Feminism and Islam

0 628
Sara Khan by Joe McGorty

First aired on Sunday 26th June 2016, Sara Khan was invited on to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs to talk about her life, work countering extremism and the tracks that made her.  As it’s Sara, it’s fair to say there are few surprises!  You can here the complete interview and Sara’s eclectic choices on BBC iPlayer .

From the BBC Website :

A British Muslim human rights activist, Sara is director of Inspire, a counter-extremism and women’s rights organisation which she co-founded in 2009.

Born in Bradford in 1980 to Pakistani parents, she decided to wear the veil when she was thirteen changing her mind eighteen years later. She studied Pharmacy at the University of Manchester but never felt she was fulfilling her potential, and set up Inspire in her home. She has been at the heart of various campaigns to raise awareness of her cause from Jihad Against Violence to #MakingAStand which encouraged women in particular to stand up against extremism.

In 2009 she was listed in the Equality and Human Rights Commission Muslim Women’s Power List and in 2015 was included in BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List. She is currently sitting on the Department for Education’s Due Diligence and Counter-Extremism Expert Reference Group and on the Government’s Community Engagement Forum.

0 1419
After appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee on the 17th November 2015, Inspire have provided additional written evidence.  The evidence examines:
1. Inspire’s independence
2. Evidence of some of our extensive work between 2009-2014 and 2014-2015.
3. Challenging Naz Shah’s MP inaccurate claims about Inspire made by her in October 2015.
4. Understanding the wider negative discourse around Prevent.
Click here to download the evidence submitted.
UPDATE: 
Inspire has submitted further written evidence on the 5th February 2016 to address in full the unfounded allegations repeated by Naz Shah MP in relation to our independence and transparency.
Click here to download our response

0 1482

Our Work: Reflecting on 2015

At the start of 2016 we would like to take the opportunity to thank all our supporters, friends and donors who have helped us in our work in countering extremism and supporting human rights. The work we do is difficult, challenging and sometimes downright depressing. We all witnessed families taking unsuspecting children, or young bright A-grade teenage girls who had all the opportunities to fulfil their potential in Britain instead choose to live under ISIS’ rule.

The killing of innocent people whether in Paris, Baghdad, Beirut, the US, Nigeria, Somalia and other countries did (or should have done) trigger off alarm bells that the threat of Islamist extremism is not only real but it is thriving. The tragic consequences impact ordinary people on a local and global scale.

From Syrian children (fleeing both ISIS and Assad) drowning in the Mediterranean to Shia Muslims and Christians being killed for simply being Shia and Christian. From cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo being gunned down for expressing their views, to Muslims being attacked on the streets of our country because of anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet the circle of hatred and violence continues. Post Paris, ISIS further encouraged Muslims to commit lone wolf attacks. Post San Bernardino Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.

It is hard to feel optimistic about the future but giving up is no answer. Instead we must carry on with heavy but determined hearts. And we do so because after every incident, we have witnessed the greatness of the human spirit exemplifying hope and compassion: communities becoming more united, with support and protection offered to those most vulnerable. We have also met many inspirational young British Muslims over the year who have aspirations to contribute positively to society, who are comfortable with their identity and who recognise that diverse Muslim voices, who promote human rights and a British Islam, is desperately needed now more than any other time.

As a small civil society organisation this year we:

