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

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Empowering Mothers – A Bottom-Up Approach to Defeating Terrorism

BBC Inside Outaired a special episode on the 4th of September on the effects that recent UK terror attacks have had on us all. As the only Muslim 7/7 survivor, I was invited onto the show to tell my story, and explain how I have now dedicated my life to fighting online extremism.

As part of an exclusive YouGov poll ran for BBC Inside Out, the people of England were asked if they thought the terrorism threat was higher in 2017 than ever before. 90% said yes. BBC highlighted that actually, deaths from terrorism were falling, with 90 killed between 2000-2015 vs. over 1,000 from 1985-1999. This is of little condolence to the victims of recent attacks, and for the public at large due to the fear and xenophobia these attacks have instilled.

20% of people from the Midlands area responded to the YouGov poll saying that they were more afraid at large events and on public transport, 21% said they are less likely to attend any events at a concert hall or stadium, and 29% said they feel less safe in public areas.

Manchester Arena attack survivor, Kim Dick, told BBC that when she travelled to London she suffered from panic attacks on transport, terrified of everyone she saw with a backpack. BBC reporter Holly Jones, who narrowly missed becoming a fatal victim of the London Bridge attack, described her past self as sociable, but claims now she is anxious, stressed and more suspicious of other people.

I can empathise with this anxiety and fear, as I told BBC Inside Out: “each time an attack happens I relive the experience. You watch the videos of what people have filmed, you see the people running and the screams, and it takes me right back to 7/7.”

The exclusive poll also revealed that 52% of people across England, but only 44% of Londoners, agree that the security services should be given more powers to defeat terrorism, even if this meant sacrifices to our personal privacy. As I told BBC, I do not believe that this is the most effective way to defeating terrorism:

“We need a bottom-up approach. Those who are being radicalised are being brainwashed, so we need to change those hearts, and change those minds… we cannot put the reliance on police solely to defeat terrorism, as ultimately, this will not change those hearts and minds.”

Pioneering this bottom-up approach to fighting terrorism, our charity JAN Trust launched our award winning Web Guardians™ programme, which educates mothers on preventing and tackling online extremism with their children and loved ones.

It is likely that all of the recent attackers, both Muslim extremists and far-right extremists, were exposed to online propaganda and communication with recruiters that served to radicalise them. Richard Walton, former Head of Counter-Terrorism Command within the Metropolitan Police, told BBC: “it is inconceivable that there wasn’t a use of social media apps to connect those who carried out these attacks with terrorists from the Islamic State.”

BBC reporters posed as young British Muslims interested in joining jihad in Syria, and were met with support from IS recruiters who directed them to encrypted messaging services. From there they provided a link on the dark web to an online terrorist manual which detailed how to use a vehicle to carry out an attack, and what body parts to target when using a knife to inflict fatal injuries. IS recruiters suggested the young boy conduct a lone wolf attack and ‘kill normal people’ from within the UK, and even suggested Westminster and London Bridge as key targets as they were ‘crowded with disbelievers and civilians’, providing evidence that the 2017 attacks were planned by online ISIS recruiters.

This is hard evidence that the threat of online radicalisation is real and dangerous. It was clear to me that such a huge threat cannot go on being ignored.

We have won many awards and for our Web Guardians™ programme, which seeks to empower women to be at the frontlines of the fight against extremism from within their own homes, but we need support to continue this vitally needed work. Support would mean the programme can continue to change the hearts and minds of potential terrorists and innocent lives can be saved.

FGM - Not Only a Problem Abroad

Many are aware that FGM, Female Genital Mutilation, is a huge international problem affecting around 200 million girls and women globally. However, a new report from the NHS shows that FGM is still very much a problem, not only globally, but also in the UK.

The NHS report was released last week, and the data covers the period from April 2016 to March 2017. Within this period, 9,179 cases of FGM were reported across the NHS. This includes cases where FGM was identified, treatment was given, or a woman with FGM had given birth to a baby girl. Out of the 5,391 cases which were recorded in the system for the first time, 114 were girls under the age of 16.

