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

Muslim women,

Banning the hijab in workplaces is a step backwards in the fight for unity

A new ‘integration law’ has been introduced by the Austrian government, which is to ban all Muslim face veils in public places. The law is expected to be implemented this year. The draft law in Austria also envisages a full ban on any Muslim headscarves for all state and public officials, police personnel, judges and prosecutors as part of the “neutrality standard in the public services.” Around 3000 women marched in Vienna in retaliation. There were chants and placards with the words “Hey Minister, hands off my sister”.

The news in Austria did not receive as much media coverage as the ruling from the EU’s highest court ruled that employers can ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols, including niqabs or headscarves. This news is coming in the wake of elections and policy issues throughout Europe which have surrounded the topic of immigration and national security issues.

Europe’s right-wing have welcomed this ruling, while humans right and religious groups have condemned it as impeaching upon individuals’ religious freedoms. The ruling applies to all religious symbols, but targets Muslim women due to the hijab being an outward sign of a religious practice. In response to the ruling, many Muslim women have expressed surprise as it discourages Muslim women working.

The ruling however is unsurprising considering the right-wing sentiment sweeping across Europe. Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of France, has condemned citizens wearing religious symbols in France, stating that those who do are “No longer living a  French life”. France became the first European country to ban the burqa and niqab in 2010.

We at JAN Trust believe that this ruling suggests that these European governments do not welcome multicultural communities. It means that Muslim women who wear headscarves will be further prevented from accessing the job market. They are already one of the most unemployed ethnic groups in the UK. This may also lead to a rise in Islamophobia due to this discrimination in the job market.

Burkini ban busted!

Nearly two weeks ago, mayors in about 30 French coastal resorts decided to impose a ban on the burkini (A burkini is a type of swimming costume that some Muslim women wear, which covers the arms, legs and hair). The ban prohibited women from wearing a burkini on public beaches or in the sea. If the ban was violated, a fine would have to be paid. Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet argued that in light of the recent attack on Nice it was ‘necessary, appropriate and proportionate’ to implement the ban in order to prevent public disorder. A French NGO, Human Rights League, and the Collective against Islamophobia in France challenged the ban arguing that the mayors had no right telling women what they can and cannot wear on beaches. They were successful and last week the burkini ban was overturned by France’s top court which ruled that the ban ‘violates basic freedoms.’ However, the mayors are refusing to lift the ban. The ban was also condemned by the UN who described it as “a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms” and a “stupid reaction” to recent extremist attacks.

Within the French cabinet, most supported the ban but there was some disagreement over it. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that, “For me the burkini is a symbol of the enslavement of women.” Both the Education Minister and the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, spoke out against the ban. The former said that the debate was fuelling racist rhetoric whilst the latter wrote on her website that “To pretend that swimming veiled or bathing on a beach dressed is in itself threatening to public order and the values of the Republic is to forget that those (secular) values are meant to allow each person to safeguard their identity.”

The burkini ban reached its climax last week when a photo was published of a Muslim woman on a beach in France surrounded by armed Police officers who made her take off her burkini. This sparked widespread furore which led to a protest against the ban outside of the French embassy in London in the form of a beach party. Despite being organised last-minute the protest received a lot of attention. Women in the city came together to show their solidarity with French Muslim women. The Mayor of London even spoke out against the ban telling the Evening Standard newspaper that “I’m quite firm on this. I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that”.

Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet’s claim that there is a security threat from women who show their religious affiliation is untrue. It is utterly absurd to link a piece of clothing with terrorism and in fact it is irresponsible to do so. The burkini ban is anecdotal of France’s rampant Islamophobia particularly against visibly Muslim women and follows the country’s ban on wearing the veil. There has been a wave of conservatism sweeping Europe and the rest of the world. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are calling for a partial ban on the niqab, whilst in Austria right-wing politicians have called for a ban on the burqa. In Switzerland there are calls for a popular vote on a ban on the burqa. Civil liberties are being curtailed on the pretext of national security which is very worrying.

State-sponsored Islamophobia is weakening community cohesion and has the potential to sow the seeds for conflict and hatred. The argument that the burkini is oppressive is offensive and ignores the fact that many women choose to wear the swimsuit because it allows them to go to a public beach or pool and swim and feel comfortable whilst doing so. It encourages social integration and can help overcome certain communities from being socially excluded. In the UK, many leisure centres hold women’s only swimming sessions where women of no faith and women of faith can swim. For many women from faith communities this enables them to undertake a healthy activity.

JAN Trust has done a lot of work on fostering community cohesion. Our experience of working on community engagement and community cohesion, as a charitable organisation, includes the delivery of training, projects and services aimed at socially and economically empowering women. For example, through our City and Guilds Fashion course and our IT for Beginners course we are not only skilling women but helping them to acquire the knowledge and tools to enter today’s challenging workforce. At the same time we are also promoting the enhancement of women as active members of society. Through our training, projects and services we are enabling independence and resilience by building the skills, resources and capacities of the BAMER community. Many of our women have gone on to become employed, self-employed or started volunteering.

We have also delivered a number of workshops across the country encouraging civic awareness amongst grassroots communities. In 2008, JAN trust organised Haringey’s first community cohesion conference called ‘One Community Many Voices’ (2008). The conference gave members of the public, in particular BAMER women, the opportunity to question the leader of the Council, their local Member of Parliament, the relevant portfolio holder for Communities and the local Police force.

