In the final days of the election campaign, Theresa May announced “enough is enough” – terrorism was not to be left unchallenged. She revealed a readiness to weaken human rights laws if they “get in the way” of apprehending terror suspects. Last Tuesday, the Queen’s Speech detailed the Government’s plans for tackling terrorism.
Queen Elizabeth II revealed that a “Commission for countering extremism will be established”. Interestingly, she expanded that the commission would aid eliminating extremism in “all its forms”, including “on the internet”.
JAN Trust has long emphasised the dangers of online radicalisation – publishing a pioneering report on this problem in 2012. The majority of the culprits of recent terror attacks, including the Manchester arena bombing, the London Bridge attack and the Westminster attack, were all exposed to extremism on the internet. The role of the internet in the process of radicalisation is becoming increasingly clear.
This reality only highlights the importance of our Web Guardians™ programme. This is a course that empowers mothers to prevent and tackle online extremism, building community resilience.
However, without funding we are unable to continue this vital work. JAN Trust is calling out to the new government to support a programme that protects our young people from the dangers of the internet. We must put an end to online radicalisation.
In the wake of these recent terror attacks in Britain, we welcome the government’s renewed emphasis on tackling terrorism. We believe that our grassroots approach to preventing radicalisation and extremism will be integral in doing so, and we hope to receive recognition and financial support to carry on our work.
We want all our children, families and communities to be safe from violence and extremism. To learn more about the Web Guardians™ programme, watch this testimony.
Two Muslim cousins, enjoying 21st birthday celebrations, had their lives irrevocably changed on June 21st after becoming disfigured in an acid attack in East London. Sparking a nationwide debate, the rise of acid attacks in the UK is now under the spotlight.
Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan were on their way out to celebrate Resham’s 21st birthday. As they were waiting at a traffic light in East London, a stranger knocked on their window and then proceeded to throw acid across them both. The attack on the two Muslim cousins is being treated as a hate crime.
Resham, who was hoping to begin a career as a model, has written a letter to the public from hospital, alongside a petition, calling for tougher restrictions over purchasing corrosive substances, which can currently be bought and carried legally. Her letter asks:
“Why are acids the new street weapon? Because corrosive substances are readily available in-store and online for as little as £6.50 and the laws surrounding possession is loose.”
Since 2010, almost 2,000 acid attacks have been reported in London alone. Almost a third of these attacks occurred in the borough of Newham, east London. The majority of these cases have not led to trial, with 74% of cases being shelved due to victims being unable to identify perpetrators.
On July 13th, five attacks were carried out in succession across London by young boys on stolen mopeds. Some of victims were delivery drivers on mopeds, prompting a protest from drivers across the workforce. Delivery drivers are targets of regular motor-vehicle robberies, which are increasingly involving acid attacks which aim to debilitate victims.
Across the world, victims of acid attacks are disproportionately female, often carried out by partners or ex-partners, or even family members in cases of ‘honour’ based violence. However, in the UK both the perpetrators and victims are mostly young men. Experts have suggested one reason for the increase has been tougher regulations on the availability of guns and knives, making acid an attractive and easily available alternative.
In order to stop these attacks, people are calling for stricter laws and regulations when it comes to buying and possessing acid. One solution would be to upgrade acid to a restricted substance, meaning a licence is required for purchase. The police have been provided with rapid response kits in order to be able to treat victims of attacks as quickly as possible at the scene of the crime.
While not all the victims are Muslim, in wake of these attacks, particularly that on the aforementioned Jameel Muhktar and Resham Khan, many Muslims have expressed fear at being in public or event leaving their house, specifically in east London.
This comes at a time of increasing Islamophobia and reports of incidents of hate crime in the wake of both the Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks that occurred within quick succession this year. Tell MAMA found that racist incidents increased 530% in the week following the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert, and reported a 240% increase in anti-Muslim hate in the seven-day period following the London Bridge attack on June 3.
Last weekend, in Southampton, two Muslim women were victims of a “spoof” acid attack in which they were sprayed with water. This suggests some attacks are being used to incite terror within the Muslim community and prevent them from feeling safe or accepted within society.
Many on social media have highlighted that if these attacks, such as the five attacks carried out on July 13th, were perpetrated by Muslims on white passers-by, the media reaction would have been internationally sensationalised, and they would have immediately been declared as terrorist incidents.
Jameel Mukhtar has himself addressed this issue on Channel 4 News, saying:
“If this was an Asian guy like myself, going up to an English couple in a car and acid attacking them, I know for a fact,and the whole country knows, that it would be classed as a terror attack,”
Although the attack is being investigated as a hate crime, little attention has been drawn to the extremist motivations of this attack. The perpetrator, 24 year old John Tomlin, had previously made posts expressing solidarity with far-right extremists on Facebook. These include posts shared in 2015 that say: “A sleeping lion can only be provoked so much before it wakes up and attacks…and so will us British,” and “We will stand and we will fight. We will reclaim what is rightfully ours. We will not surrender.”