  • Undertook over 200 local, national and international media interviews including for Sky News, Good Morning Britain, CNN Amanpour, ITV’s Loose Women, BBC News, Radio 4’s Today Programme, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, Channel 4 News and many others.
  • Delivered our anti-ISIS Making A Stand campaign and visited 9 cities across England and Wales reaching hundreds of Muslim women where we:
  1. Taught women theological counter-narratives to extremist ideology
  2. Helped them to recognise early signs of radicalisation and the role they can play
  3. Signposted them to external agencies who could provide help to vulnerable individuals in their family or community
  4. Encouraged them to take the lead in challenging extremism in their communities and to exert influence in their mosques and communities.
  • Overwhelmed by the number of requests we have had from schools, we have delivered training to thousands of teachers and senior leaders across the country about how to safeguard children from extremism whether far right or Islamist extremism. We have also worked in partnership with the Association of Schools and College Leaders. Part of our training has included explaining the difference between Islamist extremism and Islam, encouraging staff to challenge extreme and intolerant views whether anti-Muslim prejudice or anti-Semitism., clarifying Islamic concepts that staff find confusing e.g jihad, as well as helping staff to understand vulnerabilities to radicalisation. Our contribution in schools has also helped create a comfortable environment for teachers to ask us questions on culturally sensitive issues which is of direct concern and relevance to them.
  • We have been working with many parents and pupils at school. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. But struggling to meet the demands that have come from every corner of British society from many parts of the country has not always been possible due to the small size of our organisation. In 2016 we are working to expand our organisation.
  • We have also spoken internationally in Washington, at the European Parliament, in Virginia and San Francisco to name just a few and here in the UK at many conferences.
  • Sara was honoured to be named in BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Top 10 Power List of influencers.

Since the first day Inspire was founded, the work we do engaging directly with Muslim women in communities is the dearest to us. We have done so as individuals for over 20 years now and we never tire of it. Women have told us how important and in some cases, life changing our programmes have been for them. Their voices are too often ignored by the media and even by traditional Muslim structures. They share with us their untold stories of battling misogyny daily in Muslim communities or the reality of hate preachers targeting their children.

We do not doubt that it is women who are key to preventing extremism but too frequently the powerful role they play is discouraged and played down often by those same communities. While challenges such as anti-Muslim prejudice are real, we cannot turn a blind eye to the huge challenges that exist within British Muslim communities too. We have seen too regularly how when some Muslims dare point out the injustices, sexism and regressive and hate filled attitudes that exist within some British Muslim communities, they have experienced abuse in an attempt to silence their voices. This does not serve the interests of British Muslims or wider society. The vast overwhelming majority of British Muslims contribute positively to our country; this is our home but we need to challenge those who promote extreme and intolerant views and who seek to divide our society.

We would like to thank the great, considerate and generous British public –whose emails, donations, standing orders and kind words of support spurred us on and allowed our organisation to keep ticking. There are so many individuals and organisations – far too many to name – whether imams, theologians, to headteachers, activists and people from all backgrounds – who have sought to help us, for no other reason but for believing in what we do. We cannot even begin to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you.

We would like to wish everyone peace and blessings and a fruitful 2016.

Sara Khan and Kalsoom Bashir

30th Dec 2015

0 1686

Written by Alex Preston, the Guardian Long Read reflects on the challenges of countering extremism and preventing radicalisation but highlights that despite the difficulties, advocacy work of this nature is desperately needed yet so few are willing to do it.

Please read here.

0 1249
Inspire have been inundated with numerous requests from schools to help support teachers across the country in understanding the requirements of the new statutory Prevent Duty.  Inspire have helped provide clarity on the Duty and have guided staff to recognise the role they can play in protecting pupils from the risk of radicalisation.

Kalsoom Bashir has spoken at safeguarding conferences and inset training days in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Dewsbury, Bodmin, Bath, Bristol and  a number of locations in London. . As well as speaking to practitioners in the field of education we are also delivering lessons to pupils to equip them to challenge all forms of extremism.

Feedback has been consistently positive;

‘Mrs Bashir was very organised and concise. The information and materials were very thought provoking’

‘The trainer was very friendly, open to questions and was very professional and informed about the topic’

‘Really good insight and extended by knowledge’

‘A really informative session-what a great speaker-thank you’

For more information on Inspire’s “Working With Schools” project, please click here.