If you’re interested in our work to promote community cohesion, please get in contact with us.

Hijabs, the Scottish police and women’s bodies

Summer 2016 saw Muslim women’s dress at the forefront of public debate. As the media storm surrounding the #BurkiniBan raged on, the Scottish Police Force made the announcement that Hijabs are now to be accepted as part of their uniform, with women no longer having to seek approval to wear them (as was previously the case). This change in rules was received positively, with politicians, Muslim groups and senior police figures welcoming the shift towards a more inclusive police force in Scotland. Establishing a dichotomy between ‘deplorable’ France and progressive, representative Scotland became widespread across a range of voices, gratefully embracing a rare moment of optimism in a climate of Islamophobia and increased hate crime against Muslim women.

This response necessitates a pause for thought. As advocates for the rights and dignity of ethnic minority women, it’s critical we approach policy shifts like this with nuance and that we avoid uncritically lauding Scotland’s change in uniform policy as a direct ‘contrast’ to France. It’s tempting to grasp onto any glimpse of progress towards a society in which state institutions welcome, rather than persecute black and brown bodies, and it is easy to establish nationalistic narratives of a liberal and tolerant British state and a racist, dictatorial French state (a narrative we can see reproduced in British discourse surrounding police brutality against black people in the US). But upon closer inspection, the suggestion that this policy change is indicative of progressive and inclusive values in the UK is naïve to say the least.

Whilst the incident on the beach in Nice, in which a woman was forced to remove an item of clothing at the feet of four officers towering above her produced an egregious visual image of subjugation and control, the ostensibly oppositional developments in the Scottish police force have merely moved beyond a requirement that its female Muslim police officers have to ask permission to wear a particular item of clothing. Even aside from the unwillingness to understand or engage with the religious background of workers who are integral to the daily functioning of the force, the symbolic significance of a requirement to seek approval for sartorial choices renders the move away from this deplorable power dynamic at best a rejection of Victorian-style notions of women’s agency over their own bodies.

Moreover, perhaps we should hesitate a moment before praising the steps the Scottish police have taken in reaching out to the Muslim community: any attempts to improve representation are long overdue. Chief Constable Phil Gormley’s hope that “this addition to our uniform options will contribute to making our staff mix more diverse,” is somewhat underwhelming given that in a staff force of 17, 242 there are just 6 Muslim women. None of these officers wear the hijab on duty or out in force. This lack of diversity is extremely problematic when considered in the context of a community facing rampant Islamophobia and widespread mistrust of authorities, inevitable in a climate of high profile cases of unfair racial profiling. There is an urgent need for a sustained and concerted effort to send a message to the Muslim community that they are welcome to participate in any and all employment sectors, whilst retaining the freedom to express their culture and religion.

Rather than a jingoistic celebration of the ‘progressive and inclusive’ values demonstrated by allowing women to make their own clothing choices, we at the Jan Trust instead would like to focus on the way in which the inclusion of the hijab in police uniform allows for an image of Muslim women which runs contrary to mainstream narratives of silent, subjugated figures and instead positions them as professional women in an important and challenging role in society. We believe that society can be stronger, fairer and more equal if we knock down the barriers to women achieving their potential and realising their dreams, and we continue to dedicate our efforts as an organisation in order to make this happen.

To find out more about our work, please visit www.jantrust.org

JAN Trust in Press

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, recently featured in The Evening Standard Newspaper speaking about her experience as a 7th July 2005 London bombings survivor as well as her work with JAN Trust and the need to empower mothers to safeguard their children and society.Our Director, Sajda Mughal, recently featured in The Evening Standard Newspaper speaking about her experience as a 7th July 2005 London bombings survivor as well as her work with JAN Trust and the need to empower mothers to safeguard their children and society.

The full article can be read here and below: CLICK HERE

On July 7, 2005, Sajda Mughal was on her way to work. Every morning she took the Piccadilly line westbound towards Holborn, where she changed to the Central line to head to her office at Bank. But that day,  Jermaine Lindsay was on her train. Between King’s Cross and Russell Square he detonated a bomb. Twenty-six other passengers were killed.

Mughal, who was 22 at the time, is the only known Muslim survivor of 7/7. After the terrorist attack she gave up a career in recruitment to fight extremism. “I believed I was going to die down there,” Mughal, now 31, says. “So when I came out alive, I felt I had been given a second chance. Finding out it was caused by a Muslim changed everything for me.”

Instead of making her question her faith, though, 7/7 drew her further into it. “We have a strong belief in Islam that God writes things for you: when someone is born, their death has also been written. It wasn’t written for me to go that day. But the experience brought me to find out more about my faith.”

It also made her desperate to stop young Muslims being radicalised. It’s a subject that was again in the spotlight last week, when it emerged that a science teacher in Bolton had been charged with preparing to help others commit acts of terrorism in Syria.

“This ideology that you need to carry out a jihad to help your brothers and sisters abroad needs to change. It saddens and frustrates me that there is this small minority who influence individuals to carry out attacks when Islam is a peaceful religion.”

At Mughal’s office opposite Alexandra Palace station her nine-month-old daughter is sleeping in the next room. This is the headquarters of the JAN Trust, a women’s charity that local MP Lynne Featherstone has dubbed “a mini-United Nations” as it caters mostly for women from ethnic minorities, including refugees and asylum-seekers. Many of these women don’t speak English and lack skills — the charity’s aim is to help them integrate into society, teaching English, numeracy and how to write a CV.

