Extremism

0 473
Photo: Representational Image/AFP

Louise Casey’s Integration report suggests that as a society we are more divided and segregated than ever, driven in part by high levels of inequality resulting in social isolation. Her figures show that 41%-51% of Black, Pakistani, Chinese and Bangladeshi families are on relative low income compared to the 19% of White households.  People from the formerly mentioned group are three times as likely to be unemployed; the figures for young black men for example are 35% compared to 15% for young white men.

With a particular focus on Muslims, the key findings of the report make it clear  that women in isolated communities are the most severely disadvantaged and negatively impacted especially in relation to their human rights, opportunities and economic wellbeing.  This has come as a result of the failure to tackle social and economic inequalities but also harmful cultural and religious practices that exist due to the misogyny and patriarchy identified in isolated communities. Part of the failure to tackle inequality and regressive practices has been because of the fear of statutory agencies and individuals being labelled racist, or culturally insensitive.

This comes as no surprise to Inspire given our work over the last nine years. We have been at the forefront of highlighting some of the issues raised in this report.  Some of these findings were also noted recently in August in the Women and Equalities Committee report into employment opportunities and also in the census figures behind David Cameron’s English language policy announced in January 2016.  While this report reconfirms some of these barriers to integration, it has been evident that both successive and current governments have not done enough to address integration and social cohesion. The Prime Minister herself on the steps of Downing Street made it clear that she would make Britain a country that works for everyone, and not just for the privileged few. As of yet, there has been no official statement from the Government about what it intends to do in light of Louise Casey’s findings.

Louise Casey has clearly identified the need for urgent action and a new integration strategy – one that is entirely separate from Government counter terrorism and counter extremism policies. For real change, an integration strategy must be one that is holistic and permeates through all aspects of government policy, for example housing, education, welfare, culture etc.

We are concerned that if we do not urgently address the barriers to integration, the isolation, separation and inequalities that currently exist, some communities will become more isolated, and divided helping to breed resentment.  This would provide fertile recruitment ground for both Islamist and Far Right extremists, neither of whom care about creating a unified and stronger Britain.  Together we need to create an inclusive country based on a common set of values, nurture a genuine culture of belonging and ensure that all our citizens believe they have an equal stake in our society. We hope the Government will lead in delivering a Britain that does indeed work for everyone.

Yasmin Weaver- Project Manager, Inspire

0 345

Sara was honoured to be asked by the organisers to speak to 600 people at this year’s Virgin Disruptors event in London.  She spoke about how the politics of fear is contributing to closed societies, the rise of extremism and the responsibility on all of us to defend the political middle ground whether as individuals, businesses, civil society and within our schools.

To read more about what Sara spoke about please read more here.

To watch Sara’s speech click here.

0 307

Sara Khan has spent years battling the excesses of British Islamism -Review by Justin Marozzi, first published Sunday 11th September in The Sunday Times

It is a measure of the success of the vigorous campaign waged by some British Islamists against the government’s counter-extremism policy that I began this book with a sense of foreboding. It is a tribute to Sara Khan that by its conclusion the dread was directed entirely at the noisy proponents of Islamophobia, a cottage industry of extremists who do a great disservice to British Muslims and our wider society.

Thought the EU referendum campaign was marked by lies and disinformation? Not a patch on certain British Islamists’ relentless battle against the government’s counterterrorism Prevent programme. As Khan demonstrates with great acuity, they have sought to discredit it at every level within the Muslim and non-Muslim communities and, to a large degree, have succeeded, using lies and smears to achieve their ends. Khan, the co-founder of Inspire, a counter-extremism and human-rights organisation, and her colleague, Tony McMahon, have spent years fighting on the frontline against extremism and know what they — make that we — are up against.

Their work challenging the Islamist (for which read extremist) brand of the faith, fighting gender discrimination and intervening to protect youths flirting with extremism has become considerably more difficult in recent years with the convergence of two traditionally antagonistic groups, the Salafists and Islamists, both equally undesirable. Much of the extremists’ work is promoting sharia, railing against democracy and spotting Islamophobia on every street corner. Say it often enough, and people start to believe it. Repeat it in the media, and the wider public starts to think Islam and democracy are irreconcilable.

