ISIS

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As someone who studies female supporters of Isis, it's clear the writers have done their homework - By Sara Khan

Like a fish takes to water, satire was inevitably going to take on Isis. Having scratched our heads to think what could possibly possess British Muslims to travel to live in Isis’ caliphate (as Syrians ironically travelled in the opposite direction to escape the group), mocking and ridiculing those British Muslims was always going to be on the cards.

Especially as bemusing stories emerged of those British Muslims, who, having burnt their passports and pledged allegiance to Isis, would declare that their caliphate was the “perfect society”, where women were “looked after”.

After declaring their lifetime enmity to Britain, other British jihadists were found later complaining online that Isis members lack the “etiquette of queuing”. Never mind the stoning to death of Syrian women, the grisly deaths of homosexuals, or the beheading of aid workers, one British jihadist’s grumblings of Isis included the dismal fact that “you could be waiting in line for half an hour and then another Arab would come and push in the queue and go straight in”.

After declaring their lifetime enmity to Britain, other British jihadists were found later complaining online that Isis members lack the “etiquette of queuing”. Never mind the stoning to death of Syrian women, the grisly deaths of homosexuals, or the beheading of aid workers, one British jihadist’s grumblings of Isis included the dismal fact that “you could be waiting in line for half an hour and then another Arab would come and push in the queue and go straight in”.

Perhaps it is this truth instead which uncomfortably offends some. The existence of female jihadists and terrorists continues to shock and unnerve us, as if by merely possessing two x chromosomes, women are unable to commit or support such heinous violence.

What should offend us more: the reality that there are women who endorse Isis’ patriarchy and its oppression of women – or a show mocking these women? A satirical sketch does not offend me, but real women like Sally Jones do. Jones was once a one time lead singer of an all girl rock band from Kent who in 2013 converted to Islam and travelled to Syria to join her jihadist Birmingham-born husband Junaid Hussain who she had met online.

It is alleged that Jones plays a key role in training female recruits to attack the West. With her appalling spelling, punctuation and grammar, she openly gloats for the killing of Christians and has issued a number of terror threats against UK cities via her Twitter account. The Real Housewives of Isis pales in comparison to the likes of Jones.

Satire through the use of humour and ridicule is a unique tool which exposes and criticises the stupidity of people’s vices and depravities in a way that only this device can. Satire’s job is to expose problems, ugliness and contradictions, it’s not obligated to solve them, so taking offence to satire misses its raison d’être.

Satire would have to be declared dead if mocking Isis supporters and terrorists is “offensive.” Nor should we so easily dismiss its effectiveness as a counter-narrative to impressionable teenagers.

Terrorists ultimately seek to change the way we live our lives by creating a climate of fear. Satire is a long standing British trait, which helps to neutralise fear through such ridicule. Which is why, despite continuing to work daily to counter violent extremism and Isis propaganda, I will be watching the Real Housewives of Isis next week and laughing along.


Sara Khan is director of the counter-extremism and women’s rights organisation Inspire. She is also co-author of the book The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism (Sept 2016, Saqi Books)

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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.

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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

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One of the three British schoolgirls,  Kadiza Sultana who travelled from Bethnal Green in east London to join the so-called Islamic State in Syria is believed to have been killed.

Inspire co-director Sara Khan discusses how vulnerable children are being targeted by radical Islamists groups, and the important work of preventing radicalisation to stop future tragedies.  With interviewer Mishal Hussain and Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

You can listen to the interview on iplayer  or view the segment on Radio 4 here

First aired Friday 12th August 2016

 

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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.

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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

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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

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Inspire logo counter extremism

Below is a letter Inspire sent to the editors of the Sun on 24th November 2015 in response to their leading story on 23rd November.

Dear Editors,

We are writing to express our disappointment with the Sun’s leading story on Mon 23rd November 2015 “1 in 5 Brit Muslims sympathy for Jihadis.”

As you are aware, Inspire have worked with the Sun on two occasions; firstly in supporting the Sun’s United Against IS campaign back in October 2014 and again after the Tunisian Massacre in July 2015 where we helped write the Sun’s Manifesto Against Hate (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/6527089/The-Sun-launches-manifesto-against-hate.html).  By speaking out against ISIS, we have put ourselves at great personal risk.