Mughal, who also has a four-year-old daughter, is a director at JAN and the brains behind its “web guardians” project, which aims to stop young people being radicalised. “Online there’s this whole world of videos and games that incite hate. And there are chat rooms that contain people who groom kids on extremist paths.” Having launched in Haringey, the project will soon be rolled out to other boroughs.

Mughal, who talks about 7/7 in schools, sees a desperate need for this project. “I’ve had Muslim — and non-Muslim — kids come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Miss! We can sympathise [with the bombers]’,” she says. “The Muslim youth today have a number of grievances. Foreign policy: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, now Syria. Then there are the unmanned drone attacks, Guantánamo and cases of soldiers abusing civilians. This project says we understand there are these grievances and that they are sympathising with this ideology but that this mindset needs to change.”

So how do you persuade these children that violence is not the answer? “Dialogue,” Mughal responds. “You put them in the position of, ‘Well, I was in 7/7. It could have been your mother, your sister, your cousin’. You show them that they can channel these grievances in a democratic manner, as opposed to destructively. That means through social media, lobbying or petitioning — not violence.”

Unless these conversations are had, Mughal believes we risk the young turning to the internet to understand their Islamic identity. She cites Roshonara Choudhry, the Newham-born student who stabbed Stephen Timms MP in 2010 and stated she had spent hours watching videos from Anwar al-Awlaki, the “spiritual leader” of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Sometimes, Mughal says, the children ask: “But what about the jihad?”

“You’ve got to debunk that. Jihad isn’t about fighting, it’s about making a sacrifice. I might say: ‘I’m not going to drink tea all day, that’s my jihad’. There’s a huge misconception about the term.”

But Mughal thinks she knows the ultimate tool to fight extremism: mothers. The JAN Trust recently found that three-quarters of mothers had seen or heard their children accessing Islamic lectures but they did not know the content. And 92 per cent did not know what online radicalisation was, while a similar number didn’t know how to get online at all. “We want to help these women become role models. So we’re teaching them IT skills and about the dangers of the internet but also equipping them to discuss extremism with their children offline. That way the mother can safeguard her child and help prevent further attacks.”

Through her work, Mughal also challenges a problem running parallel to extremism: Islamophobia. She says the recent debate about veils brought out underlying prejudices. “I don’t think Islamophohia is decreasing. The Muslim women we help tell us about the problems they face day to day — just travelling on the Tube or bus or their children getting bullied in school or their husbands facing discrimination at work.”

Before 7/7, Mughal was a typical north London twentysomething. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, she came here aged one and grew up in Haringey. “I was a Muslim but I didn’t have much involvement with the community,” she admits. “I was very career-focused.”

On the day of the bombings, Mughal was running late for that job. “The whole journey, I was thinking ‘Hurry up, hurry up!’,” she recalls. “The train left King’s Cross and then we went into the tunnel and there was a massive bang.”

It was rush hour and the Tube was packed. “People who were standing up fell to the ground; even those of us sitting down fell forward.”

Mughal says her mind went blank. “I was frozen. All the lights had gone out, so all we had were the faint emergency lights. There was no announcement. No one was telling us what had happened.”

Black smoke started to fill the carriage. “People were screaming, panicking, some were crying. I could hear people banging on the windows. We didn’t know what was going on outside the train. Were the tracks live? So I just stood there.”

Mughal thought the train had hit something or had been derailed. “Then I thought, ‘The next Tube leaving King’s Cross is just going to hit us — we’ll have a massive explosion and we’ll all burn to death’. In times of need, people of faith become more religious and that’s what I started to do. I said, ‘Please God, don’t let this be it. Don’t let July 7, 2005, be it’.”

It was only when she heard police coming towards their carriage that she knew she was going to survive. She and the other passengers were then evacuated through King’s Cross. “At that point I just wanted to be alone,” she recalls. “There was a McDonald’s opposite and I went across to calm my nerves and sit alone.”

She couldn’t reach any of her family on her mobile so she started walking back home. “It took hours. On the way I went into a newsagent and I heard another customer say, ‘They’re saying it’s a bomb’. I thought, ‘No, it can’t be’. I couldn’t contemplate it being a bomb.

“It was a lot for me to deal with mentally: finding out that some people had died and others had lost their limbs, then finding out it was a bomb, and then that it was carried out by four men who happened to be Muslim and had that warped ideology.”

It took her “a long while” to get back on the Tube. Initially, she couldn’t travel alone. “I needed counselling, time and support. Even now when I have meetings in town and I have to go through King’s Cross I start remembering. When July 7 comes around every year, I don’t want to travel on the Tube.” She has flashbacks, too.

Still, Mughal believes the experience has given her purpose. “When I look back, I think, ‘If I hadn’t been running late, I wouldn’t have gone through that’. But then I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.”

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.

JAN Trust in Press

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, recently featured in The Daily Telegraph Newspaper speaking about her experience as a 7th July 2005 London bombings survivor as well as her work with JAN Trust and the need to empower mothers to safeguard their children and society. She also spoke about the rise of Islamophobia in the UK.