This book reveals that just as the hard left has hijacked the Labour Party, so Islamists are seeking total control of their faith so that Islamism, with its fundamental tenets of prejudice, violence, intolerance, extremism and rejection of democracy, becomes Islam.

All ideological battles have their heroes and villains. Islamists need their useful idiots and none comes more obliging than the left and the sundry anti-racist and feminist movements that collectively refuse to address Islamist extremism “in the misguided belief that such action would be Islamophobic”. Khan names and shames them with gusto. Take a bow Shelly Asquith of the National Union of Students and Exeter University’s Feminist Society, happy to join forces with Cage, an organisation that considered Isis’s British executioner Jihadi John “a beautiful young man”.

No criticism from these quarters, Khan notes, about female genital mutilation, the widespread view of gays as a “scourge” or the appropriateness of stoning as a punishment for adultery. She diagnoses an “identity catastrophe among a small but significant section of British Muslims” who hold views entirely at odds with the British tradition of pluralism, democracy and human rights.

The section in Khan’s book on how militant Islamists have commandeered the heights of British student life makes worrying reading. Who knew, for instance, that the Federation of Student Islamic Societies constituted by far the largest voting bloc at the annual NUS conference? It helped elect the student body’s first Muslim president, Malia Bouattia. Admirable at one level, her election looks less encouraging when one realises that she has called for the dismantling of the government’s Prevent programme, considers Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost”, denounces “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets” and said that condemnation of Isis was “a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia”. Ah, that word again.

If this is dispiriting, relief comes with Khan’s pen portraits of Muslim counter-extremist activists whose bravery in fighting terrorist recruiters and their sympathisers generally goes unacknowledged. These are the people who collectively provide “antidotes to poison”. If the media wanted to hear from Muslim voices beyond the usual haranguing suspects (exhibit A, Anjem Choudary of al-Muhajiroun infamy), they could do a lot worse than speak to people such as Mina Topia, a campaigner for Muslim women’s rights, Mustafa Field, a proponent of inter-faith dialogue, and Usama Hasan, an astronomer and scholar at the Quilliam Foundation. Predictably, this trio has been vilified by the Islamists. Topia was trolled and called “drunken liberal garbage”; Field was told the Prophet would have put a spear through his head because he is a Shia; and Hasan received death threats. That is what happens when you stand up against Islamists.

It is a comforting irony that some Muslim commentators believe the West leads the way in Islamic values. Khan cites Professor Hossein Askari of George Washington University, who rated Ireland, Denmark and the UK as far more Islamic than Malaysia or Kuwait. Many purportedly Islamic countries, he wrote, are “unjust, corrupt and underdeveloped”. One thinks of Saudi Arabia, whose malign influence in propagating a rigid, intolerant and puritanical brand of Islam over many years is not dwelt on here but accounts for many of the problems we are encountering today.

Let us not despair. As an open, free and tolerant country, Britain is well placed to withstand the extremist assault. Government, activists and the media all have important roles to play. As Khan says, “our greatest defence lies in the defence of our shared values”. This is an important book full of compelling, disturbing and inspirational material, required reading to understand what is happening in our midst and what we can do about it.

Read the first chapter on the Sunday Times website

Saqi £14.99 pp256
Justin Marozzi’s books include Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood. Sara Khan is at the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Monday, October 10, at 1.45pm; cheltenhamfestivals.com

0 451

By Dominic Casciani, citing Kalsoom Bashir, Inspire Co-Director. First published Tuesday 6th September 2016

Radical preacher Anjem Choudary has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for inviting support for the so-called Islamic State group.

The 49-year-old was convicted at the Old Bailey after backing the group in an oath of allegiance published online.

Police say Choudary’s followers carried out attacks in the UK and abroad.

The judge, who described Choudary as calculating and dangerous, passed the same sentence on his confidant Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 33.

Both men were also sentenced to a notification order lasting 15 years, which requires them to tell police if details such as their address change.

