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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On Internet Safety Day – let’s commit to defending our families

It’s Internet Safety Day today and I can’t stress just how important it is for parents to be aware of what their kids are looking at online. All teenagers crave their personal space and so we have to approach this with tact and diplomacy. But there are well-recognised warning signs when your son or daughter is being groomed online by extremists or worse, terrorists.

This isn’t about parents smothering their children with too much attention or feeling excluded from their children’s lives. It’s about the reality of groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda targeting teens with some pretty horrific material. Recent output from these groups in English and other languages has included guides to carrying out bomb attacks, knifings and kidnappings.

Alongside the text are diagrams going into explicit detail of where to plunge the knife or how to send a letter bomb. All of this presented as if committing a terror act was the most natural thing in the world. One can only imagine the impact this could have on an impressionable or highly disturbed mind. In fact, one doesn’t have to imagine it – a string of recent atrocities should have made the risk crystal clear to all of us.

As Daesh faces defeat for its so-called “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, it’s gone into hyper-drive on social media, urging anybody to carry out brutal attacks in its name. This shows us what’s particularly dangerous about our new digital world – that terror groups can not only spread their message, but also remotely direct and guide individuals to perpetrate murder –  sometimes on a massive scale as we saw in Nice and Orlando.

So how does online radicalisation happen? Recent court trials have evidenced in detail how young people are sucked into social media support networks, where they are given a sense of being and a globalised terrorist identity. They are often contacted via Twitter then drawn into the darker corners of the web, encrypted spaces where conversations are harder to monitor. There is no single route to being radicalised online but there are some very well worn paths.

Frighteningly, we’ve seen teenagers engaged in direct conversations with a charismatic Daesh killer in Syria or Iraq who will give them easy answers to life’s problems. Their young targets are presented with a binary choice between the world of disbelief and that of Daesh with its twisted and corrupt version of Islam. This has proven very seductive to some young men and women because they don’t hear alternative and corrective viewpoints. Instead of turning to parents, teachers and faith leaders for guidance, they listen to their Daesh handler online or the rants of extremist hate preachers on YouTube.

The internet should be about spreading wisdom, but instead it has disseminated fake news and totalitarian ideologies. It has risked polarising young people with the toxic combination of both Far Right and Islamic terrorist material. Both of these forms of extremism relish an end to compromise and reasoned debate. The vicious slanging matches and supremacist insults on social media are their natural form of debate. Neo-fascists and Islamic terrorists are not interested in using the online space to educate and inform, to them it’s about forming battle lines and hardening attitudes. We simply can’t let that happen.

For those of us who still believe in truth and honesty, these can seem like grim times. But this is why Web Guardians© runs such valued sessions, so we can come together to defend those we love from lies and hate-filled violence. In our school playgrounds and university coffee bars, there are people being deceived by online demagogues or watching indescribably brutal executions and slaughter circulated by the Daesh PR machine.

We’ve endured this situation for a long time but also learned how to contain it and push back against the hatemongers. On this Internet Safety Day, let’s commit once more to protecting our families and neighbourhoods from poisonous views. We all cherish free speech and democracy. But we need to recognise those who are using the power of social media to wreck lives and set us against each other.

For more information and to know what you can do – come and attend one of our Web Guardians© sessions.

Sajda Mughal

Jan Trust

 

JAN Trust in Press

Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.

Press also spoke to some of the mothers who were part of the programme in London and how it helped them and their children. The article is below and the radio coverage and be heard here: CLICK HERE

The only Muslim survivor of the 7/7 bombings says she is desperate to stop young Muslims being radicalised. And now Sajda Mughal has herself found a radical solution to extremism: Muslim mothers.

Ms Mughal has spent most of her adult life fighting Islamic extremism.

On 7 July 2005 she was running late and had taken the Piccadilly line to her job in the City.

She believes there was just one other Muslim on board her Tube train - Germaine Lindsay, whose bomb was to kill 27 people on board, including himself.

Ms Mughal says: "What happened on 7/7 basically made me think about why those four had carried out the attack, and in what ideology, which was obviously an incorrect ideology."

'Society's nurturers'

Now 31, she is director of the JAN Trust, which provides support and advice to women she describes as coming from the margins of society: "Often they have no education, no English and no employment."

Last month the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said Muslim children who are at risk of being radicalised by their parents should be taken into care.

But Ms Mughal's solution to the problem of radicalisation is the creation of a group of Muslim mothers to fight on the front line of the battle against extremist ideology in Islam.

One of the JAN Trust's declared aims is to "empower women as society's nurturers", and its latest scheme, called the Web Guardians, aims to give the mothers of young Muslims the online know-how to stop children being radicalised behind their own bedroom doors.

Ms Mughal explains the philosophy behind the programme: "We are equipping these Muslim mothers with the key skills, with the knowledge in order for them to go online and to monitor their children.

"But we provide them with a counter-narrative for them to have discussions with the children in a safe offline environment."

In a downstairs room at the JAN Trust's office near Alexandra Palace in north London, seven women sit in a circle.