The full article can be read here and the pod cast can be heard here: CLICK HERE

JAN Trust in Press

The BBC News quoted our Director, Sajda Mughal OBE following the Prime Ministers annoucement of English language skills and Muslim women. The article can be found here and her comments are below:

Access difficulties

Sajda Mughal, director of the London-based Jan Trust which works to empower vulnerable women, says there is indeed an issue among Muslim women living in the UK who are unable to speak English.

"Currently 200 women come to our centre each week, 80% of which are Muslim. Of these, 70% cannot speak English or are very poor at it. Some have English as a fourth or fifth language. Some are even illiterate in their own language.

"It's heartening to hear the prime minister is providing this language funding but it should trickle down to grass-roots organisations and not just be given to bigger ones like colleges.

"We have large numbers of women who say they have been turned away from colleges because they need very basic lessons and are told the colleges don't provide that level."

Published 18th January 2016

Kelvin Mackenzie and Islamophobia

Fatima Manji

Nearly two weeks ago, on Bastille Day, the city of Nice was attacked; 84 people were killed and 303 people injured. The killer was a divorced, father of three named Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Born in Tunisia, he later immigrated to France, settling in Nice, in 2005, where he worked as a delivery-truck driver.

Four days after the attack, a news article was published by The Sun, written by one of its former editors Kelvin Mackenzie who wrote that he “could hardly believe (his) eyes” when he saw “a young lady wearing a hijab” presenting the news following the Nice attack. Mackenzie believes it was inappropriate of Channel 4 to have a Muslim woman reporting the news when “there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim.”  This woman is Fatima Manji, a news reporter who joined Channel 4 in 2012, and has covered several news stories during her time with the channel such as the Natwest banking problem.

Since the release of the article, there have been over 1700 complaints sent to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) as well as a formal complaint made by Fatima Manji herself and one from the CEO of the Independent Television News (ITN) who produce content for Channel 4 and other channels. The article has sparked a national outrage and once again questions what the authorities are doing to tackle the rise in Islamophobia in the UK.

As of September of last year, there has been a 70% increase in Islamophobia in the UK, with 60% of this hate being targeted towards Muslim women. In the last year, particularly since the attack in Paris, there has been a 300% increase in attacks on Muslims, mainly women. Prominent figures in the community are speaking out against this rise such as ex-Conservative Party Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, who highlighted this figure in a letter she sent to The Sun’s editor to complain about the article. These are shocking statistics, yet news stories like the one written by Kelvin Mackenzie continue to be published.

Since writing the article, The Sun has published another article written by Kelvin where he seemed unapologetic and mocked people for complaining:

“Instead of accusing me of Islamophobia (yawn! yawn!) Channel 4 might like to try finding a Muslim presenter to front a documentary about Islam’s attitudes towards the gay community, or perhaps on how women are treated as second-class citizens in Muslim countries.”

Kelvin Mackenzie and others who hold the same views as him are clearly out of touch with what’s happening in this country right now. Muslim women are being spat on, beaten and bullied for wearing the hijab. Fatima Manji has also written an article expressing the same concerns as JAN Trust about the rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes targeted at Muslims. Since the Paris attack last year and Brexit last month, hate crime against Muslims has soared and articles like Mackenzie’s only serve to add fuel to the fire.

At JAN Trust, we work with women and young people affected by Islamophobia and hate crime. We aim to raise awareness about how these impact Muslims living and working in the UK. We are at the forefront when it comes to tackling complex and sensitive issues such as Islamophobia and extremism. Using our knowledge and expertise, we have designed and delivered workshops addressing these issues to the communities which we advocate on behalf of, as well as to professionals working on these issues. We have worked with over 10,000 young people and practitioners across London and the UK. You can visit our website Say No To Hate Crime to learn more about the work we do at community level on hate crime and how to report hate crimes.

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.

Muslim women and unemployment

A report published yesterday commissioned by the Women and Equalities Committee titled ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK’ has revealed that many Muslim women face “triple penalties” which affect their job prospects – being women, being from an ethnic minority and being Muslim. 12.5% of Muslims are unemployed, compared to 5.4% of the general population and if we analyse these figures further Muslim women are more likely to be unemployed than Muslim men.

Muslim women face the ‘double bind’ of gender and religious discrimination particularly visibly Muslim women who are on the front line of attacks as we have written in previous blog posts. Muslim women who wear the hijab told the Women and Equalities Committee that they felt wearing the headscarf limited their employment opportunities. This discrimination prevents them from fully integrating into the society in which they live and fosters a sense of inequality and unfairness. Last month, JAN Trust wrote a blog on how institutional racism affects Muslims and about the difficulties they face in finding employment or rising to a managerial role. We highlighted the work of Dr. Nabil Kattab of the University of Bristol who conducted a survey in 2015 revealing that 71% of British Muslim women are up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.

The committee identified several factors including the following: discrimination and Islamophobia, stereotyping, pressure from traditional families, a lack of tailored advice around higher education choices, and insufficient role models across education and employment. It is true that discrimination and Islamophobia are affecting Muslim women as are the other factors identified by the committee such as poverty and language barriers. However, the work done by efforts made by JAN Trust to lift these women out of poverty by empowering them economically can be thwarted when they are not given access to the same opportunities as other women with similar skills and experience.

Maria Miller MP said that “Muslim women particularly, face really unacceptable levels of discrimination and that discrimination comes from the workplace, from employers, but also from within communities as well.” The committee has told Ministers that a plan must be introduced before the end of the year detailing how this issue will be tackled. Recommendations have already been made to the Government as to how it could begin confronting the employment inequalities being experienced by Muslim women. These include: raising awareness among employers of what constitutes illegal discrimination, pushing universities to introduce a dedicated careers advice service for BME students, and training Jobcentre Plus staff on the issues faced by Muslims.