Choudary, of Ilford, east London, and Rahman, from Palmers Green, north London, were convicted last month of inviting support for IS – an offence contrary to section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015.

The trial heard the pair also used speeches to urge support for IS, which is also known as Daesh, after it declared a caliphate in the summer of 2014.

Counter-terrorism chiefs blame the preacher and the proscribed organisations which he helped to run, such as al-Muhajiroun, for radicalising young men and women including the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.

But they said they had been unable to act for many years as Choudary – a former solicitor – had stayed “just within the law”.

As he was sentenced, Choudary’s supporters stood up in the public gallery and shouted: “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for God is Great. He smiled and disappeared down to the cells.

For 20 years Choudary has been the police’s headache – now he is the prison service’s. He will start time in the high security unit – a prison within a prison – at HMP Belmarsh in south-east London. Only a few of the most dangerous individuals in the country are ever held there at one time – and the priority will be keeping him apart from the impressionable minds whom Mr Justice Holroyde said he did so much to influence.

Whether the prison service will succeed is unclear. Only last month it published a report that raised serious questions about how well the UK manages violent extremists behind bars. So what happens to Choudary from now on may demonstrate whether jails can securely hold people like him and prevent them from doing further harm.

Sue Hemming, CPS head of counter terrorism said: “Both men were fully aware that Daesh is a proscribed terrorist group responsible for brutal activities and that what they themselves were doing was illegal.

“Those who invite others to support such organisations will be prosecuted and jailed for their crimes.

Kalsoom Bashir from counter-extremism organisation Inspire, said she was relieved the law had caught up with Choudary, saying he has been described as “the gateway to terror”.

“He has enticed those individuals who were on the fringes of society towards supporting violent extremism and giving them, behind closed doors, justification for committing acts of violence in the name of terror – those who heard him then went on to commit those acts of terror.”

The pair caused “frustration for both law enforcement agencies and communities as they spread hate”, said the head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism command, Commander Dean Haydon.

“We have watched Choudary developing a media career as spokesman for the extremists, saying the most distasteful of comments, but without crossing the criminal threshold,” he said.

“This has been a significant prosecution in our fight against terrorism, and we will now be working with communities to ensure that they are not replaced by others spreading hate.”

In court, Choudary refused to stand up in the dock as his sentencing hearing began.

Passing sentence, the judge, Mr Justice Holroyde, said the pair had “crossed the line between the legitimate expression of your own views and a criminal act”.

“A significant proportion of those listening to your words would be impressionable persons looking to you for guidance on how to act,” he said.

He told Choudary he had failed to condemn “any aspect” of what IS was doing, adding: “In that way you indirectly encouraged violent terrorist activity.”

The judge said that in one of Choudary’s speeches he referred “happily to the prospect of the flag of Islam flying over 10 Downing Street and the White House”, and in another set out his ambitions for Islam to “dominate the whole world”.

Choudary’s supporters included the men who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby – Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.

Mr Justice Holroyde went on to describe Rahman as a “hothead” while Choudary was more “calculating” and more experienced, adding that both men were dangerous and had shown no remorse.

“You are both mature men and intelligent men who knew throughout exactly what you were doing. You are both fluent and persuasive speakers.”

Choudary’s lawyer, Mark Summers QC, asked the judge to take into account the impact of solitary confinement on his client’s mental welfare when deciding how long he must serve in jail.

However, the judge refused to shorten the sentence and said it was a matter for the Prison Service.

He added that he could not decide sentences based on “speculation” over whether Choudary would be held in solitary confinement “to minimise the risk that persons such as you two will radicalise other prisoners whilst serving your sentences”.

“I do not think it would be right to reduce your sentence because of the possibility that your own behaviour may cause the prison service to deal with you in a particular way,” he said.

Both Choudary and Rahman were previously convicted over a protest march held in London in 2006 over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Choudary was fined £500 for failing to give notice of a public procession while Rahman was convicted of soliciting murder and jailed for six years.