As well as Ms Mughal and her interpreter there are mothers whose families originate from disparate Muslim communities.
Sajda Mughal receiving an award

Sajda Mughal is determined to combat Islamic fundamentalism

Sajda Mughal is determined to combat Islamic fundamentalism

Zahra is Somali; Maryam is Palestinian; Muneer comes from Iran; and Samina and Seema are both Pakistani.

As well as their Muslim faith, what they have in common are teenage children.

Maryam tells of her son's anger with the situation in Gaza, where her family come from: "When they see the way things are going, it wasn't right. It's double standards."

'Grievance about Syria'

As she speaks the others nod their heads in tacit sympathy.

"But now they go for Syria. My son was in a demonstration for Syria because they say something is not right," says Maryam.

All the women say their teenagers are curious and often angry about events in the countries where their families orginated, as well as being keen to do something.

The places most often up for discussions are Syria, Iran and Egypt.

In the past this anger on the part of young Muslims have been channelled into radicalisation. But Ms Mughal believes these mothers' interventions with their children could stop that happening in the future.

She says mothers are a much greater influence than the mosque or school attended by teenagers.

Ms Mughal says of Maryam: " Her son has a grievance about Syria, but he has channelled it positively by attending a demonstration rather than destructively".

A study by the JAN Trust found more than 90% of the Muslim mothers it spoke to lacked web access, and were unaware what their teenage children were viewing online.

The Web Guardians project teaches mothers how to use the web before they learn how to look at their children's internet history.

Part of the course involves exposing them to the violent language and imagery used by extremist websites, with shocking results for some of them.

Ms Mughal's interpreter, Rafaat, a Muslim mother herself, told of the horrified reactions when they first saw such pictures: "When the photographs were shown there was silence and all of sudden I could hear… wow, what's happening?"

These mothers' shared experiences suggest this project might genuinely help prevent the radicalisation of some young Muslims.

Uniting For A Better Internet: What We Can All Do To Stop Extreme Content Reaching Our Kids

Hate speech, online ‘trolls’ and extremists who use the internet to target our children were thrust back into the headlines this week as MPs summoned tech giants to answer why they’re not doing more to stop it.

Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were asked by the Home Affairs select committee why they did not police their content more effectively.

The social media leaders were told their companies had a "terrible reputation" for dealing with problems.

It is a welcome move. Pressure needs to be put on these companies to do more. They are often accused of putting profit over the safeguarding of young people and at this hearing, MPs asked exactly that tough question.

The response was an acknowledgement that they are indeed not doing enough.

We are gravely concerned that terrorist organisations such as Daesh are ramping up their efforts to target young adults here in the UK via the platforms these tech giants provide, so any progress made to more effectively police content is great news.

Back in December 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft announced they were teaming up to tackle extremist content. They pledged to work together to identify and remove extremist content on their platforms through an information-sharing initiative.

This represented a welcome first step. We hope that the Home Affairs select committee hearing will encourage further moves forward.

However, the content on these sites and apps is vast. We, as users, need to assist in policing and reporting far-right, terrorist or bullying content so that the tech companies can act.

And we also need to monitor what our children are accessing when online, whether that’s via computer or their smartphones.

Safer Internet Day 2017 was celebrated globally on Tuesday 7th February with the theme 'Be the change: unite for a better internet'. We published a blog on the day focusing on what parents can and should do to play their part in safeguarding our kids. This holds the key.

It’s right that the powers that be from the tech giants are taken to task about their safeguarding shortcomings and challenged about how and when they are going to start doing more to remove extreme content.

But each and every one of us must unite in our fight to ensure threatening posts which can lead to radicalised views do not reach and begin to indoctrinate our children.

We must educate ourselves and our children about online material and what to do if we come across it. Understanding that while the internet is an incredibly valuable resource it can pose a risk to our wellbeing.

At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. Our sessions explore how to deal with the threats and how to speak with our children about them.

Our strategy begins right in our homes. We are encouraged by government moves to question the social media giants and hope this leads to a reduction of extremist content online. But we must work together, uniting for a better internet. And for a brighter future for our children.

Uniting For A Better Internet: What We Can All Do To Stop Extreme Content Reaching Our Kids

Hate speech, online ‘trolls’ and extremists who use the internet to target our children were thrust back into the headlines this week as MPs summoned tech giants to answer why they’re not doing more to stop it.

Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were asked by the Home Affairs select committee why they did not police their content more effectively.

The social media leaders were told their companies had a "terrible reputation" for dealing with problems.

It is a welcome move. Pressure needs to be put on these companies to do more. They are often accused of putting profit over the safeguarding of young people and at this hearing, MPs asked exactly that tough question.

The response was an acknowledgement that they are indeed not doing enough.

We are gravely concerned that terrorist organisations such as Daesh are ramping up their efforts to target young adults here in the UK via the platforms these tech giants provide, so any progress made to more effectively police content is great news.

Back in December 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft announced they were teaming up to tackle extremist content. They pledged to work together to identify and remove extremist content on their platforms through an information-sharing initiative.

This represented a welcome first step. We hope that the Home Affairs select committee hearing will encourage further moves forward.