The report marks a slight drop in numbers from the previous year, when 9,223 cases were reported, of which 6,080 were newly recorded. It is positive that the numbers are dropping, but they are not dropping nearly fast enough. Out of the 26% who reported the country in which the FGM took place, 1,229 reported that it took place in an African country, while 57 reported that it took place in the UK. This is a rise from the 18 newly recorded cases that were reported to have taken place in the UK in 2015-2016.

A girl or woman who has been subjected to FGM will likely suffer the consequences of it for the rest of her life. FGM can lead to infections, increased risk of HIV and AIDS, cysts and neuromas, infertility, complications in childbirth, psychosexual problems, and trauma. These are only a few of the issues that can arise from FGM, but it is apparent that they are varied and can affect every part of a woman’s life.

Currently, 63,000 girls aged 0-13 in England and Wales are at risk of FGM, and JAN Trust works hard to raise awareness to those at risk and to provide support to victims of FGM. We offer workshops in schools, colleges, community groups and statutory agencies. These workshops aim to raise awareness of how to detect cases of FGM, as well as offer advice on how to support victims. In the last 4 years, we have delivered over 200 school sessions. We have worked with over, working with 20,000 young people and practitioners across the UK and have worked in over 25 boroughs.

See how you can help us continue this vital work here http://jantrust.org/projects/against-fgm

Founder awarded OBE

altWe are delighted to announce that our Founder, Rafaat Mughal, was awarded with an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List. Rafaat has campaigned and worked tirelessly for over 40 years to support and empower Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee women. She is an inspiration to all at JAN Trust including users, staff and volunteers. 

Well done Rafaat. A much deserved award!

 

 

 

 

 

The story was covered by a range of press and below are some of the press links:

New Year’s Honours: Haringey women’s rights activist ‘flattered’ with OBE -CLICK HERE

 

 

New Year Honours 2014: List in full - CLICK HERE

 

Rafaat Mughal, of Wood Green, who founded the JAN Trust among people in 2014 New Year's Honours List - CLICK HERE

15 Indian-origin men, women in Queen's New Year's Honours List - CLICK HERE

Rafaat Mughal, of Wood Green, who founded the Jan Trust among people in 2014 New Year's Honours List - CLICK HERE

Sisters are doing it for themselves - and each other - CLICK HERE

Strong showing for charities in New Year Honours - CLICK HERE

New Year honours 2014: the full list - CLICK HERE

Asian community recognised in New Year’s Honour’s List - CLICK HERE

Asian community recognised in Honours List - CLICK HERE

Many Asians in Queen’s New Year Honours List - CLICK HERE

Asian community recognised in Honours List - CLICK HERE

Fifteen Indian origin people in Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for 2014 - CLICK HERE

Sisters are doing it for themselves – and each other -CLICK HERE

Bumper year for Asian NY Honours - CLICK HERE

FT .com -CLICK HERE

JAN Trust in Press

JAN Trust's recent award win of 'Small Charity Big Achiever' from the Third Sector Awards 2013 was covered by a range of press.

Two newspaper articles can be viewed by clicking the below links:

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JAN Trust in Press

JAN Trust's recent award win from the Centre of Social Justice 2013 was covered by a range of press including the Spectator Magazine and newspapers.

The articles can be viewed by clicking the below links:

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

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

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

JT featured on the BBC's Inside Out

Our director Sajda Mughal, appeared on the BBC's Inside Out, in their special episode detailing the effects of the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. Sajda explains how grassroots methods, such as JAN Trust's counter extremism course, Web Guardians™, are part of a much needed 'bottom-up approach', that recognises 'that those who are being radicalised are being brainwashed- so we need to change those hearts and change those minds'. She added that we could not 'put reliance on police solely to defeat terrorism, as it will not ultimately change those hearts and minds.'

Watch the piece here.

JT on Sky News

On the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London, our CEO Sajda Mughal appeared on Sky News to speak about her experience on that day and about what needs to be done to prevent radicalisation and further attacks focusing our on highly acclaimed Web Guardians™ programme working with and supporting Muslim women and mothers to prevent and tackle radicalisation and online extremism

To view the live news piece, click here.