0 557

BBC News Channel

Sara Khan by Joe McGorty

Sarah Montague speaks to Sara Khan, director and co-founder of Inspire. Kadiza Sultana was 16 when she ran away from her home in London to join the so-called Islamic State group in Syria. Her family have heard reports that she is dead, killed in a Russian airstrike. It’s hard enough to understand why young men join IS, it’s harder still to see what attracts women. Sara Khan is at the forefront of efforts in the UK to prevent young women being radicalised. What does she say to them? And is it making any difference?

To watch the video, click here

First aired Wednesday 31st of August 2016

0 403

BBC Radio 5live, Thursday 25th August 2016

On Thursday 25th August,  Kalsoom Bashir- Inspire Co-Director was invited on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report in counter narratives to extremism, focusing specifically on the Prevent duty.

Listen in to hear Kalsoom on the importance of safeguarding young people, as well as address the hysteria, myths and deliberate misconceptions surrounding the measures, including the oft-cited  “terrorist tots” and “terrorist/terraced house” cases.

0 639

by Sara Khan, first published in "The Telegraph" on Wednesday 24th August 2016

Police patrolling the promenade des anglais beach in Nice fine a woman for wearing a burkini CREDIT: VANTAGENEWS.COM

Who would have thought a woman, lying on a beach and minding her own business, could present such a threat to the French state?

Bu today, pictures have emerged of four armed police officers – armed with pepper spray; batons in hand – confronting a woman doing just that and ordering her to remove some of her clothing. Namely, her burkini.

Violating both her dignity, and freedom in deciding what adorns on her body, the woman is seen dutifully and humiliatingly removing the blue tunic in front of countless other sunbathers – some of whom reportedly shouted ‘go home’ and applauded, as her daughter wept – in the name of “women’s rights” and “protection of the public.” The ban on the garment was announced by the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, earlier this month in the wake of the Nice lorry attack, which killed 85 people on July 14. A number of women have already been fined and arrested for breaching it.

As France finds itself in the grip of emergency law brought about by the numerous Islamist-inspired terror attacks that have plagued the country in recent times, you would think the authorities would have more pressing concerns on their mind than the burkini, which as many have pointed out is really not dissimilar to a wetsuit.

France’s intelligence and police agencies have found themselves severely criticised having missed vital clues that could have thwarted terrorist acts. From the Charlie Hebdo incident to the Paris attacks in November 2015, the authorities knew some of the attackers – but had failed to intervene effectively.

The threat to France and its population by extremists requires a sophisticated, multi-pronged counter-terrorism approach, which must include building trust and co-operation with the country’s Muslim communities – especially if they are to deal with homegrown jihadists.

Yet it appears France believes the way to “protect the population” as Nice’s local Mayor Ange-Pierre Vivoni argued is by banning a swimsuit. Going further, highlighting the join-the-disjointed-dots approach France has in countering terror, a Nice tribunal ruled on Monday that the ban was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder.

Rather than making war against the jihadists as France keeps telling us, they appear to have made war against Muslim women’s bodies and agency. This, after all, is a country that already has a ban on women wearing full-face veils in public. And, ironically, just like the jihadists who seek to control, deny and prevent women from making their own choices, France too has now made women’s bodies a key battleground instead of standing up for the values of ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite’ it claims to hold.

France has fallen right into the Islamists’ trap: abandon your values that we despise.

Sadly the French authorities fail to see this; and how these pictures will be used as propaganda by terrorists. Banning the burkini doesn’t really achieve much apart from protecting a few illiberal people’s sensibilities; what it does do however is undermine France’s counter-terror efforts at a time when it matters most.

I would be very interested to know the statistics of how many burkini-clad women the French police have arrested for plotting a terror attack while lying on a beach, gazing at the clouds as their children splash about in the sea.  I doubt such information will be forthcoming.

But we know this is not about the burkini. It’s not even about women’s rights. It’s about the religious identity of those women who wear them. It’s about the very presence of Muslim women and Islam in France, and the unease some have towards that religion.

France, while a secular country, appears to struggle with Article Nine of the European Convention on Human Rights: the freedom to hold and manifest religious belief. The manifestation of religious belief can be curtailed under strict conditions – where the freedoms of others could be compromised or in the interests of public order.

