In April 2017, Sajda featured in Time Out's weekly series 'My London Story' feature to talk about her experience of quitting life in The City to work towards prevent radicalisation and online extremism. To read a copy of the article, follow this link.
On the 23rd of March 2017, Sajda appeared on popular ITV morning show Lorraine to discuss the Westminster attacks and her personal experience of 7/7. She spoke about her difficulty re-living the attacks when tragedies such as the Westminster attack take place and the emotions she felt watching similar scenes unfold. In spite of the tragedy, Sajda noted that it was heartening to see Londoners coming together after the attack and helping each other, rather than falling victim to the divisive rhetorical the terrorists want to achieve.
You can watch the full interview here.
Our 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.”
Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.
Press also spoke to some of the mothers who were part of the programme in London and how it helped them and their children. The article is below and the radio coverage and be heard here: CLICK HERE
The only Muslim survivor of the 7/7 bombings says she is desperate to stop young Muslims being radicalised. And now Sajda Mughal has herself found a radical solution to extremism: Muslim mothers.
Ms Mughal has spent most of her adult life fighting Islamic extremism.
On 7 July 2005 she was running late and had taken the Piccadilly line to her job in the City.
She believes there was just one other Muslim on board her Tube train - Germaine Lindsay, whose bomb was to kill 27 people on board, including himself.
Ms Mughal says: "What happened on 7/7 basically made me think about why those four had carried out the attack, and in what ideology, which was obviously an incorrect ideology."
Now 31, she is director of the JAN Trust, which provides support and advice to women she describes as coming from the margins of society: "Often they have no education, no English and no employment."
Last month the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said Muslim children who are at risk of being radicalised by their parents should be taken into care.
But Ms Mughal's solution to the problem of radicalisation is the creation of a group of Muslim mothers to fight on the front line of the battle against extremist ideology in Islam.
One of the JAN Trust's declared aims is to "empower women as society's nurturers", and its latest scheme, called the Web Guardians, aims to give the mothers of young Muslims the online know-how to stop children being radicalised behind their own bedroom doors.
Ms Mughal explains the philosophy behind the programme: "We are equipping these Muslim mothers with the key skills, with the knowledge in order for them to go online and to monitor their children.
"But we provide them with a counter-narrative for them to have discussions with the children in a safe offline environment."
In a downstairs room at the JAN Trust's office near Alexandra Palace in north London, seven women sit in a circle.
As well as Ms Mughal and her interpreter there are mothers whose families originate from disparate Muslim communities.
Sajda Mughal receiving an award
Zahra is Somali; Maryam is Palestinian; Muneer comes from Iran; and Samina and Seema are both Pakistani.
As well as their Muslim faith, what they have in common are teenage children.
Maryam tells of her son's anger with the situation in Gaza, where her family come from: "When they see the way things are going, it wasn't right. It's double standards."
'Grievance about Syria'
As she speaks the others nod their heads in tacit sympathy.
"But now they go for Syria. My son was in a demonstration for Syria because they say something is not right," says Maryam.
All the women say their teenagers are curious and often angry about events in the countries where their families orginated, as well as being keen to do something.
The places most often up for discussions are Syria, Iran and Egypt.
In the past this anger on the part of young Muslims have been channelled into radicalisation. But Ms Mughal believes these mothers' interventions with their children could stop that happening in the future.
She says mothers are a much greater influence than the mosque or school attended by teenagers.
Ms Mughal says of Maryam: " Her son has a grievance about Syria, but he has channelled it positively by attending a demonstration rather than destructively".
A study by the JAN Trust found more than 90% of the Muslim mothers it spoke to lacked web access, and were unaware what their teenage children were viewing online.
The Web Guardians project teaches mothers how to use the web before they learn how to look at their children's internet history.
Part of the course involves exposing them to the violent language and imagery used by extremist websites, with shocking results for some of them.
Ms Mughal's interpreter, Rafaat, a Muslim mother herself, told of the horrified reactions when they first saw such pictures: "When the photographs were shown there was silence and all of sudden I could hear… wow, what's happening?"
These mothers' shared experiences suggest this project might genuinely help prevent the radicalisation of some young Muslims.
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
On Thursday 7th, JAN Trust won the Centre of Social Justice Award 2013 at the prestigious think-tank’s ninth annual award ceremony, held at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London.
The awards recognise grass-roots charities and voluntary organisations from across the UK that are effectively working towards combatting poverty. More than 350 people attended the awards including Neil Morrissey, Esther Rantzen CBE and Davina McCall. The evening ended with a speech by the Rt. Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Founder and Patron of the CSJ.
The award was presented to JAN Trust by the famous hair stylist John Frieda.
Sajda Mughal, Projects Director of JAN Trust said about the award:
“We are honoured to have won the Centre of Social Justice Award 2013. For over twenty years we have worked with over 50,000 women. With an increased recognition of their needs, we hope that our work will continue with even greater pace and effectiveness”
You can watch a clip on our YouTube account here.
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.
