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

terrorism

Burkini ban busted!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting extremism 11 years on after the London bombings

Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of the London bombings, a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bomb attacks in Central London that killed 52 people and injured many more. As we remember those who lost their lives, and those who were injured on that terrible day 11 years ago, we chat with our Director, Sajda Mughal OBE, a survivor of the 7/7 bombings, about that fateful day and how it changed her life.

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the London bombings. How does it make you feel thinking about that day 11 years on? Are you still affected by it, and if so, how?

It’s been 11 years but I am still haunted by what happened to me on that day. It’s a day I will never ever forget. It changed my life forever. Tragedy struck that day in the form of an indiscriminate attack which resulted in innocent lives being lost. Every year, around the anniversary of 7/7, I suffer flashbacks and on a day-to-day basis I try to avoid travelling on the tube because I still find it very difficult. It brings back memories of my tragic journey to work that morning. Had my OCD of wanting to sit on the first carriage got the better of me I wouldn’t be alive today. Germaine Lindsay detonated his bomb 10 seconds after the train departed Kings Cross, killing innocent people and injuring many more. I am fortunate to be alive today and to be able to make a difference by trying to prevent such an attack from happening again.

You have spoken in the media countless times about what happened to you that day and how it changed your life. Can you tell us a bit about how exactly it changed your life and motivated you to do the work you have been doing for the last 11 years?

The London bombings changed my life completely. Before that day I was working in the corporate sector working my way up the career ladder and earning a good salary. I was in a good job but what I experienced set me on a new path.

I was left bewildered after the attack. I just couldn’t comprehend why someone would choose do such an awful thing. I wanted to find out who the suicide bombers were. When I read about them, and discovered that they called themselves Muslim my first thought was how can they call themselves Muslim because this was not the Islam I knew. I then thought about their families, particularly their mothers, and what they must be thinking. My mother is so important to me and I couldn’t imagine the pain and anguish she would feel if one of her children were to do such a thing.

In 2008, I joined JAN Trust, a multi-award winning charity working at the grassroots with women and young people from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities. The charity already had well-established links with mothers from communities affected by the issue of radicalisation and extremism. I wanted to work with these mothers because I saw them as the key to tackling radicalisation and extremism. In Islam a huge amount of respect is conferred upon mothers. We believe that heaven lies at the feet of your mother, and so I felt that working with Muslim mothers was the right way to go if we wanted to really address the issue of radicalisation and extremism. We conducted research and consultations over a number of years on Internet Extremism which we then used to design and develop our highly acclaimed Web Guardians© programme. We have been and continue to be at the forefront of working with women and mothers to tackle radicalisation.

There are organisations that are now realising, years later, that it is by engaging with families that we can address this issue, but JAN Trust has been doing this for the last 10 years with a genuine passion, commitment and dedication to making a difference. It’s what we’ve been saying all along and our experience of working with mothers who have challenged extremism from within the home has guided our work on de-radicalisation. We have campaigned that mothers are central to the fight against radicalisation and extremism. If they are provided with the right support, in terms of knowledge and skills from an organisation such as ours, with the knowledge, expertise and genuine interest and concern, they can be  empowered to challenge extremism.

One of the main issues you work on with women and young people is preventing radicalisation and extremism. Do you see any relationship between hate groups and Far-right ideological violence?

Yes, as well as working with women and mothers to address the issue of radicalisation and extremism we also work with schools with students, parents, teachers and governors on safeguarding against extremism. I think that the rise in Far-right violence is proof that there is a relationship between hate groups and Far-right ideological violence and there have been warnings from groups such as ourselves and Hope Not Hate about this.

A few weeks ago, we saw the tragic and brutal death of Labour MP Jo Cox who was killed by a man that was inspired by Far-right ideology. There are other examples such as Anders Brevik who sympathised with the views of Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), and Pavlo Lapshyn who murdered Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham.

We have continuously highlighted the threat that Far-right poses in our work with women and schools. We need to address the threat of Far-right extremism and ensure all forms of extremism are taken seriously not just extremist acts by people who claim to be Muslim.

What do you think needs to be done to tackle extremism? What is the way forward?

As I’ve just mentioned I think that all forms of extremism should be taken seriously – this is the first thing because extremism is not specific to a faith, race or ethnicity and it affects everybody as we’ve seen with terrorist acts being committed all over the world. By addressing one form of extremism, you alienate people, you make them feel marginalised which exacerbates the problem and you prevent yourself from being able to engage with communities because they don’t trust you.