Meet NoorJahan!

“I want to learn something -I want to get out of my home. Every type of people are here, every culture, every religion, you come to know everything.”

Once a month, JAN Trust will be featuring one of the many women who utilise our training, services and projects on our blog. This week we introduce you to NoorJahan! Read her profile below:

Name:NoorJahan

Country of origin:Pakistan

Ethnicity:Pakistani / Italian

NoorJahan came to the UK with her children nearly 30 years ago, joining her husband who had arrived one year earlier. Before she came, she had stayed with her family in Italy for a while. In the UK, she was kept busy looking after her home and raising her children.

NoorJahan first heard about JAN Trust through a friend who was attending English classes at the centre. When her friend told her about other classes and services that JAN Trust offers NoorJahan was keen on developing her ICT skills and working towards a certificate. “I use a lot from what I learnt on the course” NoorJahan told JAN Trust.

Currently, NoorJahan is studying with us for a City and Guilds accredited Fashion course. She first learned to sew from her mother but wanted to formalise her skills, and gain a qualification. She loves the course!

When asked why she had decided to come to JAN Trust and what she enjoyed about coming to the centre NoorJahan told us “I want to learn something … I want to get out of my home.” Coming to the centre helps her to feel less stressed and depressed. “I talk to everyone. Everyone likes me!” She told us that she is very happy to have the opportunity to meet women from different cultures and backgrounds here. “Every type of women are here, every culture, every religion, you come to know everything.”

NoorJahan had a lot of praise for Director Sajda Mughal OBE and her teachers. “They help me more, explaining everything. Sajda is helpful. The teachers are very nice.”

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, misogyny and Islamophobia

In recent weeks, there have been a spate of attacks targeting Muslim women both in the UK and abroad. Last week, a man was arrested for kicking a pregnant Muslim woman who it was reported on Tuesday lost her baby as a result. In the US, a Scottish Muslim woman visiting New York had her blouse set alight as she waited near a store. Attacks on Muslims have sadly become the norm. Everyday hate crime and discrimination seem to inform the daily lives of British Muslims but this doesn’t make the above any less shocking. In the US, Islamophobic rhetoric being spewed by Republican presidential frontrunner Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia whilst in the UK, hate crime has risen rapidly since Brexit. As Linda Sarsour, executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, wrote in an opinion piece for the Guardian last week, ‘not only is wearing my religious headscarf in public an act of faith, but it has also become an act of courage.’

November 2016: Web Guardians© goes from strength to strength

It’s Autumn 2016 and here at the JAN Trust we’re excited to say that, 6 years on from its inception, our Web Guardians© programme is stronger than ever. 2016 has been a challenging year for those working to fight hatred, division and extremist beliefs and it’s easy to feel disheartened in the face of the threat of online radicalisation and terror. Yet it’s this very work, promoting cohesion and strengthening communities, which spurs our staff team on and fosters our optimism in the belief that, slowly, things can change.

This week we’ve been in one part of the UK training mothers and grandmothers who’ve never even turned an internet device on. Once the first few teething problems were out of the way, the women were well on their way in using the computers and learning strategies to safeguard their children online!

Here’s what a couple of them said…

- “My son is 11 but he is more of a computer expert than me or my husband”
- “This is why we’re here – to keep up to date!”
- “I’m here because I need to learn how to keep my kids safe online!”

We’re excited at the prospect of the next few weeks, where we’ll be supporting and assisting the women to gain new skills and the confidence to protect their children when they are online. Watch out Mark Zuckerberg, the Web Guardians mums are out to steal your thunder!

The Difficulty of Eradicating Forced Marriages

New figures released by the NSPCC reveal that there has been a12% increasein counselling sessions about forced marriage in the previous year. Summer is often a high-risk period for potential victims of forced marriage, as many are lured away on “holidays” only to be married off abroad against their will. However, a shocking 11% of forced marriages in 2016 took place wholly in Britain, with no overseas element.

