JAN Trust has paved the way for the role of women to be taken seriously in society, and especially when it comes to countering extremism. We have recognised the importance of women in protecting their children from online radicalisation and extremism since 2010.
Our work with women began 30 years ago in 1989 when our founder Rafaat Mughal discovered the need for a centre to support marginalised women in the area of Haringey. Marginalised and socially excluded women were approaching Rafaat at her home seeking help and assistance. These women, living in Haringey, were facing extreme deprivation and a dire need for access to basic skills and opportunities, including the English language, education, jobs and an understanding of British services and systems. This was having an increasingly negative impact on their children who had little access to formal education. JAN Trust was opened in order to provide the vital skills and empowerment needed. We aim to encourage, educate and empower women, building their self-confidence and allowing them to become independent and active citizens and take control of their own lives. We aim to enable marginalised individuals to reintegrate with society, and improve life options for themselves, their families and the wider community.
On the 7th of July 2005, JAN Trust’s CEO Sajda Mughal, a recently-graduated student working in the banking sector was on the Piccadilly line on the way to work when a bomb was set off at King’s Cross St Pancras. Luckily, Sajda, survived, but the traumatic event made Sajda wonder why four men were encouraged to perform such a terrible act. This is why she then went on board to JAN Trust and concentrated on tackling violent extremism in the UK.
Sajda wanted the issue of extremism to become a prominent issue in the minds of politicians, and so JAN Trust led in shaping policy by producing reams of documentation. JAN Trust also led in bringing attention to the fact that radicalisation does not occur offline anymore, but predominantly online. This led to the creation of the report ‘Internet Extremism – Working Towards a Community Solution’. This was initiated with the research undertaken from 2009 for this report that included a community consultation with hundreds of Muslim women and mothers, as well as extensive online research and looking in detail at UK based case studies. The findings were incredibly revealing, showing the plethora of extremist material available online. This report has been influential in shaping policy and played a significant role in a shift of thinking; resulting in online radicalisation being taken seriously and widely discussed in all areas of counter extremism. Unfortunately, beforehand the government was not proactive when it came to the issue of extremism material online. The report was pivotal in determining much of the work of JAN Trust today, as the basis for our highly acclaimed Web Guardians™ Programme.
Unfortunately, now, after all of JAN Trust’s hard work aiming to educate women on the dangers of online radicalisation and extremism, the Web Guardians™ programme has had its funding cut by the Home Office without any explanation. After leading the way when it came to tackling extremism, we have now been sidelined by the government. Sajda Mughal, after dedicating her life after 7/7 to tackling extremism, has raised concerns with the Home Office and the Prevent strategy for not prioritising the vital relationship needed with local communities. She warned that instead of working at the grassroots level with the community, the Home Office was working with private companies instead of communities working at the local level. This lack of ability to work with the local community has been accentuated by the appointment of Sara Khan as head of the Commission for Countering Extremism, who has been criticised for being a “mouthpiece” for the Home Office.
There has been distrust of the Muslim community and of the Prevent strategy as it has been allegedly Islamophobic. JAN Trust has worked with Prevent and wants it to work, but Sajda has called for a vital independent review of the strategy in order for people to regain trust in this counter-terrorism strategy. In a recent article in The Sunday Times, Sajda warned that Prevent had become a “toxic brand.”
The work of JAN Trust in countering extremism is undeniable. We have targeted a section of the population which may otherwise have been unaware of the dangers online, mothers. Mothers are vital in shaping their child’s experience, offline and online. With our teaching we have empowered women with the necessary skills to protect their children. We hope that the Home Office realises the mistake it has made cutting funding for Web Guardians™ and now will consider an independent review into Prevent, which has struggled to have a tangibly successful impact on the community.