I’m an advocate of the bottom-up approach. I believe it’s important to engage with communities, to understand what they are thinking and feeling in order to identify the root causes of the problem and then work with them to design the appropriate solutions. Our Web Guardians© programme has shown that this is the most effective way to tackle radicalisation and extremism. The feedback from professionals and women and mothers who have attended the programme confirm this. On lady told us“When I first came to the course I didn’t know that much about the internet or radicalisation and extremism but now I’ve learnt a lot. I can teach my children, and my grandchildren. I can show them the way because this issue affects everyone in the family and someone who is thinking of going to Syria must know this.’

We were told at the end of one session by a lady working for a local council “Thank you for today’s session. It was great. One of the mothers has her son in the Channel programme. This was hard hitting for her and will help.”

I would also say that another reason we have been effective is because the women and young people we work with are able to identify with us coming from the same religious and a similar cultural background. We understand the challenges they face. This immediately creates an atmosphere where honest debate and discussion about a highly sensitive and highly contentious issue can take place.

JAN Trust in Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAN Trust in Press

Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.

Press also spoke to some of the mothers who were part of the programme in London and how it helped them and their children. The article is below and the radio coverage and be heard here: CLICK HERE

The only Muslim survivor of the 7/7 bombings says she is desperate to stop young Muslims being radicalised. And now Sajda Mughal has herself found a radical solution to extremism: Muslim mothers.

Ms Mughal has spent most of her adult life fighting Islamic extremism.

On 7 July 2005 she was running late and had taken the Piccadilly line to her job in the City.

She believes there was just one other Muslim on board her Tube train - Germaine Lindsay, whose bomb was to kill 27 people on board, including himself.

Ms Mughal says: "What happened on 7/7 basically made me think about why those four had carried out the attack, and in what ideology, which was obviously an incorrect ideology."

'Society's nurturers'

Now 31, she is director of the JAN Trust, which provides support and advice to women she describes as coming from the margins of society: "Often they have no education, no English and no employment."

Last month the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said Muslim children who are at risk of being radicalised by their parents should be taken into care.

But Ms Mughal's solution to the problem of radicalisation is the creation of a group of Muslim mothers to fight on the front line of the battle against extremist ideology in Islam.

One of the JAN Trust's declared aims is to "empower women as society's nurturers", and its latest scheme, called the Web Guardians, aims to give the mothers of young Muslims the online know-how to stop children being radicalised behind their own bedroom doors.

Ms Mughal explains the philosophy behind the programme: "We are equipping these Muslim mothers with the key skills, with the knowledge in order for them to go online and to monitor their children.

"But we provide them with a counter-narrative for them to have discussions with the children in a safe offline environment."

In a downstairs room at the JAN Trust's office near Alexandra Palace in north London, seven women sit in a circle.

As well as Ms Mughal and her interpreter there are mothers whose families originate from disparate Muslim communities.
Sajda Mughal receiving an award

Sajda Mughal is determined to combat Islamic fundamentalism

Sajda Mughal is determined to combat Islamic fundamentalism

Zahra is Somali; Maryam is Palestinian; Muneer comes from Iran; and Samina and Seema are both Pakistani.

As well as their Muslim faith, what they have in common are teenage children.

Maryam tells of her son's anger with the situation in Gaza, where her family come from: "When they see the way things are going, it wasn't right. It's double standards."

'Grievance about Syria'

As she speaks the others nod their heads in tacit sympathy.

"But now they go for Syria. My son was in a demonstration for Syria because they say something is not right," says Maryam.

All the women say their teenagers are curious and often angry about events in the countries where their families orginated, as well as being keen to do something.

The places most often up for discussions are Syria, Iran and Egypt.

In the past this anger on the part of young Muslims have been channelled into radicalisation. But Ms Mughal believes these mothers' interventions with their children could stop that happening in the future.

She says mothers are a much greater influence than the mosque or school attended by teenagers.

Ms Mughal says of Maryam: " Her son has a grievance about Syria, but he has channelled it positively by attending a demonstration rather than destructively".

A study by the JAN Trust found more than 90% of the Muslim mothers it spoke to lacked web access, and were unaware what their teenage children were viewing online.

The Web Guardians project teaches mothers how to use the web before they learn how to look at their children's internet history.

Part of the course involves exposing them to the violent language and imagery used by extremist websites, with shocking results for some of them.

Ms Mughal's interpreter, Rafaat, a Muslim mother herself, told of the horrified reactions when they first saw such pictures: "When the photographs were shown there was silence and all of sudden I could hear… wow, what's happening?"

These mothers' shared experiences suggest this project might genuinely help prevent the radicalisation of some young Muslims.