0 1099

Sara Khan was asked by the European Parliament’s Committee of Culture and Education to give evidence on the prevention of radicalisation on the 15th October 2015. The only Muslim and the only female on the panel,the purpose of the hearing was to debate issues relating to the prevention of radicalisation and the possible approaches to prevent the various forms of radicalisation in the European society.

You can read more what Sara and the other panellists debated here:

0 1880

Inspire have been working with teachers and schools across the country to help equip them to challenge extremism.  We provide training, support and consultancy and as experienced trainers offer a offer a wide range of training programmes for teachers, parents and pupils which can be adapted to meet specific needs of the target audience

Please contact us for further information or to discuss your needs.

For more information , please do click here: http://www.wewillinspire.com/working-with-schools/ 

0 54186

Dear Sister,

You won’t know me but like you I too am British and Muslim. Some of your friends may have gone out to join ISIS and you are also considering going out too. Social media is awash with accounts of how life is wonderful under ISIS; that you will be promised a husband and the chance to fulfil your religious obligation of making hijra. You may have even read stories of women describing how they are given free homes, maintenance, and a sisterhood made up of women from across the world and that ISIS provides security. But most of all you believe that the painful journey of leaving your parents and siblings is a pain worth sacrificing for the pleasure of God.

I have no other intention of writing this letter but to tell you that you are being lied to in the wickedest of ways. Just because your liars are cloaked in religious clothing, speak in a religious language, and claim to be speaking in God’s name does not change the simple fact that you are being lied to through a gross manipulation of the teachings of our faith. You are being lied to first and foremost about your religious duty as a Muslim but also about the reality of life under ISIS. And the thought of you destroying your life, for a pack of lies is what motivates me to write this letter. Because you deserve to know the truth and to live a fulfilled and happy life.

There is no religious obligation to make hijra or to pledge allegiance to this self-declared leader who claims to be Caliph. Muslims for centuries have lived in lands that were not under Muslim rule. Even during the Prophet’s lifetime, he did not ask those early Muslims who initially made hijra to Abyssinia to make hijra to Medina, when Medina was ruled by the Prophet (pbuh).

But this self-appointed caliph Baghdadi calls on you to make hijra you say? But I ask you, what kind of a caliph is this person who in direct contrast to the teachings of the Qur’an and our blessed Prophet Muhammad pbuh, justifies killing Muslims who declare the shahaadha including convert Abdul Rahman Kassig? How does he this so-called caliph justify killing innocent people? How does he justify the killing of Muslim leaders and scholars who only call for peace and love? The taking of even one innocent life is a great crime in Islam equated to killing the whole of humanity. Yet with so little regard, this same caliph justifies killing Muslims and non-Muslims alike including humanitarian workers like Alan Henning; a man who chose to give up celebrating Christmas with his family to instead help Syrian children.

Tell me what crime did thousands of young girls in Iraq and Syria commit to justify being sold into sexual slave markets and to be raped by ISIS fighters? I am not telling you a lie; ISIS’ own publications have openly stated this to be the case.
Tell me what reason is given for the destruction of centuries old churches and the killings of other minority groups like the Yazidis when God clearly states “For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of God is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down.” — Qur’an 22:40.

ISIS omits to tell you that for centuries Christians and other minority groups lived in the Middle East in harmony with their Muslim neighbours. Because it is rather inconvenient to their poisonous narrative of Islam. As Muslim jurist Khaled Abou el Fadl writes , the Qur’an teaches that the act of destroying or spreading ruin on this earth is one of the gravest sins possible. Fasad fi al-ard, which means to corrupt the earth by destroying the beauty of creation, is considered an ultimate act of blasphemy against God.

Those who corrupt the earth by destroying lives, property, and nature are designated as mufsidun (corruptors and evil-doers) who, in effect, wage war against God by dismantling the very fabric of existence, yet this is what ISIS have committed themselves to.
Islam does not seek to impose itself over other religions. The Qur’an states that God has made people different and diverse as a test so that we may come to “know one another, not despite each other”. Human diversity is, as Fadl writes, part of the divine plan, and the test is for human beings to co-exist and interact despite our differences.