The discrimination faced by Muslim women is not a new issue. Since it was established in 1989, JAN Trust has been campaigning for discrimination against Muslim women to be addressed. Founder, Rafaat Mughal OBE, sought to draw attention to this issue “the elephant in the room.”

In our work with women Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities we have been told by Muslim women about the discrimination they and/or their families and friends have faces. In one area where JAN Trust delivered its Web Guardians© programme we were told by one lady about how her daughter’s friend had taken off her hijab prior to attending a college interview worried that she would not be given a place to study. Another lady told us of the discrimination her daughter had faced in the workplace because she wore hijab. Discrimination, in whatever form, must not be tolerated and organisations such as JAN Trust who work on a day-today basis with Muslim women should be listened to by the Government and supported to continue doing the work they do.

Muslim women are still more likely to be unemployed despite doing well in education

A report by the Social Mobility Commission, the ‘Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility’ report, has shown that Asian Muslim women, despite doing well in school, become socially immobile. This is due to many factors, including discrimination they face when looking for employment. The chairman of the commission, Alan Milburn, stated that the promise of social mobility is ‘being broken’.

The statistics are shocking when considering that ethnic minorities are far more likely to pursue higher education than White British children, with five in 10 Bangladeshi children going to university compared to just 1 in 10 white British children. Reports have found that British Muslim women have strong positive attitudes towards work, and that whilst they are more likely than White British women to take time out of employment after having children, they tend to have the overwhelming support of their families in finding work afterwards. The Young Foundation found that 93% of Muslim women who are not in work want to be, and feel supported by their families in looking for it. This disproves tabloid claims that Muslim women are unwilling to travel for work, or work in mixed-gender environments. Only 15% of Muslim women in the study said that they sought work in ‘women-only’ spaces, whilst 93% of British Muslim women stated that they would commute for up to an hour. So why are unemployment rates for British Muslim women still so high?

Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are the lowest earners out of all black and ethnic minority groups, having very little chance to gain professional occupations. When compared to male Bangladeshi graduates, despite performing better in education they are still less likely to gain a professional role. Culture is often cited as the central reason behind Muslim women’s perceived “failure” to integrate fully and economically, into British society.

While it is true that some British Muslim women face pressures from their family or community to stay at home, particularly after having children early - three times as many Muslim women as White British women are economically inactive because they are looking after the home – there are many other barriers that Muslim women face. These include discrimination due to religion and gender, and Muslim women who wear the hijab experience an even higher level of discrimination due to their outward display of religious beliefs

Islamophobia in the workplace has been well-documented. Evidence from France has discovered that practicing Muslims had a 4.7% chance of being called back for an interview, compared to 17.9% for their Catholic counterparts. In the UK, the Runnymede Trust has found that 25% of unemployment in ethnic minority groups can be accounted for by employer discrimination.

Muslim women face additional gendered barriers, and ‘cultural’ arguments seep into this discrimination. 1 in 8 Pakistani women in the UK have been asked about marriage and family aspirations in job interviews, as opposed to only 1 in 30 non-Muslim women, and they may also face evidence of “name discrimination”.  Many women have “whitened” job applications, using non-Muslim names on forms. Some have even chosen to stop wearing the hijab and niqab – 18% of Muslim women in work have stated that this helped them to find employment. If Asian Muslim women who are educated struggle in the labour market, it is even harder for barriers BAMER who don’t have qualifications or have recently migrated to the UK and might have limited English.

The report offered a number of recommendations, including that businesses need to specifically support Asian Muslim women to progress in their careers. This is something that JAN Trust has long recognised to be a priority. At JAN Trust, we provide the education for women to become aware of when they are experiencing discrimination and how to overcome it, with the aim of empowering themselves and be socially mobile in the job market.

JAN Trust empowers women to attain and achieve more, despite the fear of discrimination, through a variety of measures: from workshops that provide information about opening businesses to building confidence and self-esteem. Milburn stated that ‘Britain is a long way from having a level playing field of opportunity for all regardless of gender, ethnicity or background’.

Visit our website www.jantrust.org to learn more about the work we do empowering women to play a vital role in British society.

 

Muslim Women We Need to Know in 2017

Lina Khalifeh – SheFighter

The first female self-defence studio, called SheFighter, was set up in the in Jordan back in 2012 but has gained a lot of attention in the last year. The group helps to empower women to protect themselves and has proven to be a huge success. Khalifeh has a background in Taekwondo but began the studio after her friend was attacked by her father and brother.

Why she is an inspiration is that helping women to defend themselves is not just a physical act of self-defence  against violence such as honour-based crimes but also a way to give women a sense of empowerment

The studio does not just teach self-defence but is also a safe space where women can speak freely about their experiences. Khalifeh has received threats for this. President Obama described her as a ‘leader of social change’. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experience physical and sexual violence in their lifetime. Her organisation has trained around 12,000 women. Even Emma Watson took a class at a studio to raise awareness about the initiative. You can learn more about her organisation here.