Forced marriage is a serious issue and one that is difficult to tackle. Many victims are too scared to report the forced marriage because it would mean isolation and estrangement from their family. In the same way, it is difficult for young victims to stand up to their parents in situations like these especially after forced marriage was made a criminal offence in Britain in 2014, one can imagine that children are hesitant to report their parents or close family because of the punishment they might face.

It is important to note that forced marriage often happen to children – 26% of victims in 2016 were under 18. These victims are especially vulnerable when coerced into marriage by their parents or close relatives, as they might not have anyone to turn to for help or support. By reporting their family members, they might fear that they will not have anywhere to live or feel that they are betraying their family.  This makes forced marriages hidden crimes, as victims do not often speak up before, during or after they happen. This makes them even harder to prevent, and difficult to obtain proper statistics.

Forced marriages are difficult to deal with for individuals, as they deprive a person of their freedom. Sometimes, this can also include the victim being taken away from their home country, being raped and girls being forced to bear children. In rural areas of Syria, forced and underage marriages are flourishing, as parents see them as a way to protect their children in a time of crisis. However, some of the marriages end in more than just deprivation of freedom. It has been found that some girls who are married off in Syria have become so unhappy because of their marriages that they have committed suicide. This clearly shows the psychological problems can result from a forced marriage, especially if the victim is young.

As mentioned, forced marriage is a difficult issue to handle, as it is so sensitive. One woman, New York-based Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala, is trying to approach the issue in a creative way. She is herself a potential victim of forced marriage, as she has grown up with parents and family members attempting to marry her off. Her solutions to avoid the marriages have been many, most recently she convinced her parents to let her study and work in the US for a few years. However, now that her visa is expiring, they are expecting her to come back and get married. But Balagamwala has no wish to do so, she describes herself as a “hopeless romantic” and has yet to meet “Mr. Right”. Like most people, she wants to keep her freedom of choice. In order to fund another visa application and highlight the issue of forced and arranged marriage, she has now designed a board game called “Arranged!” Perhaps it is creative solutions like this one – “Darkness masked in lightness” as Balagamwala says – that will help bring the issue to the attention of people who can make a difference.

At JAN Trust, we hold workshops for participants from affected communities, voluntary and statutory sectors including schools, police and healthcare professionals. These sessions are aimed at preventing forced marriages by making people aware of the issue and the signs they can look out for. By raising awareness and educating, we hope to help combat forced marriage and help potential victims keep their freedom. You can support our work and learn more by visiting www.jantrust.organd www.againstforcedmarriages.org.

The Growing Problem of Knife Crime in London

As a London-based charity, JAN Trust has been shocked to witness the dramatic rise in knife crime that has occurred across the capital in the past year. To date, 9 people have been killed in the capital in 2017 and nationally knife crime is at the highest levels since 2011.

And this is without even considering the hundreds of people injured in such attacks. In the 12 months until March this year, this figure was 2028. In Kings College Hospital in London, one surgeon notes that 25% of the trauma injuries they see are directly related to knife crime.

While this is an issue across the country, Met office figures show that in the past year in London gun and knife crime have both risen particularly sharply – by 42% and 24% respectively.

Metropolitan police report released last month indicated that between 2014 and 2016 the number of children carrying knives in London schools rose by almost 50%, while the number of knife offences in London schools rose by 26%.

This is a devastating situation that clearly cannot be ignored.

Far from an issue which has suddenly appeared in the last year, this has been a growing problem for many years because of funding cuts, both to police services and youth facilities.

Many have noted that this tragic situation in which so many young people have lost their lives has been the direct result of funding cuts to the police system. In London, the estimated effect on the Met’s annual £3bn budget ranges from a £100m to £700m reduction.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said he would fight any further cuts but clearly this is only part of the solution.

Until now, prevention has largely focussed on short-term measures such as limiting the sale of knives to young people, controversial stop and search policies, or punitive sentencing in the aftermath of attacks.

Recently, the father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor has called for an increase in stop and search to prevent knife crimes, and there have even been suggestions of the introduction of metal detectors at school entrances to prevent students from bringing in knives.