ISIS state that girls should be married from the age of 9 and that women should remain “hidden and veiled from society” – but this stands in stark contrast to Muslim history. Islam produced some of the most amazing women who were anything but hidden away from society. Muslim women contributed to all walks of life including Fatima al Fihri who in 859CE founded the first academic degree granting university in Morocco. Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya (d480/1087) who ruled Yemen with her husband as did her daughter in law, Arwa. Both these female heads of state were so respected that the Friday sermon in mosques were proclaimed in their names. Hidden, these women were not. The ISIL narrative of women flies in the face of Muslim history, the honour that Allah has conferred on women, and insults such great Muslim women who were pioneers in all walks of life.

ISIS claim to be calling for women’s liberation but do not be fooled – this is no liberation. This is subjugation and an abuse of women’s independence and authority that God has bestowed on women to be used serving humanity. Freedom is an essential core of Islam; ISIS only ever seem to deny it. Respect for life is a sacrosanct teaching of the Qur’an, yet ISIS only seem to cheapen it. Peace is what the Qur’an calls for again and again; yet ISIS only ever seek war and bloodshed. Some of the women who call you to ISIS are the same women who glorify the deaths of Muslims and non-Muslims and who call for the bloodshed of children in our country here in the UK.

What kind of Islam is this? When at its core Islam calls for the act of peace-making. Where is this peace in ISIS’s version of Islam? I see no peace, only death, destruction and misery. And this stands in stark contrast to centuries of Islamic tradition, a tradition based on mercy, compassion, pluralism, co-existence and human dignity.

You must know however, that once you go out there the chances of coming back are slim. Young women realising the error of their ways, have tried to escape but many have failed . The ability to fulfil any dreams you may have once had will be over as you discover how your identity, agency and freedoms are all denied and suppressed. ISIS’s treatment of women as second class citizens, is not the respect and dignity Islam promises women.

Finally, one can only end on the one person whom without you would not be alive today. Your mother. Your mother who for years raised and nurtured you, to enable you to achieve great things. Your mother who would lose sleep feeding you at night, who looked after you when you were ill and who would selflessly put you first, over and beyond her own needs. The same mother who would plait your hair for school every morning, ensured your uniform was ironed and your school bag was ready. And it is for this reason, mothers hold a special position in Islam. Your mother, your mother, your mother is what the Prophet Muhammad (saw) taught us. By asking you to leave your family behind, ISIS calls on you to turn your back on your mother.

Dear sister, do not destroy your life and your families lives by buying into a lie. You will find many of your fellow Muslim sisters have also rejected the call of ISIS as they have seen through the poisonous ideology it peddles. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like to talk more. And like so many others, join our campaign #MakingAStand. We are making a stand to reclaim our faith back from these extremists who denigrate Islam’s teachings. We are making a stand for peace, mercy, compassion and respect for others.
And we are making a stand against ISIS who instead, calls for bloodshed, death, destruction and rape. I hope you join our call over theirs.
Your sister in Islam, Sara

0 2951

Chaired by Alom Shaha, the four panelists included Mamadou Bocoum – Public Relations Officer for the Sharia Council; Huda Jawad – Advisor at the Centre for Academic Shi’a Studies and research Coordinator for Solace Women’s Aid; Sara Khan – Co-Founder and Director of Inspire, and Yasmin Rehman – from the Centre for Secular Space and researcher into polygamy and the law.

A number of prominent topics were discovered including Muslim identity and racism, feminism and Islam, LGBT rights, the rise of ISIS and extremism and the idea of multiple Islams, among other issues. An excellent summary of the event by Jeremy Rodell can be read here:

http://humanistlife.org.uk/2015/01/19/common-ground-dialogue-how-can-humanists-and-muslims-live-and-work-together-in-21st-century-london/

SOCIAL MEDIA

EVENTS