JAN Trust in Press

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

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

Jihadi Bride Heading Women’s Cell

This week news reports emerged that British widow Sally Jones is leading a secret army of female jihadis who are aiming- along with their children, to launch a violent wave of suicide attacks in Europe.

The mother of two has been hailed by Daesh as a figurehead for the recruitment of western girls and women. Bragging about her plans to release hell on the UK through planned attacks and suicide missions, Sally Jones has been able to maintain a presence on social media despite her accounts repeatedly being taken down. She is also believed to have recruited other females through social media.

Let’s talk about the far-right.

“Britain first, Britain will always be first” and “I am a political activist,” are the words which burst forth from Thomas Mair’s mouth as he stabbed Labour MP Jo Cox; a humanitarian, campaigner and mother of two children, to death in the street in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

These words make unequivocally clear what was initially under debate when the story first emerged in the midst of a referendum campaign fraught with emotive political mud-slinging, fallacious information and rampant racism: that Thomas Mair was a political actor, and his act of murder was underpinned by far-right ideology. It is this week, as the case comes to trial, that the significance of these words has finally been registered.

The fact that the political impetus which prompted this attack was initially under question is an indicator of both the mainstream media’s determination to adhere to a narrative that political terrorism can only be committed by minority groups, particularly Muslims, and its utter failure to register the political forces at play beyond the elite metropolitan epicentre.

I’ll start with the first point – the perpetuation of the narrative that terrorism is a ‘Muslim’ problem. The initial discourse surrounding Jo Cox’s murder, that Thomas Mair was a ‘loner,’ with a ‘history of mental illness,’ utterly erases the existence of far-right nationalist ideology which, like any form of extremism, can be utilised to justify acts of murder as serving a ‘higher’ social purpose.

Of course, it is likely that Thomas Mair did suffer from significant mental health problems, and in many ways he is a pitiable figure who was radicalised by ideologies of hate and fear of the other. This is no different from many perpetrators of Islamic terrorism, many of whom have had a history of mental illness (Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, the man behind last year’s Nice attacks, and Michael Adebowale, one of the murderers of soldier Lee Rigby are two such examples). Yet in the reportage of the latter two events, the role of Islamic extremism was foregrounded from the beginning. By contrast, in the crucial first stories which covered Jo Cox’s murder, Thomas Mair was described as “quiet, polite and reserved” and “not a violent man.” Through this display of compassion and understanding towards white violent extremists, whilst their Muslim counterparts are portrayed as monsters, the media further entrenches cultural stereotypes in the Western world that terrorism is a uniquely ‘Islamic’ problem, othering Islamic culture as inherently dangerous. By offloading the very real issue at play – that extremist narratives are increasingly gaining traction – as a ‘foreign’ culture’s problem, the media fails to recognise the grave threat which is posed by far-right and white nationalist movements, which in turn prevents serious, concerted efforts to challenge and prevent their rise in power.

The second issue, that the media’s temperature check on what’s going on in British society is skewed due to its proverbial eyes being turned inwards towards social life in the capital, is one which I registered immediately, reading the breaking news story in an office in central London as a northerner in exile. The fact that Jo Cox hailed from a socially deprived, post-industrial town in West Yorkshire meant that she was undoubtedly aware of the profound impact that the xenophobic, anti-immigrant messages have had amongst communities which have been economically starved by neoliberalism and the decline of manufacturing. Groups such as the EDL, the BNP and Britain First, far too often dismissed scathingly as objects of ridicule by commentators based in the capital, have made huge gains in these areas. Educated, economically privileged and London-centric groups which dominate the media and politics fail to recognise the terrible ramifications of their casual scapegoating of immigrants to explain the punishing effects of an austerity programme which has ripped apart communities in the regional north. It happened with Brexit, and the horrifying wave of hate crimes which followed, and it happened here – with Jo Cox’s tragic murder. This rhetoric is not simply political theatre; it panders to and strengthens the far right.

Aside from the terrible fact that Jo Cox’s family and friends have been deprived forever of someone they love, there is profound tragedy to be found in the fact that Jo Cox probably understood more than many of her fellow MPs in Westminster the social forces at play in post-industrial towns like Birstall which have bestowed ideologies of hate and extremism with the power they seek. If we want to remember Jo, and the messages of hope and love she articulated throughout her life, then we must take the threat of the far right seriously. This begins by taking preventative steps.

At JAN Trust, we work with mothers and in schools to educate, inform and prevent extremism – whether this is from far-right movements or from Islamic extremism. We acknowledge and understand the danger of extremist language wherever it appears, and in whatever shape it assumes, and we work hard to prevent it from taking hold – so that we might prevent future tragedies.