At JAN Trust, we run an online support tool www.saynotohatecrime.org that provides victims a direct link to report crimes, and gives recovery advice alongside access to support networks. As long time campaigners against Islamophobia and violence against women and girls, we offer advice and support to anyone suffering in silence.
We also work hard to highlight the underestimated rise in extremism including far right extremism, and our award winning Web Guardians™ programme.
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
We 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
In our society, it seems that some lives matter more than others. Vulnerable and disadvantaged people who have merely been born in the wrong place or situation suffer for circumstances they cannot control. When will we stop ignoring the parts our population that needs our help the most?
The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower is symptomatic of how our government is failing vulnerable people. It also highlighted the many problems within the social housing system in the UK. However, the underlying problem that Grenfell has highlighted is that disadvantaged people are increasingly made more disadvantaged by society. In Grenfell Tower, an estimated 80 people lost their lives because the building they lived in was not “worth” prioritising in terms of refurbishments and safety, and countless more have been displaced because their homes were destroyed. Funds allocated for refurbishment were used to install cladding across the building for purely aesthetic purposes, following multiple complaints from richer residents that the tower was a local eyesore, which due to the cladding’s flammable nature, catalysed the inferno that engulfed the building.
Many of the people who live in social housing are disadvantaged and vulnerable because of situations they cannot control. These are people such as refugees, immigrants, single parents, and people who are unemployed for various reasons. People who are in these groups are already struggling in many ways, and often face discrimination on several levels in society. In the case of social housing in Grenfell Tower, it boils down to the fact that not even their home – what is usually a safe haven for most – could protect them. The residents in Grenfell Tower were not safe in their homes because the appearance of the building’s exterior was prioritised over the safety of the interior.
For most residents of Grenfell, like other social housing estates, the only choice they have is social housing. This means that even if you know that your home is not safe, you have to choose between that or be homeless. Residents of Grenfell repeatedly reported safety issues, including electrical failures and the lack of fire sprinklers, but their pleas were ignored. Complaints from richer residents about the building’s appearance were prioritised, it appears. The government and councils in charge of providing safe social housing betrayed the people of Grenfell Tower.
Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, wrote a public letter to Prime Minister Theresa May expressing his deep concern over the ‘decision to exclude broader social and political issues raised by the fire’ in the public inquiry, highlighting that it had ‘raised profound concerns about the way that social housing is provided and managed’. He stated that excluding these issues showed her ‘priority is to avoid criticism of your party’s policy failures rather than secure justice for Grenfell survivors’.
Of course, housing is only one of the areas in which people are let down by the government when they are in difficult situations. Education, employment and cultural participation are also other areas where disadvantaged people are deprived of the same experience and support as people who are better off. They seem to get less support, while they are the ones who need it the most.
At JAN Trust, we work to support disadvantaged women in our local community. We believe that all people, no matter their circumstances in life, deserve support and help to live safe and fulfilling lives. Therefore, we offer classes and other support to BAME and vulnerable women. Our consistent work has helped women leave abusive relationships, economically empower themselves, and become productive members of society. To learn more and support our work, visit www.jantrust.org.
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
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:
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
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.
Women comprise about half of the world’s population. This half of the world is hugely important in community development, and in the local and global economy. Yet, society is not doing what needs to be done to empower women and unlock their full potential. At JAN Trust we do our best to empower, educate and encourage women, but we need your help to do more!
Globally, women play a huge role in community development. Throughout history, women’s central role as mothers, homemakers, labourers, and thinkers has ensured the development of nations around the world. Education is crucial to the progress of any community, and mothers are the ones who most oftenurge their children to attend and stay in school
. In addition, educating women often leads to their children being more likely to achieve a higher level of education as well. Women who are educated areless likely to marry and have children early
, and tend to bear fewer children.Global Volunteers
point out that when there is a change in society “women take the lead in helping the family adjust to new realities and challenges.” This can be crucial in terms of avoiding stagnation or regression in a community when it is faced with a new political organisation of society.
Of course economy is also one of the most important factors in terms of community development. There is much research to show that empowering women will help lift both them and their communities out of poverty. As of 2010, women and girls comprised more than 70 percent of the world’s 1.4 billion poor people
according to CARE International. When women and girls are trapped in poverty, so are their families and communities. Nearly 80% of the agricultural labour force in Africa is female
– they are a huge economic resource. If these women were empowered and given the agricultural resources they lack, global hunger could be drastically reduced. In addition to this, a woman’s earning power increases by 10-30 percent for each year of education she receives. This shows once again that providing education for women results in a larger economic input into families and communities, strengthening community development.
Striving for gender equality and female empowerment is hugely important to be able to profit from the economic force that is women. Research
has shown that companies with more women in senior management positions perform better and receive higher profits. It has also been proven that women make better investors than men. Yet many women around the world are still excluded from paid work and are not able to make full use of their skills. To boost economic growth, women must be empowered to partake in the global workforce and society must be structured in a way that will allow them to participate.