JAN Trust is delighted to announce that Nazir Afzal OBE has become our Patron.
Nazir Afzal has had an extensive and distinguished career in the Crown Prosecution Service. He was Britain’s most senior lawyer within the Crown Prosecution Service and made history as the first Muslim to be appointed to such a position.
Throughout his extensive career, Afzal has worked on numerous high profile cases, such as that of the Rochdale child abuse ring and has been CPS lead on tackling Violence Against Women, having been moved by traumatic accounts of women's suffering within his own Pakistani community. His
ethos very much aligns with that of JAN Trust, he has described that through his work he wanted to give "a voice to the voiceless" and champion the vulnerable. He pioneered work to tackle honour-based violence and forced marriage, both key concerns of JAN Trust, initially bringing these issues to the top of the public agenda through a CPS conference in 2004.
Afzal was made OBE for his services in 2005 and has been the recipient of many awards including lifetime achievement award British Pakistani Foundation in 2012 and CPS public servant of the year 2007.
Speaking about his appointment as Patron, Afzal said, “I have always been impressed by the work that Sajda and the JAN Trust carry out protecting the most vulnerable in London. They are rightly regarded as one of the finest NGOs working in the fields of violence against women and preventingextremism. It is a distinct honour to be asked to be a Patron and I am delighted to play my part in its continuing success.”
Mr Afzal is currently Pro Chancellor Brunel University, and works as an independent advisor on criminal justice and earlier this year was given the title of honourary doctorate of law from the University of Manchester.
JAN Trust is proud to have someone that we have long admired as an Ambassador and we are looking forward in working together to continue our vital work to empower BAMER women across the country.
The Mirror published a piece on our Director's 7/7 near death experience and the tireless work she has been carrying out since then with grass roots communities. The article can be found here as well as below:
I survived the 7/7 bombings and now I work to stop young people being drawn into extremism
That tube shouldn’t have been my tube, but I was running late. I worked in investment banking and I did that journey on the Piccadilly line every single day.
My routine was, without fail, to get on the first carriage. But that day I got on in the middle of the train. Had I got on my usual carriage, I may not be here today – that was the one Germaine Lindsay blew up with his bomb.
That fateful day
It was rush hour so the train was packed. It left Kings Cross and 10 seconds into the tunnel, it happened. A massive explosion, the biggest bang I’ve ever heard.
The whole train shook, everyone fell forward, it went dark and the emergency lights kicked in. Smoke started to fill the carriage and it was hard to breathe, so I took my jacket off to make a veil. People were screaming and trying to break the glass to escape but I was just frozen in shock.
It didn’t even cross my mind that it might be a bomb. I thought we’d derailed and my mind was racing, thinking, "Another train is going to crash into us and there’ll be a fireball and we’re going to burn to death".
I was preparing myself to die. My thoughts went to growing up, my family, my life was flashing in front of my eyes. I hadn’t said goodbye to my loved ones, I hadn’t got married, had children or travelled the world.
We were down there 40 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. Eventually I heard the distant voice of a policeman saying, "We’re coming to get you".
My heart had felt as if it was being strangled with a tight rope, and straight away the rope loosened. The police got us out of the carriage and escorted us down the tunnel and out of the station. It felt eerie.
The emergency services were attending to the seriously injured, so the rest of us were left to our own devices. There were crowds everywhere and I remember thinking, "What the hell are you staring at?" I went across the road to McDonald’s, ran into the toilets and broke down.
I looked in the mirror and I was black from the smoke. I cleaned myself up and tried to call my mum, but the phone lines were down. There was no transport so I had to walk home to Haringey, in North London.
I ran into my house, locked the door, closed the curtains and curled up on the sofa, waiting for my family to come and console me. I couldn’t turn on the news until the evening, and that’s when I found out it was a bomb.
It shook me, and knowing it was Muslim men shook me further. Being a Muslim, I know it clearly states in the Quran that if you take one innocent life, it’s as though you have taken the whole of humanity. What they did does not represent Islam.
I had to be signed off work, I couldn’t travel on the tube. I needed counselling, and a lot of family support got me through. When I went back to work six months later I was like a robot – my heart and mind were somewhere else.
I had questions. Why would anyone do this? What could have been done to prevent it? What about the parents of the bombers? They gave birth to them, they wanted the best for them, they would not have wanted their children to take innocent lives. That’s when my life changed.
Making a difference
Not only did I decide to get married and have children – I now have two daughters, aged six and two – I turned my back on my career. I could have continued working my way up and earned lots of money, but I wasn’t happy. I wanted to make a difference.
I started working with a charity called the JAN Trust, which helps marginalised, vulnerable women to lead more independent lives. I came on board to make a difference on the issue of extremism, working with mothers of young Muslims.
Some of these women have never switched on a computer, so we teach them to go online and expose them to the issues of radicalisation. A lot of them don’t speak English and will often only be watching TV from their own country, so they can be unaware – during one session, we found that, around the time of the beheadings, only 4% of the women knew who ISIS were.