Mothers fighting radicalisation

Just before Christmas, we completed a number of our Web Guardians© programme across the UK educating Muslim mothers about extremism and the dangers of the Internet. Our aim in the Web Guardians© programme is to empower mothers to prevent radicalisation and online radicalisation in their own families and communities.

We’re happy to say, yet again, that the programme throughout the country was a great success! Each week we had a fantastic turnout, and we watched with pride as the mums became more engaged in the discussion week-on-week.

Many spoke of concerns about their children ranging from the internet, through to bullying, through to Islamophobia. This was their safe space where they could speak up and receive not only help from JAN Trust, but the understanding and empathy from mothers in similar situations.

Getting used to this open conversation is key to our battle in fighting extremism before it takes hold. If children do not feel as though they can air their views openly to their mothers, they may feel isolated and confused, leaving them prey to online radicalisation.

Below is a selection of the great quotes the mothers came up with:

“The teaching of Islam is beautiful. If there is unity in the house with the children, then after they die this unity will continue.”

“If you think killing one person will take you to paradise, you’re not just killing one – you’re killing their family and everyone they leave behind. This isn’t from Paradise.”

“I will teach my children the true teachings of Islam and of Jihad – and what that actually means.”

Inspirational words! We’re excited to pick up in 2017 where we left off in 2016 – encouraging dialogue, raising awareness about the dangers of extremism and empowering mothers to spread counter messages of hope and peace within their communities.

To find out more about our Web Guardians© programme, please visit our website: http://webguardians.org/

Press coverage - Mirror

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

Vulnerable Minds: How Daesh is Recruiting Iraqi Children and Targeting British Teenagers

As Iraqi forces’ liberation of Mosul continues, attention is increasingly focusing on what Daesh will do next.
 
It’s feared their leaders, members and sympathisers will ramp up their sinister efforts to target our young people here in Europe, calling for so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil, prompting calls for us all to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our children online.
 
One of Daesh’s most horrifying future strategies is the indoctrination and training of a new generation of fighters. As Daesh’s failed ‘caliphate’ collapses, hoards of fighters have been deserting the ranks – if they haven’t already been killed in combat or suicide attacks. Now, Daesh is preying on the most vulnerable and malleable minds: those of Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
The Independent recently published letters from young radicalised recruits to their parents, discovered at abandoned Daesh hideouts in eastern Mosul. They make for heart-wrenching reading.
 
One, written by Iraqi schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi, says: “My dear family, please forgive me. Don't be sad and don't wear the black clothes [of mourning]. I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise.” He was killed by his suicide vest shortly after. It’s thought he was just 16 years old.
 
The news agency Reuters has managed to gain access to relatives of the teenagers who left the notes.
 
Family members tell a story of innocence; of vulnerable, fragile minds being targeted and then indoctrinated. A man reveals that his teenage relative, who was recruited by Daesh and killed in a suicide attack, had been overweight and insecure and joined the jihadists after his father's death. He told Reuters: “His mind was fragile and they took advantage of that, promising him virgins and lecturing him about being a good Muslim. If someone had tempted him with drugs and alcohol, he probably would have done that instead.”
 
It is this last statement that hits home. As parents, we all understand the worry that our children will hang out in the ‘wrong crowd’ and get into drugs. Young minds are open to influence and eager to try new things – to ‘grow up’. It can be as easy as that.
 
In Iraq and Syria, young people may not be exposed to violence in the same format that our children are in the UK. Despite our efforts to shelter or protect them, our kids consume film, TV, online and video game violence to a point of such desensitisation that it is normalised. They witness the violence occurring in places like Syria and Iraq through their screens.
 
Syrian and Iraqi children on the other hand are directly witnessing violence on the streets in the most gruesome and horrific ways. Some have even been exposed to it under the regime of Daesh as the terrorist group took control of their neighbourhoods, yet even they are vulnerable to radicalisation.
 
Violence is glamourised in action films and video games in the virtual world British children often live in. The brutal realities of extreme violence are all too real for many Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
Some may be more susceptible to radicalisation than others. But all are vulnerable.
 
Phone apps and the Internet make it simple for a direct line to be formed between a Daesh militant in Iraq and our children here in the UK. Daesh knows that our young people are excited by video game violence, by the idea of handling a rifle and fighting an enemy.
 
Considering all of this, we must educate ourselves about the dangers and threats are children face and ensure lines of communication are open between us as parents and our children to protect them and prevent radicalisation.
 
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project.
 
Many families have been destroyed by Daesh. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against home-grown radicalisation so that more families do not have to suffer this same fate.
 
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://jantrust.org/projects/web-guardians
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