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

Citizenship,

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.

Kelvin Mackenzie and Islamophobia

Fatima Manji

Nearly two weeks ago, on Bastille Day, the city of Nice was attacked; 84 people were killed and 303 people injured. The killer was a divorced, father of three named Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Born in Tunisia, he later immigrated to France, settling in Nice, in 2005, where he worked as a delivery-truck driver.

Four days after the attack, a news article was published by The Sun, written by one of its former editors Kelvin Mackenzie who wrote that he “could hardly believe (his) eyes” when he saw “a young lady wearing a hijab” presenting the news following the Nice attack. Mackenzie believes it was inappropriate of Channel 4 to have a Muslim woman reporting the news when “there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim.”  This woman is Fatima Manji, a news reporter who joined Channel 4 in 2012, and has covered several news stories during her time with the channel such as the Natwest banking problem.

Since the release of the article, there have been over 1700 complaints sent to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) as well as a formal complaint made by Fatima Manji herself and one from the CEO of the Independent Television News (ITN) who produce content for Channel 4 and other channels. The article has sparked a national outrage and once again questions what the authorities are doing to tackle the rise in Islamophobia in the UK.

As of September of last year, there has been a 70% increase in Islamophobia in the UK, with 60% of this hate being targeted towards Muslim women. In the last year, particularly since the attack in Paris, there has been a 300% increase in attacks on Muslims, mainly women. Prominent figures in the community are speaking out against this rise such as ex-Conservative Party Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, who highlighted this figure in a letter she sent to The Sun’s editor to complain about the article. These are shocking statistics, yet news stories like the one written by Kelvin Mackenzie continue to be published.

Since writing the article, The Sun has published another article written by Kelvin where he seemed unapologetic and mocked people for complaining:

“Instead of accusing me of Islamophobia (yawn! yawn!) Channel 4 might like to try finding a Muslim presenter to front a documentary about Islam’s attitudes towards the gay community, or perhaps on how women are treated as second-class citizens in Muslim countries.”

Kelvin Mackenzie and others who hold the same views as him are clearly out of touch with what’s happening in this country right now. Muslim women are being spat on, beaten and bullied for wearing the hijab. Fatima Manji has also written an article expressing the same concerns as JAN Trust about the rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes targeted at Muslims. Since the Paris attack last year and Brexit last month, hate crime against Muslims has soared and articles like Mackenzie’s only serve to add fuel to the fire.

At JAN Trust, we work with women and young people affected by Islamophobia and hate crime. We aim to raise awareness about how these impact Muslims living and working in the UK. We are at the forefront when it comes to tackling complex and sensitive issues such as Islamophobia and extremism. Using our knowledge and expertise, we have designed and delivered workshops addressing these issues to the communities which we advocate on behalf of, as well as to professionals working on these issues. We have worked with over 10,000 young people and practitioners across London and the UK. You can visit our website Say No To Hate Crime to learn more about the work we do at community level on hate crime and how to report hate crimes.

Meet Sarla!

Sarla“Before I had no confidence to write English but now I write WhatsApp [messages] and I’m trying to use the computer as well.”

This month JAN Trust would like to introduce you to Sarla. Read her profile below:

Name: Sarla

Country of origin: India

Ethnicity: Indian

Sarla arrived in the UK in 1975 with her father-in-law from Gujrat, India. Her in-laws were already settled in the UK in London. She came to join her husband who was born in Kenya and had gone to university in India.  When she came to the UK she knew a little bit of English but was not confident in speaking.

Sarla had been in the UK a long time before she heard of JAN Trust. She learnt of JAN Trust from a friend who she met through her work. One day her friend was in a rush to get somewhere and Sarla asked her where she was going. “I have to go to school now. I’m going to JAN Trust. Aunty, why don’t you come with me?” And this is how Sarla ended up at JAN Trust by word of mouth.

When asked what she likes the most about JAN Trust, Sarla responded with a smile “I like everything. People are friendly.”

Sarla feels coming to JAN Trust has definitely helped her. “Before I had no confidence to speak and write English but now I write WhatsApp [messages] and I’m using the computer as well. My daughter has bought me a small computer now.”

To find out more about our ESOL classes and other classes we run, take a look at our website: www.jantrust.org or give us a call on: 0208 889 9433.
 

Mental Health Among South Asians

Poor mental health is normally regarded as something that affects individuals. But sometimes it can help to take a step back and look at what may be troubling the minds of particular groups in our society. There’s growing evidence that a combination of social pressures are creating overwhelming challenges for some people in the South Asian community.

It’s important to help people with mental health problems in any community. But in the case of South Asians, offering timely and effective assistance can prevent catastrophe, as young Asian men with mental health issues are increasingly being targeted by extremists and radicalised. The pain and confusion that often comes with their illness is being redirected into violent rage.

Muslim mothers v Extremism

Here at JAN Trust, we had a very busy start to 2016 travelling across the UK to deliver our innovative and highly acclaimed Web Guardians© programme.

We began working on the issue of online radicalisation and extremism after being approached by mothers who had concerns about their children. We found little research had been done on online radicalisation and extremism and so in 2006 we began conducting our own research into this area. This culminated in a report titled ‘Internet Extremism: Working Towards a Community Solution’ published in 2012 and the creation Web Guardians© a programme targeted at Muslim mothers. The programme educates and equips women and mothers with the ability and essential skills to tackle online radicalisation. Our programme has received praise not only from former Prime Minister David Cameron and both current and former members of government but most importantly from the women and mothers with and for whom the programme was developed. Web Guardians© is successful because of our technical expertise and cultural knowledge.

This week we would like to introduce you to one of our programme participants, Fatma a 39-year-old mother of two, who is originally from Somalia. When asked why she was participating in the programme, Fatma replied, ‘I have two children, a boy and a girl … Since I have two children who constantly use the Internet and ask me questions [about] whether things are appropriate, I want to know how to answer them.” Although Fatma’s husband is an IT technician, she wanted to learn herself and not from him.

We were delighted to receive an e-mail from Fatma during the course which read:

“I would like to thank you and everyone at Jan Trust for the amazing work you do to educate our communities about the benefits and dangers of new age technologies.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the Web Guardians© course and plan to implement what I learned into my daily work and family life.”

At the end of the programme, Fatma spoke about her motivation to participate in the programme and what she would be taking away from it. She felt very strongly about other mothers having the opportunity to attend the programme saying that “I want other mothers to be made aware by you, not just about how to protect themselves and their children, but also how to reach out to others in their community.”

A fortnight ago, JAN Trust caught up with Fatma to see how she was getting on. She said,

“I am always talking about the programme with my friends. I’ve told them about what I learnt and now they can protect their children.”

To find out more about Web Guardians©, take a look at our website: http://webguardians.org/ or give us a call on: 0208 889 9433. If you’re an organisation that is interested in partnering with us, please fill in our partnership form.

The rise of the trolls!

Trolls

 “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.

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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