Ilhan Omar – Representative

Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American legislator in the United States when she was elected to the House of Representatives in Minnesota in the 2016 election. She is also the Director of Policy at the Women Organizing Women Network. Omar was born in Somalia, and left with her family at the age of nine during the Somali civil war, only to spend four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. Once they emigrated to the US, she integrated quickly, learning English in only three months.

Her election garnered worldwide coverage. She stated that her “Victory was for all women who are struggling”. It is all the more inspiring to see an immigrant elected considering the current backdrop of anti-immigrant feeling within the US. In response to the President’s divisive comments on immigrants she has been outspoken, stating that immigrants are what “make America great.”

She makes these comments in defiance, as she herself has experienced Islamophobic attacks whilst in America; the most shocking being in 2014 when she was attacked at a public meeting, leaving her with a concussion and bruises. Most recently she was called ‘ISIS’ and ‘filthy’ whilst in a taxi.

Many are excited to see how she will use her political platform in 2017.

Mehreen Baig – Actress

Mehreen Baig was one of the women who joined the BBC’s controversial documentary Muslims Like Us, where ten British Muslims with contrasting views live in a house together. Her views expressed on the programme became very popular, for example she stated that: “When people think of Muslim women, there’s a stereotype of us being repressed and submissive. Someone like me doesn’t come to mind – a normal girl, with a career who watches X Factor and fasts at Ramadan. We are the majority, and unfortunately our voice is unheard. My presence in the show challenges that stereotype. I’m independent and educated, yet my life is very much moulded by my religious values. I’m proof that there can be, and is, a balance between both.” Mehreen’s website is a forum which provides a safe space where Muslim Asian women can share their views on what being Muslim means to them.

Warsan Shire – Poet

Warsan Shire’s visibility has exploded since being featured on artist Beyoncé’s latest album. She is a Somali-British poet, who won the Young Poet Laureate for London at only twenty-five years old in 2014. She explores many topics in her poetry, from relationships to the place of the migrant within society: the ‘surrealism of everyday immigrant life – one day you are in your country, having fun, drinking mango juice, and the next day you are in the Underground in London and your children are speaking to you in a language you don’t understand’. When her relatives visit, she records their stories so she can accurately portray them within her poetry. She published one collection of poems in 2011, so there is much anticipation for the next collection.

Nura Afia – Brand ambassador for CoverGirl

In November, Nura Afia, a Lebanese-American, was chosen to become the brand ambassador for American company CoverGirl. This is a monumental achievement as she is one of the first ever brand ambassadors to wear a hijab. She has a strong social media following. In an interview she stated “A lot of people were intimidated and scared when Trump was elected and the response I saw to the campaign was very positive… everyone is happy that we’re getting represented in a positive way instead of just bad all the time”.

The JAN Trust gains inspiration from these women on the public stage who empower themselves through the arts and through politics.

The challenge of institutional racism

Over a fortnight ago, an article was published in the Evening Standard titled ‘Nearly half of black and ethnic minority Londoners have faced racist abuse.’

If this statistic surprised anyone, it shouldn’t have. Yes, we have made progress in the fight against racism. Last month, Londoners voted to have a Mayor who is a practising Muslim and the Chelsea Flower Show awarded its first gold medal to a Black woman but this doesn’t mean that racist abuse and discrimination against Black and ethnic minorities has disappeared or isn’t as bad as it used to be.

Hate crime is rising rapidly particularly against visibly Muslim women. Articles about attacks on Muslim women appear almost daily in both print and online media. There have even been videos uploaded to the Internet of the physical and verbal attacks on Muslim women.

However, physical and verbal abuse is not the only form of racism Black and ethnic minorities are encountering. According to the article in the Evening Standard, the form of racism and discrimination affecting Black and ethnic minorities today is institutional racism. As the author of the article, Joe Murphy, wrote ‘Our investigation uncovers the often blatant, however mostly subtle and complex, nature of ‘silent discrimination and institutional racism’ that is present in modern Britain today.’ The unemployment rate of non-Whites is significantly high as the graph below which was produced by the Office for National Statistics last year shows.

Muslims are one such group that are disproportionately affected by institutional racism and face the most difficulties in finding employment or rising to a managerial role. This can be attributed to rising Islamophobia. Last year, Dr, Nabil Kattab of the University of Bristol conducted a survey revealing that 71% of British Muslim women are up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.

The failure to properly address institutional racism increases the feeling of disaffection already felt by marginalised communities and can lead to them becoming even more isolated. It also prevents them from fully integrating into the society in which they live and fosters a sense of inequality and unfairness.

JAN Trust has worked with marginalised women from BAMER communities for nearly 3 decades encouraging, educating and empowering them so that they can fully participate in society but these efforts can be thwarted if these women are not given access to the same opportunities as other women with similar skills and experience.

In 2010, JAN Trust launched its Say No To Hate Crime campaign. Our website is a resource bank providing access to a range of information and materials about hate crime specifically race and religious hate crime for victims of hate crime as well as their supporters and also professionals working on this issue. We actively encourage victims of hate crime to anonymously report the verbal and/or physical abuse they’ve suffered using our online reporting form. We also provide support to victims and shape policies aimed at combating hate crime and Islamophobia. To find out more about how JAN Trust is tackling hate crime, please visit our website at: http://www.saynotohatecrime.org.

The Louise Casey review: JAN Trust’s Response

A report reviewing integration of ethnic minority communities in the U.K., authored by Dame Louise Casey, was published this week. The report concluded that local communities were becoming divided and minority communities were increasingly segregated from wider social life.
This report identified the vital need for greater ESOL provision for minority communities, a recommendation which The JAN Trust has been at the forefront of advocating for.

