In April 2017, Sajda featured in Time Out's weekly series 'My London Story' feature to talk about her experience of quitting life in The City to work towards prevent radicalisation and online extremism. To read a copy of the article, follow this link.
On the 23rd of March 2017, Sajda appeared on popular ITV morning show Lorraine to discuss the Westminster attacks and her personal experience of 7/7. She spoke about her difficulty re-living the attacks when tragedies such as the Westminster attack take place and the emotions she felt watching similar scenes unfold. In spite of the tragedy, Sajda noted that it was heartening to see Londoners coming together after the attack and helping each other, rather than falling victim to the divisive rhetorical the terrorists want to achieve.
You can watch the full interview here.
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."
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
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.
You can watch a clip on our YouTube account here.
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.
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.
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.
The sketch portrays Muslim women as having manipulated views of Islam, in which violence, not peace, is the answer. And it creates further division as the women seem to be British citizens and used to live in Britain, implying that Muslim women must all have intolerant views and are not willing to integrate into society. The name of the sketch, ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ further trivialises the issue, comparing life in Syria and Iraq to popular reality shows. Some say that the sketch criticises the women who have voluntarily chosen to leave the UK and join ISIS. However, what is not recognised is the plight of women and those who are groomed online to join ISIS and that we must be sympathetic in understanding why these women have decided to join in the first place and try to understand what has been offered to them to convince them to join.
Furthermore, there is the overlooked aspect that many women have been forced against their will to join ISIS, many are emotionally and physically abused, and traded as sex slaves. One of the creators of the programme, Jolyon Rubinstein, stated that the target of the satire was ISIS and that it aims to make viewers aware of the servitude of Muslim women to ISIS: “The target is online grooming, it’s about people who are vulnerable to these kind of approaches.” However, it seems that the aim of the sketch has been lost as it just comes across as offensive to those who have lost family members as a consequence of the strength of online extremist communities.
The fact that the sketch is part of a BBC programme is even more shocking considering that the BBC is funded by the taxpayer and the government, and that it should, in theory, remain balanced. This sketch has created further division and bigotry within British society as some may find it difficult to differentiate between Islamic extremists and moderate Muslims.
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. The project helps mothers to prevent and prevent online radicalisation of their children. Many families have been destroyed by ISIS, the women and men who have joined are victims of a very sophisticated online network that uses lies.. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against homegrown radicalisation, which is being set back with sketches such as these which further isolates and marginalises Muslim women within British society.
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://webguardians.org/.
In October 2013, five young men fled the UK to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. The boys were recruited online through manipulative use of social media and well-produced recruitment videos. They were caught on CCTV whilst boarding a flight to Turkey on the onward route into Syria, where they planned to fight for ISIS.
Not one returned, as they were killed in fighting and captivity. Each of the boys was a son, a grandson, a brother, a member of their community.
JAN Trust understands that this is a real issue that affects real communities. It affects real families. That is why we work with Muslim mothers, holding regular workshops to prevent radicalisation through our Web Guardians© programme. We are over half way through our programme with this group of women, where we have worked to equip them with the skills and confidence to prevent radicalisation in their families and communities and to empower them to act for change.
The critical nature of this work was drawn sharply to our attention by one of the women in the room, who bravely told us her story. In her native Bengali, she recounted her own proximity to extremism and to the group of boys who fled for Syria.
“My grandson, he was one. He was 24.”
Through tears, she told us how her young grandson had left the UK to join ISIS. He had told the family that he was going for a job interview in order to obtain a passport. She told us how they had felt pleased, happy that their son would finally break free from the unemployment trap so widespread today.
They assumed his rapid behavioural changes were good things. He started attending religious meetings, showing more interest in Islam, dressing piously, staying up late at night and spending hours online. Much of this new devotion was hidden from his family, and he changed his group of friends. In actuality he was being brainwashed indoctrinated into an extremist mind-set. The family only discovered what this meant when one day, he left for Syria. Five families were destroyed. This grandmother spoke of the shame faced by her family in the aftermath, and the fear instilled in the community.
In a steadier voice, the grandmother then spoke up about how important it was to not shy away from this sad reality; “I don’t want to hide from it. You can prevent it from happening; we need to talk about it.” JAN Trust’s Web Guardians© programme is an innovative way of working in communities like this, where families are being directly affected by extremism, and areas are losing their young people to ISIS. As one of the mothers told us, Web Guardians© is needed “to protect our children."
To support our work, please visit http://jantrust.org/about-us/support-us, and follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
This is why JAN Trust holds regular workshops to enable women to detect the early signs of radicalisation in their families and communities. Our Web Guardians© programme has helped women to push back against extremist messaging and confound Daesh recruiting efforts.
It’s difficult to imagine why any women would be convinced to join the terrorists. They have enslaved, raped and murdered women in the territory they seized from Iraq and Syria. The role they designate for women who travel to join them is as domestic slaves “secluded” from view. Worse, women and girls who have ended up in Daesh territory now find themselves being forced to fight to the death as the territory under Daesh control crumbles away.
Yet, there are women who are prepared to either leave for Syria or contemplate attacks in the west. Why is this? One reason is that the terrorists have sold a lie of empowerment. They present being a terrorist as some kind of liberation. The reality couldn’t be more different. This is a terror gang that treats women in a barbaric way. Beaten for infringing Daesh dress codes, stoned on charges of adultery or murdered for raising their voice.
Another reason women might consider joining Daesh is the myth of a tightly knit sisterhood. Glasgow born Aqsa Mahmood left for Syria and used Tumblr to present life with Daesh as something resembling a summer camp. The reality of what was going on was betrayed in letter posts where she gloried in the murder of Britons and fellow Muslims. As her own parents noted, Aqsa Mahmood had been thoroughly brainwashed.
Daesh preys upon vulnerable people through deceptive and manipulative language. It’s important to take measures to prevent this, reaching out to marginalised groups and spreading awareness of the reality behind the rhetoric of extremism and supporting people in identifying the process of radicalisation.
We owe it to every women and girl at risk of succumbing to Daesh to give them all the protection we can. By being super-informed about the threat from the terrorists, we can tackle them effectively. Knowledge if power. The more you know, the better able you are to answer questions from somebody who is in the process of being manipulated by Daesh.
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.
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