However, the murder of a 23-year old man on Tuesday – making 7 knife-crime related deaths in the space of a week – has prompted the MET to take a different approach.

On Wednesday, Scotland Yard announced the creation of Operation Sceptre which will a task force of 80 specialists but also, crucially, a focus on prevention work in schools.

Finally it has been accepted that limited short-term measures are not enough. There needs to be a more holistic approach.

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher has said that, “Strategies focused upon particular offences should be complemented by…. broader long-term initiatives against poverty and social exclusion…with messages which are delivered by communities”.

This community-based approach is a measure that JAN Trust wholeheartedly welcomes. With funding we have devised and delivered programmes to mothers and young people raising awareness and tackling knife crime, gun and gang-related violence.

Initiatives such as ours are clearly ones that need supporting and we welcome the MET’s plans to take a more community-based holistic approach to tackle this tragic problem.

Visit our website at http://www.jantrust.org to find out more about the work we do.

Twelve years on – Muslim 7/7 survivor dedicated her life to working with her community to fight extremism

Had Sajda sat on the first train carriage on the Piccadilly tube 12 years ago on 7/7, she wouldn’t be alive today. 7/7 is a day that she remembers just like yesterday.

This year has been particularly difficult for her given the four terror attacks that the UK has experienced in quick succession. Every time she witnesses such a tragedy on the news, she is reminded of what happened to her on 7/7, where she remembers the sounds, the smells and the images of tragedy.

Hearing mothers’ accounts is particularly hard for her as she is reminded of the panic and anguish her own mother felt after the attacks, when she had no idea whether she was alive or dead.

It was 7/7/ that changed Sajda’s life to quit her City job and devote her life to preventing extremism within her community, the Muslim community.

One positive is that the issue of online radicalisation is now publicly recognised in a way that it wasn’t after the 7/7 bombings. This is partly due to the hard work Sajda has done at JAN Trust to highlight the dangers of online radicalisation, and tackle it from a grassroots approach.

She developed and delivers the award-winning Web Guardians™ programme which is the first of its kind educating and empowering Muslim women and mothers to prevent and tackle online extremism, building community resilience.

The programme has reached the homes of the most vulnerable in the UK where mothers have been empowered to be effective Web Guardians™ of their children protecting them from being radicalised online.

Sajda says:
“I didn’t become a fatal victim of extremism as 56 others did, and countless more have since. If someone had been watching out for the signs of Germaine Lindsay’s radicalisation, we might have been able to prevent what happened on 7/7. We might have been able to save the lives of those who died.”

What is important is the need for my work and the Web Guardians programme to continue in order to prevent online radicalisation and save lives. Sustained funding would enable us to reach as many mothers, children and communities as possible. Without it, we run the risk of more individuals, particularly young people, being brain washed online, and then I dread to think what could happen. I do not want another 7/7 and I need your support so enough really can be enough.”

What the headlines aren’t telling you about the BBC pay gap

By now, most people are aware of the shocking (but perhaps not surprising) gender pay gap among the top earners of the BBC. The numbers were released to the public last week, and damning headlines about the gender pay gap ensued. However, there is even more discrimination within the BBC than the headlines would have you believe. The pay gap faced by the BAME community is also large, but this is hardly the focus of most articles on the big reveal. Why is this, and how can the BAME community and society at large handle the challenges they face in terms of representation and equal pay?

First, let us review the disappointing numbers released by the BBC. Only 10 out of the 96top-earners at the BBC were from a BAME background. The BBC’s top earner, Chris Evans, earned roughly the same amount as all of the BAME top earners combined! These numbers are perhaps shocking, but to charities such as JAN Trust who work to combat issues of racial discrimination and prejudice every day, it is no surprise. These numbers show clearly that BAME individuals remain excluded from the elite, and statistics from other research confirms this. People from BAME background account for only 6% of top management positions, despite making up 14% of the working-age population.