The pledge to improve English language provision by appropriately prioritising the adult skills budget is a proposal which we at JAN Trust welcome. We have seen the positive effects of investing in language provision at first hand as a result of our free ESOL classes for marginalised women in the local area.

JAN Trust formed in 1989, providing a range of classes for minority ethnic women and addressing the issues affecting them by creating a safe environment where service users can voice their concerns freely and openly. From its inception, JAN Trust has recognised that lack of language skills can lead to low self-confidence and isolation, and we have worked tirelessly to challenge this vicious cycle. This has resulted in scores of success stories. We have seen women evolve from isolated individuals with no confidence, to empowered women armed with qualifications, moving on to successful careers or further study. A small investment in classes for the community can reap considerable rewards.

As one JAN Trust user commented:

“A big thank you to JAN Trust who has helped me gain new skills and confidence. They supported me in opening my own fashion business which is proving to be successful. JAN Trust has inspired me to continue with my business and support my family out of poverty."

ESOL provision and skills classes run in the community do not merely work to support women’s social and professional development, they also facilitate women’s access to support in cases of domestic violence and other forms of abuse, such as forced marriage. Casey highlighted the fact that a lack of English language skills was “hampering understanding of rights and services available and the ability of service users to respond,” as well as a widespread sense of social isolation acting to prevent women suffering from abuse from seeking help. The report identified that in the case of a reliance on a husband’s English language skills, it is made almost impossible for women to escape abusive situations. The JAN Trust recognises these issues, and the fact that in these situations, the classes that we run are not merely empowering for the women; they can make the difference between life and death. We have evolved as an organisation to address the issues which affect our service users through campaigning work, but also work at the grassroots to create an environment where cases of abuse can be raised and addressed.

The issue of Islamophobia is similarly an issue highlighted by Casey as one of serious concern which is disproportionately targeted at women. JAN Trust raises awareness of this issue both locally and nationally. We encourage our service users to report instances of hate crime and racist abuse and support them through this process. The potential for community groups to create a supportive, secure environment for these issues to be adequately addressed, as well as providing the language skills necessary for engagement with police and other services, is critical in tackling Islamophobia. JAN Trust is proud to set an example as a leading community group which takes its wider responsibilities seriously.

In the report, Casey rightfully decries the efforts of far right and Islamic extremists to attempt to show Islam and modern Britain as incompatible as 'wrong.' But it's also up to British society to make a concerted effort to demonstrate this - by investing in the skills and services which will enable minority ethnic communities to become involved in wider society and address the challenges they face. JAN Trust takes its responsibility to do precisely this very seriously. We hope that our organisation will be one of the recipients of the increase to ESOL funding, enabling us to reach out and support even more women in the communities we serve - preventing the segregation the report highlights as such a damaging force in modern British society.

The Women of Daesh

Even though the volume of people leaving Europe to join Daesh in Syria and Iraq has fallen,the proportion of these who are women is rising – very dramatically in France. Their online recruitment activity still presents a very real danger here in the UK and reinforces the need for preventative work.

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.

Why Donald Trump's Muslim Ban is Terrifying

On Friday 27th January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order which bans the citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from applying for a visa to enter the United States. The seven countries are: Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. The worldwide reaction to this unprecedented policy has been shock and disbelief. Online, the hashtag #MuslimBan has been trending on Twitter, with celebrities, politicians, and citizens voicing their views.

The policy will last for 90 days only until a more permanent solution is imposed. No refugees can enter the US for 120 days and, most shockingly, Syrian refugees are blocked indefinitely from entering the US. The order also prevents those of dual nationality, whose second nationality is from one of the banned countries, from entering the United States.

Following enactment of the policy, Sally Yates, now former Deputy and Acting Attorney General, was dismissed by Trump for standing up against the immigration ban, as she highlighted the fact that the proposals were in fact illegal under international law which states “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law.”

As a result, in airports across the US are in chaos with people who have landed and arrived from one of the affected countries detained for hours and airport staff unclear as to what they should actually do. On Saturday, 109 people across America were detained as they arrived in the US. This included a five-year old child arriving from Iran, and a woman from Iraq who had been granted a green card. Although the policy has been partly blocked by law, it will still go ahead. This will cause undue stress to families who are separated and to those hoping for refuge in the US. Due to mixed communication from the US government the order initially even stopped citizens of the United States who had a green card from entering the country and it is still unsure whether the policy applies to green card holders are now allowed to enter the US.

Tens of thousands of people are protesting at airports across the US and worldwide there has been widespread condemnation from prominent figures. Activist Malala Yousafzai has stated that she is “heartbroken” by the law and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has publicly criticised the policy, stating that the policy “flies in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance.”

London saw thousands of protesters voicing their concerns at a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on Monday. Another protest in the UK is planned on the 18th of March, on UN Anti-Racism Day. If you would like to take part, visit this link. A petition that has already gathered over 1.5 million signatures calling for PM Theresa May to cancel President Trumps planned state visit has been circulated. Even former president Obama, in a move that is highly unusual for an ex-president to do, has spoken out against the measures.