Promoting hatred, violence and discrimination in the name of religion, as many Islamist preachers do, would be legitimate grounds for curbing the so-called religious rights of such individuals. Banning a swimsuit, is not a reasonable or proportionate response.

I hope France’s feminists stand on the side of these Muslim women, and not with the authorities or Islamists – both ironically two sides of the same coin in seeking to enforce their clothing choices on women. And I hope French government officials recognise how they are undermining not only their own values but also their counter-terror efforts at this critical time.

Sara Khan is the author of The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism (now available with Saqi Books), co-authored with Tony McMahon. She is also the co-director and founder of Inspire, a counter-extremism and women’s rights organisation.

0 729

Inspire statement on the HASC's report "Radicalisation: the counter-narrative and identifying the tipping point" released on Thursday 25th of August 2016.

Inspire welcome the HASC’s report “Radicalisation: the counter-narrative and identifying  the tipping point” released on Thursday 25th of August 2016.

The report rightly highlights that there is no single path to radicalisation and that therefore government response needs be sophisticated and multi faceted in it’s approach, both in identifying the factors and tackling them.

Some excellent recommendations are made, in particular about the role of technology and social media companies. The internet is a key tool for radicalisers and more needs to be done to win the cyber war with terrorists and extremists organisation. This also includes a more “high-tech, state-of-the-art, round-the-clock” Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU).

Effective counter narratives need to be community led and the government has worked effectively in partnership with civil society groups to make these messages impactful and strong. We agree that Muslim organisations that claim to have wide-scale influence and engagement with communities need to see it as ‘one of their primary duties’ to tackle extremism, and ‘do so much more to expose, remove and isolate those who preach or advocate race hate and intolerance’, which to date has not been the case.

The suggested rebranding of Prevent alone will not fully address those that have made it their cause to undermine its work by spreading lies and myths. We are disappointed that some within the anti-Prevent lobby are deliberately peddling untruths within Muslim communities and wider society, while offering no effective alternative to safeguard those most vulnerable to radicalisation.

Prevent is a strategy to support British citizens from being drawn into terrorism and an essential as well as valuable safeguarding measure to protect our communities and loved ones. Whilst it is not perfect, there have been no other strategies put forward to deal with the very real threat of radicalisation. We acknowledge there needs to be improvements in delivery and training and Inspire would welcome these.

0 714

Extremists of all factions detest our society, where different views and faiths can co-exist peacefully

United: at his official signing-in at Southwark Cathedral, Mayor Sadiq Khan brought faiths and races together Reuters

First published in the Evening Standard on Monday 1st August 2016

“We have imported a monster, and this monster is called Islam,” Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far-Right Freedom Party, said this week. His anti-immigrant party currently has a strong lead in the opinion polls. 

Following the slaughter of European citizens in recent weeks by Muslims who have pledged allegiance to IS or who have taken inspiration from jihadist propaganda, there exists almost a sense of inevitability in the rise of far-Right populist parties exploiting the prevailing sense of fear and insecurity. Far-Right sentiment can also lead to its own deadly end, as we have seen:  18-year-old Ali David Sonboly, who lured teenagers into a McDonald’s in Munich and then gunned them down, was a far-Right extremist who believed it was a “special honour” to share a birthday with Adolf Hitler.

Extremists of both the Islamist and far-Right variety have more in common than divides them. They both yearn for a final “clash of civilisations”. They hate our democracy and liberal values. They detest a society where different views and faiths can co-exist peacefully.

IS’s call on Muslims to commit acts of terror have an underlying motive to polarise and divide our societies and wipe out what IS calls the “grey zone” of co-existence. Establishing its so-called caliphate, IS seeks to divide the world into two. The “land of Islam”  includes those Muslims who have pledged allegiance to IS’s caliphate; this is ranged against the “land of disbelief”, made up of non-Muslims and those Muslims who reject the Islamist worldview and as a result are declared apostates.

