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

women's rights

Hijabs, the Scottish police and women’s bodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAN Trust in Press

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

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

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OBE Investiture

Our Founder, Rafaat Mughal, was awarded with her OBE on Tuesday 4th March 2014 at Buckingham Palace by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. She received her OBE due to her work towards disadvantaged women. We are very proud of her!

This award was covered by press including the Haringey Independent and the Haringey Advertiser. To view the Haringey Independent article: CLICK HERE

Released Tuesday 11th March 2014

Rafaat Mughal, founder of the JAN Trust in Wood Green, receives OBE from Prince William

A women’s rights activist who received an OBE in the Queen’s New Years honours list received her medal from Prince William.

Rafaat Mughal, founder of the JAN Trust in Wood Green, was honoured for her work empowering women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

On Tuesday, March 4, the Duke of Cambridge presented her with the prize at Buckingham Palace.

Mrs Mughal said: “I was absolutely delighted to receive the OBE and the event in Buckingham Place was really good and very well organised as you’d expect.

“Prince William asked me what our organisation is doing and I told him briefly what we are about.

“He was very happy to hear about it and told me to keep up the good work.”

Mrs Mughal started the trust in 1989 and has since helped thousands of women across London to become independent, active members of society.

She said: “I told Prince William that we have helped more than 50,000 women in the past 25 years by helping them learn English, understand the British system so they take part in society and not feel isolated.

Mrs Mughal added: “I do this work because it is in me and a part of who I am.

“I feel very thrilled with all I have accomplished and it’s been great to be recognised by Buckingham Palace but I think it’s even better to hear it from my children.

“My children told me 'mum we are really proud of you' and I just burst into tears.”

As well as founding the charity, Mrs Mughal also lectures on the Middle East, east Africa and Europe, and previously worked as a researcher on issues affecting ethnic minorities.

She was also one of the first Muslim women to be elected as a councillor in Haringey.

Mrs Mughal was invited to 10 Downing Street by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was also runner-up for the Lifetime Achievement Award 2012 in the Directory of Social Change Awards.

The challenge of institutional racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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