However, the content on these sites and apps is vast. We, as users, need to assist in policing and reporting far-right, terrorist or bullying content so that the tech companies can act.

And we also need to monitor what our children are accessing when online, whether that’s via computer or their smartphones.

Safer Internet Day 2017 was celebrated globally on Tuesday 7th February with the theme 'Be the change: unite for a better internet'. We published a blog on the day focusing on what parents can and should do to play their part in safeguarding our kids. This holds the key.

It’s right that the powers that be from the tech giants are taken to task about their safeguarding shortcomings and challenged about how and when they are going to start doing more to remove extreme content.

But each and every one of us must unite in our fight to ensure threatening posts which can lead to radicalised views do not reach and begin to indoctrinate our children.

We must educate ourselves and our children about online material and what to do if we come across it. Understanding that while the internet is an incredibly valuable resource it can pose a risk to our wellbeing.

At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. Our sessions explore how to deal with the threats and how to speak with our children about them.

Our strategy begins right in our homes. We are encouraged by government moves to question the social media giants and hope this leads to a reduction of extremist content online. But we must work together, uniting for a better internet. And for a brighter future for our children.

Vulnerable Minds: How Daesh is Recruiting Iraqi Children and Targeting British Teenagers

As Iraqi forces’ liberation of Mosul continues, attention is increasingly focusing on what Daesh will do next.
 
It’s feared their leaders, members and sympathisers will ramp up their sinister efforts to target our young people here in Europe, calling for so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil, prompting calls for us all to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our children online.
 
One of Daesh’s most horrifying future strategies is the indoctrination and training of a new generation of fighters. As Daesh’s failed ‘caliphate’ collapses, hoards of fighters have been deserting the ranks – if they haven’t already been killed in combat or suicide attacks. Now, Daesh is preying on the most vulnerable and malleable minds: those of Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
The Independent recently published letters from young radicalised recruits to their parents, discovered at abandoned Daesh hideouts in eastern Mosul. They make for heart-wrenching reading.
 
One, written by Iraqi schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi, says: “My dear family, please forgive me. Don't be sad and don't wear the black clothes [of mourning]. I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise.” He was killed by his suicide vest shortly after. It’s thought he was just 16 years old.
 
The news agency Reuters has managed to gain access to relatives of the teenagers who left the notes.
 
Family members tell a story of innocence; of vulnerable, fragile minds being targeted and then indoctrinated. A man reveals that his teenage relative, who was recruited by Daesh and killed in a suicide attack, had been overweight and insecure and joined the jihadists after his father's death. He told Reuters: “His mind was fragile and they took advantage of that, promising him virgins and lecturing him about being a good Muslim. If someone had tempted him with drugs and alcohol, he probably would have done that instead.”
 
It is this last statement that hits home. As parents, we all understand the worry that our children will hang out in the ‘wrong crowd’ and get into drugs. Young minds are open to influence and eager to try new things – to ‘grow up’. It can be as easy as that.
 
In Iraq and Syria, young people may not be exposed to violence in the same format that our children are in the UK. Despite our efforts to shelter or protect them, our kids consume film, TV, online and video game violence to a point of such desensitisation that it is normalised. They witness the violence occurring in places like Syria and Iraq through their screens.
 
Syrian and Iraqi children on the other hand are directly witnessing violence on the streets in the most gruesome and horrific ways. Some have even been exposed to it under the regime of Daesh as the terrorist group took control of their neighbourhoods, yet even they are vulnerable to radicalisation.
 
Violence is glamourised in action films and video games in the virtual world British children often live in. The brutal realities of extreme violence are all too real for many Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
Some may be more susceptible to radicalisation than others. But all are vulnerable.
 
Phone apps and the Internet make it simple for a direct line to be formed between a Daesh militant in Iraq and our children here in the UK. Daesh knows that our young people are excited by video game violence, by the idea of handling a rifle and fighting an enemy.
 
Considering all of this, we must educate ourselves about the dangers and threats are children face and ensure lines of communication are open between us as parents and our children to protect them and prevent radicalisation.
 
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project.
 
Many families have been destroyed by Daesh. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against home-grown radicalisation so that more families do not have to suffer this same fate.
 
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://jantrust.org/projects/web-guardians

Worthy Cause for Prime Minister


The Evening Standard wrote about JAN Trust and the dire funding crisis it faces. The article can be found here and below:

A worthy cause for a concerned Prime Minister by Rosamund Urwin

This week, David Cameron proclaimed a need to help Muslim women. He says they must all speak English. He wants to end forced marriage. He argues a lack of integration helps foster extremism. 

Well, there’s a charity in north London, JAN Trust, that should seem like a panacea then. It holds language classes. It helps those who’ve been compelled into marriage. It combats extremism by teaching mothers to identify signs of radicalisation, as well as computer skills so they understand what their children are up to online. It’s also set to close on March 31. 

Thanks in part to Government cuts, charities like JAN Trust face growing competition for the scraps philanthropic organisations can spare. But as Cameron was surely acknowledging, the cost of not helping these women is far higher. Rather than grandstanding, shouldn’t he make himself the saviour of JAN Trust?

Published 21st January 2016

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