There is no doubt that these acts of terror have changed the political discourse in Europe and the United States. Far-Right narratives are seeping into the mainstream and hate crime across Europe is on the rise. Yet when Wilders calls for a ban on Muslim immigration that would “de-Islamise Europe”, rhetoric that would have been unthinkable in the decades after the Nazi Holocaust, he and others on the far-Right spectrum help form the binary world IS seeks to create. Donald Trump’s xenophobic language about Muslims, which no respectable politician would have used up till now, is another prime example. The common inference by such divisive language is that every individual who adheres to Islam is a terrorist in the making.

If we are going to prevent a dangerous drift into the politics of hate dominating across the West, then Western societies have to re-think the national discourse about their Muslim citizens, who can be the most powerful ally in defeating the threat from global Islamism. The greatest threat to IS are Western Muslims who reject its call for jihad and strive to build peace, security and co-existence in their respective countries.

As IS targets Jews, Christians and others, it can be easy to forget how IS hates Muslims who don’t subscribe to their worldview. IS killed hundreds of Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan this year. It has slaughtered anti-Islamist Muslim clerics. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the truck-driving killer in Nice, was no doubt indifferent when he claimed his first victim, 62-year-old Fatima Charrihi, who was walking with her family on the promenade. Hers is one of many such stories —Muslims being the main victims globally of Islamist-inspired terror.

We have a vested interest in ensuring that our society does not become more polarised. The political class must work alongside those British Muslims who are actively countering the Islamist worldview and who are striving for a future based on compassionate co-existence to ensure this appalling and deliberate strategy is not realised. This means rejecting outright the arguments of populist rhetoric from Wilders, Marine Le Pen and Trump, and also taking on the insidious ideology of Islamists, both violent and non-violent, without the fear of political correctness or worrying about causing “offence”.

We must also reach out to young people and confidently counter the arguments and worldview that have prepared the ground for terrorist radicalisers to operate. This is of paramount importance; there are third-generation European and British Muslims — some as young as 13 — who desire to live in IS territory and who believe the measure of a good Muslim is one’s hatred for the West. British Muslim youth must be shown in clear terms that it is not the West that is the enemy; it is Islamist extremism which forces them to reject their multiple identities, their future careers, their own families and universal human rights.

Politicians and wider society must recognise these nuances as opposed to the distorted image offered by Islamist propagandists. That particularly applies to the Left, where some have got into bed with Islamist-sympathising groups that have no interest in Western Muslim integration. These groups push a constant victimhood narrative where Britain is portrayed as an inherently “Islamophobic” society that seeks to destroy Islam and deny Muslims the freedom to practise their faith. This conspiratorial view is being pushed aggressively, and it is vital that public institutions work with Muslim groups trying to counter this toxic narrative. Whether in communities, in universities or on social media, it is vital we counter the arguments of Islamists, otherwise an uncontested space is left open and their message will be taken as truth not just by Muslims but well-intentioned young activists who oppose racism and prejudice.

Countering the appeal of Islamist extremism is not an impossible task. There are Muslim civil society groups doing vital work in cities and towns across the UK challenging Islamist extremism and preventing radicalisation. These Muslim voices present a thorn to IS but equally an uncomfortable truth to those such as Wilders and Trump. And in the fight against Islamist-inspired terrorism those British Muslims who are countering Islamism and championing human rights are our natural allies. At this juncture when global Islamist extremism seeks to destabilise societies, we should strive harder to become even more united in our shared values to defeat the extremists who want to divide us.

Sara Khan is co-director of Inspire and author of The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism, co-authored with Tony McMahon. It will be published by Saqi Books on September 5.

0 1643

All too often, and particularly in the highly debated sphere of counter-radicalisation, there can be a tendency to focus on negatives, rather than working together on providing solutions. Since the Prevent strategy was introduced some quarters have sought only to criticise it as a policy to challenge radicalisation. At the same time, there has also been equal criticism that the authorities and civil society have not done enough to tackle the reality that some young people are being radicalised and groomed, resulting in some travelling to join Daesh and other terrorist groups, and others planning to commit acts of terror in this country.