It’s so important to educate those who can make a difference. We give them the skills to challenge their children’s grievances in a positive way, so, let’s say they’re angry about the air strikes, how do they get their voices heard in a democratic way?
We also work with schools. I’ve met students who sympathise with the 7/7 bombers. I told them my story, and put it into perspective – I could have been their sister, it was an indiscriminate attack against everyone, not just non-Muslims. We work with teachers too, as they have a duty to report radicalisation, and they’re feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with it.
Often what causes young people to be radicalised is challenging their grievances in the wrong way, but there are also the issues of alienation and high unemployment among young Muslims. The rise of Islamaphobia feeds into radicalisation too. They’re manipulated through chat rooms and social media.
Everything that’s happened since 7/7, such as the Paris attacks and the American shootings, is disheartening and worrying, but we’re making a difference on a grass-roots level. Changing one person’s mind can be enough to stop an act of terrorism.
The effects of what happened to me are still with me. I have to get on the tube for meetings, but I couldn’t do it day to day, and on the tenth anniversary, my husband told me I was screaming about the tube in my sleep.
I think about it every day. But everything happened for a reason and that day turned my life around. It strengthened my faith because it felt like an attack on Islam, thanks to the knock-on effect of Islamaphobia.
I’ve had death threats, my property vandalised, been told, "I’m going to slit your Muslim throat". I’ve feared for my life and my family want me to take a step back, but then they’ve won. They’re trying to break me down but I’m never, ever going to let that happen.
● 700 people were injured and 56, including the four terrorists, died in the 7/7 bombings. Germaine Lindsay killed 26 of them on the train Sajda was travelling on in Kings Cross. It was the deadliest single act of terrorism in the UK since the Lockerbie bombing, and the deadliest bombing in London since World War Two.
● The JAN Trust is an award-winning women’s charity providing support and assistance to vulnerable, marginalised women across the UK. Their services range from raising awareness and preventing violence against women and girls through to developing skills for empowerment and integration.
● In a study, 92% of the Muslim mothers JAN worked with had no understanding of what radicalisation is, according to research conducted by the JAN Trust’s Web Guardians(c) programme.
● In the last three years there has been a 65% increase in the number of Muslim women reporting Islamophobic incidents. The day after the Paris attacks, the JAN Trust received 15 reports of Islamophobia within an hour from Muslim women. The youngest victim of Islamophobia supported by the JAN Trust has been a seven-year-old girl.
To support JAN Trust, visit jantrust.org
Published 17th January 2016
“One person said I should get cancer, I had somebody threatening to find me and tie me up”.
Last week, best-selling feminist author, Jessica Valenti, decided to take a break from social media following death and rape threats directed at her 5 year-old daughter. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in online hate and abuse directed towards women. A fortnight ago, JAN Trust participated in a conference held in London organised by Reclaim the Internet, to address the issue of online abuse. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign which brings together media platforms, tech companies, campaign groups, think tanks, employers, trades unions, politicians, the police, teachers, students, journalists, public figures, youth organisations and young people to take a stand against online abuse.
Our Director, Sajda Mughal, has been the target of online hate speech a number of times. Recently, she was subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter following a tweet she posted about the Fireman Sam Quran incident which sparked an Islamophobic row. This week, Nottingham Women’s Centre manager, Melanie Jeffs, who successfully campaigned for misogyny to be considered a hate-crime spoke out about the abuse she’s received since Nottinghamshire Police started recording misogyny as a hate crime. The most recent high profile case of online abuse was that of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones who received a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. This led her to quit the social media platform but before doing so she spoke out against racist Twitter trolls and urged Twitter to do more to fight racist abuse saying we need to “stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones.”
A study has revealed that in the space of 3 weeks from the end of April, 6500 Twitter users received 10,000 misogynistic tweets in the UK. Internationally, the figures were 200,000 misogynistic tweets sent to 80,000 people – surprisingly, over 50% of offenders were women! A report was released by the United Nations in January 2015 which “suggests 73% of women worldwide have been exposed to or are the target of some form of cyber violence. In the 18 months since then, online abuse – particularly of women, and, in the wake of the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, female politicians – has come under greater scrutiny”.
Women aren’t the only ones being attacked online. There are countless news stories about children being afraid to go to school or college or committing suicide because of cyber-bullying. There are also stories about young people with health issues such as anorexia who face a barrage of abuse online.
Although some perpetrators have been prosecuted, civil society organisations have said that there isn’t enough being done to tackle online hate. Social media companies have been told by the government that they need to do more. Currently, Twitter’s website provides it users with instructions on how to stop abuse received via its platform. This can be done by either blocking the Twitter account, or reporting it. However, if Twitter deletes the account, the same person can create a new account. People won’t stop abusing others online until there are stricter community guidelines and they realise the consequences of violating these guidelines.
At JAN Trust, we are standing up against the hate; through our Web Guardians© programme, we educate women and mothers on how to they can protect themselves and their children when online.