Diversity is hugely important in the workplace, and even more so in high profile organisations like the BBC. In our modern society, who we see on TVandwho we have in the background of entertainment (such as screenwriters, directors, and crew) is hugely influential. Entertainment should be a reflection of society, and if the BBC does not represent society as it is, people will develop a skewed view of the world, one where minorities are invisible. Ultimately, viewers might find the real world difficult to deal with because it appears too different from the world they immerse themselves in through TV. Arguably, a lack of diversity in entertainment will ultimately result in a worldview where diversity seems unnatural, leading to prejudiced and racist attitudes.

In terms of representation, sticking to “tradition” is often more comfortable and safe than to venture into the uncharted land of “diversity”. Reluctance to represent BAME individuals in popular entertainment can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle. Casting directors may be hesitant to increase diversity in entertainment over concerns that a break from tradition will reduce audience numbers. This results in no change ever taking place, because no one wants to take the first leap. More diversity within the entertainment industry will be a progressive step towards representing multiculturalism in society.

When even the headlines hesitate to call the BBC out for its lack of diversity, it is apparent that we still have a long way to go. Of course, the gender pay gap is also an important issue to highlight, but the fight for one type of equality should never overshadow another.

See more about the work we do empowering BAMER women and supporting diversity on our website http://www.jantrust.org.

‘Masculinity so fragile a woman only needs to breathe to hurt it’

“As a women (sic) we must stand up for ourselves. As a women we must stand up for each other … As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe that I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thought free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM. J” Qandeel Baloch wrote just three days before her murder.

In the early hours of Saturday, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch (born Fouzia Azeem) was given a tablet and then strangled to death by her younger brother Waseem in a so-called ‘honour killing’. Her brother admitted at a press conference in the presence of police that he had murdered his sister because “she [had] brought dishonour to the Baloch name” with her provocative posts on social media.

Feminist groups in Pakistan immediately launched an online petition condemning the murder of Qandeel Baloch and demanding that the government put her killer on trial. Since her murder on Saturday various opinions have been expressed with some including those who support the petition blaming her death on the way in which the media attacked her and revealed information about her private life. The Pakistani Government was also blamed for failing to respond to Baloch’s request for protection.

According to the BBC, 1,096 women were killed in Pakistan by relatives in ‘honour killings’ last year. This represented a 21% increase between 2013 and 2015. In February, Punjab, the country’s largest province, passed the Protection of Women against Violence Bill, a landmark law, criminalising all forms of violence against women. This was met with an uproar by religious groups and all mainstream Islamic parties who want the law repealed. They fear that the law will encourage women to divorce thereby destroying the country’s traditional family system. In reality, what is feared is the loss of control of women and the dismantling of a patriarchal society.

In a recent and rare development the state has become the complainant in Qandeel’s murder making it impossible for her family to pardon her killers by using blood money laws. Blood law is a traditional law which involves the payment of blood money.  It is usually the avenue taken by families but leads to the dropping of murder charges. What is needed is reform of such laws so that those who commit such acts are tried in court.

‘Honour killings’ are not just a problem in Eastern culture but in Western too as Pakistani feminist groups pointed out in their petition citing the following cases: 31-year-old Maria Nemeth disembowelled by her boyfriend Fidel Lopez in Florida, United States; 27-year-old Farkhunda beaten to death by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan; 37-year-old Miriam Nyazema stabbed 26 times by her British soldier Josphat Mutekedza; the multiple victims of Elliot Rodger a violent, anti-woman killer with a manifesto in California, United States.

In the UK, 11,000 UK cases of so-called ‘honour crime’ have been recorded in five years from 2010 to 2014. Since it was established in 1989 JAN Trust has worked tirelessly to tackle honour-based violence (HBV) in its various forms for example, murder, assault, forced abortion, disfigurement, enforced suicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment or any other crime motivated by honour in order to uphold perceived cultural and/or religious beliefs.

Not only do we work with communities and religious groups and seek to influence government policy but we also provide training on HBV for agencies across London and the UK. Our training is culturally sensitive and explores religious stipulations. If you are interested in attending or arranging a training session please contact us at: info@jantrust.org
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