This week the Guardian reported that Muslim groups and the government have been actively working to prevent young people from joining Daesh. The report claimed that because some groups had not publicised full details of that relationship or that the government had not named all the parties it was working with, somehow implied that the British public had been duped. Following on the tails of this report, almost simultaneously in fact, was an ‘expose’ by self-proclaimed advocacy group CAGE naming organisations that have worked tirelessy to stand up to extremists and challenge the violent ideologies propagated by groups like Daesh.

These organisations named by CAGE work to empower young people and women to be active within their neighbourhoods, aim to bring together communities for the common good, encourage young people to become involved in politics at a local and national level, and endeavour to empower the marginalised and disadvantaged. Some of these organisations have been doing this work for years and have made it their mission to care for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the communitites they serve. Having worked at the beating heart of their communities, these organisations know first hand how young individuals are vulnerable to the message of the extremists and work constructively to offer alternative views and support.

These are individuals like the 15 year old from my city of Bristol who is now believed to have become a ‘jihadi bride’; another girl from the same city who was stopped at the airport travelling to join Daesh in Syria; the young woman serving a sentence for terrorism related charges and has thrown away a promising career because she turned down help when it was offered from Prevent when those around her became concerned. She believed the lies spread by the ‘anti-Prevent’ lobby and refused to engage with the very people who could have helped her. All she was offered was help and support, and instead spent a year in prison.

‘Going to join ISIS is a fast track ticket to Heaven’ one mother of a 12 year old boy told me – after having lost a cousin in Syria he believed he needs to reserve his place in heaven, and this was the only route. His mother admitted she was at a loss as to what to say to him. Then there was the 13 year old girl that made plans to leave her family: online extremists told her she would have a jihadi hero for a husband and would live like a queen in a mansion with a swimming pool. She could not however object to being the second, third or fourth wife because God and the angels would curse her. She was made to believe this – she did not after all want to be a so-called ‘bad’ Muslim.

These are all real cases that I am personally aware of. They are not made up to peddle some kind of government narrative. My organisation, Inspire, and many others across the country are aware of the very real threat and we have been working tirelessly to safeguard not only these children but also protecting our coummunitites and country from terror attacks.

It is precisely because of Prevent that some of these young people have been supported at the time they most needed it. Of course neither CAGE nor the Guardian this week reported on the stories of young Muslims and their families grateful for the support that Prevent has provided them. Those that oppose Prevent have every right to do so, but they offer no alternative strategy to help those vulnerable people that need it the most. It is, afterall, easier to criticise than come up with solutions and work together to provide them.

It is public knowledge of Inspire’s involvement with Prevent since its inception. It is precisely because of this we have endured incredible levels of hostility and abuse by trolls who care little about countering extremism or society as a whole. In this context, it is clear why some Muslim groups might be reluctant to shout about their working with Prevent. This was demonstrated further when, after the ‘expose’ published by CAGE, many of these Muslim civil society groups were the targets of abuse and hostility specifically because of their important work preventing radicalisation. There is little appreciation of this toxic climate by the Guardian, which appears to have consciously ignored the context as well as the fallout.

A subsequent Guardian editorial on so-called counter-terrorist propaganda stated “The answer to the jihadis, and anyone else who seeks to divide society, is to uphold the values that liberal democracy relies on.” I echo this sentiment and expand on it to propose that the answer to the extremists, and anyone else who seeks to divide society, is to uphold the values that liberal democracy relies on. The Muslim groups ‘exposed’ by CAGE have willingly worked with the Home Office in a partnership, recognising the need for collaboration in countering extremist messaging that seeks to spread hate and discord.

Crucially, it is these Muslim organisations who are in reality working to uphold the very values that the Guardian itself writes about. We need to support these Muslim civil society groups and not allow their vital work to be undermined by critical voices that seek to disparage their positive efforts and tarnish their reputations. Through real world on-the-ground experience, these civil society groups know the true extent of the issues we face from extremism and are working to resolve them. These groups go beyond just highlighting problems, they are part of the solution.

Kalsoom Bashir

SOCIAL MEDIA