When signing the order, Trump stated that “We don’t want them [radical Islamic terrorists] here.” And in a statement released later, he wrote “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting, this is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

However, this is stereotyping millions of people. We at JAN Trust condemn such a policy and hope that the will of the people can make President Trump change his mind. Our Prime Minister Teresa May must also make a stand against such a policy that fosters such hatred and islamophobia.

We need Britain to make a stronger stand to show that other nations will not accept turning away refugees and stigmatising Muslims. Many have been sharing statistics which show that an American is far more likely to be shot by another American than killed by Islamic terrorists. It is a racial and religious profiling that stereotypes all Muslims to be potentially dangerous.

This policy is divisive and terrifying. It will lead to more problems rather than less, and has already done so. There has already been a terrorist attack in Canada with the murder of 6 Musin a mosque. This is where the irony lies. More American citizens have died at the hands of other American citizens than from a foreign terrorist threat and a policy like will only create further divisions in the US along ethnic lines. The protest on the 18th of March will show that citizens are united against racism and islamophobia.

Why Trump’s Discrimination against Muslim American Women is Damaging for the World

In possibly the most shocking event of the twenty-first century, four-time bankrupted businessman and reality star Donald J. Trump has ridden to power on a wave of populism based on the exploitation of economic and social grievances of parts of the American public.

In only his first month, he has already managed to become the most divisive and controversial president in memory, with the lowest approval rating of any new President.

After a Populist campaigning focusing on the “threat” that foreigners pose to the United States, his victory on November 8th signalled an era of uncertainty for ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. Calls to Naseeha, a Muslim Youth helpline in Canada, soared after the election, with many concerned Muslim American citizens calling worried about the statements that Trump had made and what the future entailed for them.
 
Trump has made numerous highly worrying statements, such as that there should be a register for Muslims in America, a policy strongly reminiscent of that in in Nazi Germany which represented the first step in barring Jews from certain positions and eventually disenfranchising them completely.

Having stated prior to the election, that the US border should be temporarily closed to all Muslims until terrorism is at a more “manageable” level, one of his first policies was to ban nationals of certain Muslim-majority countries (notably none of the countries in which he has business interests), including US Green Card holders and refugees, from entering the US.

Reactions to his actions and statements have been less than favourable. His “Muslim Ban” was deemed illegal and overturned by the Supreme Court, a ban which he is currently fighting. The Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said that “American Muslims are here to stay. We are not going anywhere, and will not be intimidated or marginalised.” In the UK, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said that Trump must “Do everything in his power to unite people and bring divided communities back together”. And in an unprecedented move, the Speaker of the House of Commons stated that Trump would not be allowed to speak in parliament.

Many businesses have openly defied his plans, with Starbucks pledging to hire 10,000 refugees, many people boycotting his hotels and businesses, and even America as a tourist destination and many tech companies, who recruit largely outside of the US, voicing strong opposition and stating they will need to move if his plans are enacted.

At a grassroots level, protests and marches against Trump are on the increase. The women’s marches that took place across America and around the world the day after Trump’s inauguration have been transformed from a one-day event to an activist movement.  There is now a Twitter hashtag #WomensMarchWednesday where people from around the world are able to discuss activism and support each other. In the UK there are a series of protests planned in the lead up to his visit of the UK on the 20 March.

But regardless of whether Trump is able to put these plans into place, the danger he poses goes beyond this. The fact that the world’s most important leader now routinely makes racist, anti-Islamic statements is enough to create serious problems, not just in the United States, but globally.

Since Trump’s stance on refugees, opinion polls show that most Europeans - including 47% of Britons - want a ban on refugees from Muslim-majority counties. And this sentiment has even affected the views of our government, yesterday it was announced that the UK will no longer be taking unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.

Across Europe, the extreme right, which had been growing in recent years, is becoming emboldened by a world leader who effectively legitimises their views. Far-right attacks in the UK and much of continental Europe are on the rise, and the 30 of January saw the extreme culmination of what this racist rhetoric can lead to when Canadian citizen and avid Trump supporter, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire in a Mosque in Quebec killing 6 and injuring 10 more.

While, of course, Trump’s rhetoric cannot be blamed for the actions of an individual, they do create a climate in which people who hold such ideas feel supported and feel that their actions are justified.

The “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” Trump wants cannot happen. As we are seeing, whatever he says affects the views of political leaders and citizens across the globe, an issue which is especially worrying with the current wave of right-wing sentiment sweeping Europe.

The US must not further create division across the world by creating the impression that all Muslims are terrorists or criminals. The US has always been an example of multicultural unity and it would be a shame for other countries to be influenced by the anti-immigration rhetoric in the US at the moment.

However bleak the situation seems, there is a case for optimism. In the wake of his election, millions of people marched for equality and solidarity with all women, rejecting Trump’s hatred and bigotry. Many marched against the election of Donald Trump because they believe that his administration puts into doubt the protection of women’s rights. Most admirably, women across the world for varied rights and in support of those they felt would be most affected by Trump’s presidency - there were around 600 rallies altogether worldwide. There were marches in Nairobi for reproductive rights. There were marches in India against sexual harassment. Many men also marched in solidarity. The image above, of a woman in a hijab decorated in the American flag, exemplifies the message of the protests – how being Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive but that Muslim women are a part of American society and as such should be fully accepted and welcomed.

JAN Trust hopes to allay Muslim women’s fear of xenophobia across the world by providing a safe space for them to integrate within British society. To find out more go to http://jantrust.org/.

 

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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