommy Robinson, ex EDL leader and Islamophobe, rushed to the scene of the attacks yesterday afternoon to spout his typical hate speech, he was ridiculed and branded a “vile opportunist”.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan released a statement yesterday vowing that “Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism”, and this sentiment has been mirrored across social media. The hashtag #WeStandTogether has been trending since the aftermath of the attacks yesterday evening with people rejecting the hatred that both those responsible for attacks and the far right are seeking to promote.
And it is just this solidarity and community support is ultimately what we need to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.
The fact that the assailant was British-born proves, once again, that the way of dealing with extremism is not a ban on immigrants or refugees, but a need to prevent people within our communities from becoming radicalised by predatory extremists.
While it is too early to know the exact motives of the assailant, as with other terrorist attacks carried out across Europe, these are invariably individuals who feel marginalised or isolated and have been targeted and “groomed” by extremist organisations and indoctrinated by their propaganda into carrying out such an atrocity.
The assailant was already known to MI5, indicating that he had shown signs of violent radicalisation. These are signs that should have been noticed by those around him - his friends, family and community. Had this been the case, these attacks could have been prevented.
Little is known about the attacker except that he was British-born, but earlier today Daesh took responsibility for the attacks, calling him a “soldier of the Islamic State”.
As far as we know, the assailant had never been to Daesh’s caliphate – meaning that he was, in all likelihood – indoctrinated online.
Online radicalisation, from both groups such as Daesh or the far right, is a growing problem, and one which parents are often unaware of or unsure how to deal with.
Countering this threat, as a community, is exactly what JAN Trust does with our Web Guardians© programme. We to prevent extremist radicalisation by educating parents about the dangers of extremist groups online so that they can counter these threats and, ultimately, ensure their children do not follow this same path.
o commemorate the victims, a service took place in front of Scotland Yard on Thursday morning, in front of the flame that burns as a tribute to all dead, and a vigil is planned for this evening at 6pm in Trafalgar Square.
At JAN Trust we want to express our deepest sympathies for all of the victims and their families and friends.
What we must now do is ensure that these attacks do not achieve their aim of dividing us but serve instead to unite us and work, together, so that such a tragedy is not allowed to happen again.
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.
It’s Autumn 2016 and here at the JAN Trust we’re excited to say that, 6 years on from its inception, our Web Guardians© programme is stronger than ever. 2016 has been a challenging year for those working to fight hatred, division and extremist beliefs and it’s easy to feel disheartened in the face of the threat of online radicalisation and terror. Yet it’s this very work, promoting cohesion and strengthening communities, which spurs our staff team on and fosters our optimism in the belief that, slowly, things can change.
This week we’ve been in one part of the UK training mothers and grandmothers who’ve never even turned an internet device on. Once the first few teething problems were out of the way, the women were well on their way in using the computers and learning strategies to safeguard their children online!
Here’s what a couple of them said…
- “My son is 11 but he is more of a computer expert than me or my husband”
- “This is why we’re here – to keep up to date!”
- “I’m here because I need to learn how to keep my kids safe online!”
We’re excited at the prospect of the next few weeks, where we’ll be supporting and assisting the women to gain new skills and the confidence to protect their children when they are online. Watch out Mark Zuckerberg, the Web Guardians mums are out to steal your thunder!