At JAN Trust, our work is premised on the vital role that women play in their communities. This is why we work with women every day, to educate, empower and encourage them. One of our recent projects to try and boost the economic independence of the vulnerable women we work with, is the “We Design Haringey”
campaign. We are currently trying to raise money to provide Fashion & Design workshops to women in Haringey, as well as establishing a pop-up shop where they will be able to sell their products. Not only would this project help the women develop crucial skills, it would also help empower them economically. This in turn would contribute to the economic development of our local community of Haringey – the sixth most deprived borough in London.
In addition to this campaign, we run regular services and programmes at our centre and around London to empower marginalised women. One example is our highly praised Web Guardians™ programme, which aims to educate mothers on online extremism. After completing the programme they are armed with tools that will help them protect their children from being radicalised online. At our centre, we also offer a variety of classes including English language skills, and general life skills that empower women and give them a safe space to learn and develop.
To donate to “We Design Haringey” click here
, and click here
to learn more about our award-winning Web Guardians™ programme. For more information about our work click here.
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.
June 8th has finally come – Election day. After an intensive six-week General Election campaign, we now have a chance to go to the polls and have our voices heard.
This election will decide who holds power for the next five years. Today is the single opportunity to influence this. We have a chance to make decisions over so many vital issues: how our NHS will be funded, how our schools are run, how Brexit negotiations will be carried out. Politics matters as it can alter every aspect of life.
The importance of this election is only highlighted further by the particularly contrasting nature of the policy promises made by the two leading parties, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The course of the UK over the next five years will differ greatly depending on this election result. It is therefore of the upmost importance that everyone can have their voices heard today to influence the direction the UK will take.
It is particularly important for ethnic minorities to vote. Historically, the BAME community have had a very low voter turnout. The interests of ethnic minorities will only be most accurately and strongly represented through the ballot box.
Through simply marking a cross on a ballot paper at your local polling station today, we can influence the laws and policies that will affect us for the next five years. At JAN Trust we believe that voting is an important way to make your voice heard and represented in British society.
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.
“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.”
Last week, King Salman announced through royal decree that the long-standing ban prohibiting women from driving in Saudi Arabia will be lifted by 24th June 2018. Saudi Arabia is currently the only country in the world where women cannot legally drive; a law which has received widespread condemnation and has become a signifier across the globe of the country’s strict patriarchal regime.
The news of the ban being lifted has been much anticipated and celebrated, especially by the brave activists who have been fighting tirelessly for years to change the law; jeopardising their own freedoms in the process. One such activist, Manal al-Sharif, who galvanised the women’s right to drive campaign after being detained for filming herself behind the wheel, made an emotional statement on social media:
"You want a statement here is one: "Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop" #Women2Drive"
There is no doubt that this decree is a huge step forward for women’s rights in the notoriously conservative region and it has been deeply moving to witness the outpouring of joy and a brief moment of respite across social media. Activists are now witnessing the culmination of their efforts over the years and the foundation for change is starting to emerge. However, the attitudes which have given rise to and emanate from the system cannot change overnight and whether this ruling marks a monumental shift in the consciousness of the Saudi Arabia is still murky territory.
For those who uphold the conservative values of the state and its strict interpretation of religious doctrine, the lifting of the driving ban has been met with resistance. On the eve of the landmark announcement, one of the top trending hashtags on Saudi Arabia’s twitter feed was “The women of my house won’t drive.” This unfortunately demonstrates that there is a lot of work to be done to change people’s hearts and minds, which the lifting of a law can’t immediately solve.
This outlook is also characterised by the continued enforcement of the kingdom’s male guardianship system; a binding set of regulations which prevent women from being able to truly govern their own lives. In this way, women are obligated to gain the permission of a male guardian in order to study or travel outside the country, start their own business, get married or even leave prison. There has been no official comment as of yet from Saudi officials as to whether the lifting of the driving ban marks the start of a U-Turn on these types of policies, which dominate the daily lives of Saudi women. However, Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman, has stated the new driving procedures will ensure that women will be able to drive alone and apply for their licenses without gaining permission from their male guardians.
Although the practicalities of the implementation of this ruling will be discussed by a new specialised committee in the next 30 days, this detail, if true, has the potential to be hugely significant. If this comes to fruition, it would mark a loosening of a facet of guardianship legislation; setting a precedent which holds a mirror up to the guardianship system itself. The inconsistency of allowing women to drive without a male guardian, but still needing the permission of a guardian to travel or start a business is stark. The example set by this ruling sparks hope that it will act as a catalyst for the undermining of the guardianship system altogether.
Moreover, the recent news of a mixed audience being permitted to celebrate in the national stadium, and the proposal of new legislation criminalising sexual harassment, spells promising change for the kingdom. Equality for the women of Saudi Arabia feels like it is inching closer, but it is not a given. At JAN Trust we believe it is possible to celebrate these victories yet still acknowledge that there is much work to be done to ensure that societal attitudes are changed and that women’s rights are fully enshrined in law. For those of us witnessing this moment in history, it is vital to not get complacent and continue to support and fight for the rights of women in the UK, Saudi Arabia and around the world.