We believe yesterday’s story based on a poll was inaccurate and the poll’s methodology and interpretation of results were misleading, resulting in the unfair stigmatision of Britain’s Muslims, particularly at a time as was reported yesterday when there has been a 300% increase in anti-Muslim attacks in the UK because of the Paris attacks on 13th November 2015.

There is no doubt that the threat of Islamist extremism is real; and that a minority condone and support ISIS.  We have all witnessed women, children and families leaving the UK to support ISIS.  Our organisation works daily to counter the extremism and toxic ideology peddled by Islamist extremists. However, inaccuate characterisation of the overwhelming majority of British Muslims who are loyal to this country and who abhor ISIS is not the way forward in stamping out extremism.  In contrast the editorial of the Sun’s United Against IS campaign (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/sun_says/5978998/The-Sun-Says-Together-we-can-defeat-Islamic-State.html) made clear that  “most British Muslims are proud to belong to both a nationality and a religion which value peace, tolerance and the sanctity of life.  They consider IS a disgusting perversion of their faith, not its lionhearted champions.”

Unlike yesterday’s headline, the Sun’s excellent Manifesto Against Hate which listed ten pro-active ways to extinguish extremism, was endorsed by many British Muslims across the country, who were proud to support and to be pictured holding up the Manifesto as was reported in the Sun on Saturday 4th July 2015.  They recognise that schools, families, faith institutions all have a role to play in the fight against extremism and many are playing their part.

ISIS seek to divide us as a nation, the Sun’s United Against IS campaign aimed to counter that.  But yesterday’s headline undermined the Sun’s own attempts of working together as one as Britons, to oppose all those who promote hatred and extremism.

We hope the Sun will recognise that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject and oppose ISIS and its values, and that rather than working against them, the Sun works with Briton’s Muslims to overcome the threat that faces us all.

Yours sincerely

Sara Khan, Kalsoom Bashir

Inspire

www.wewillinspire.com

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Writing in The Telegraph on July 9 2015, Sara Khan explains how and why Inspire’s fight against extremism has become more important than ever. 

On Saturday the Mannan family from Luton confirmed what many had suspected. They had willingly left what they described as “totalitarian” Britain, where “so called freedom and democracy was forced down our throat in an attempt to brainwash Muslims” and instead chose to live in Isil territory where “a Muslim doesn’t feel oppression when practising their religion.”

Last week another smaller but significant story was being reported on BBC South Today where an investigation revealed how a Muslim woman, Ibtihal Bsis had toured at least nine cities across the UK ‘educating’ Muslim women on what the Counter Terrorism Security Act means for them. Bsis, a barrister, is most well known for being a Deputy Media Representative for the Islamist organisation Hizb-ut Tahrir (HT) and more recently for speaking at nationwide CAGE events.

Bsis spent some three hours delivering a diatribe against “the West” and advocated that Muslims living in the UK are suppressed. Islam she suggested is being criminalised in the UK. People are scared of you because you’re Muslim. UK authorities, she went on, had deliberately ensured the EDL becomes stronger to intimidate Muslims. And to cement her audience’s paranoia she also stated that their phones, Facebook accounts and texts are being monitored. This toxic atmosphere would have left some with feelings of fear and resentment against the UK.

In what can only be described as Isil apologia, she continued to tell Muslim women that the authorities are lying about Isil. Isil is not a large brutal group but a small battalion and “the West” has fabricated the image of this murderous cult.

Fighting the ‘classic Islamist narrative’

Why I am highlighting what Bsis spoke of? Because the arguments put forward in the Mannan family statement has roots in what Bsis and other Islamists and non-violent extremists say. The picture painted is that the West is at war with Islam but equally Islam is at war with the West and Muslims have no choice but to pick a side. Powerful religious arguments of the obligation to establish a caliphate and to implement a totalitarian interpretation of Sharia will remedy the oppression of Muslims. It is the classic Islamist narrative.

This ideology existed long before Isil were on the scene and has been proselytised for decades in British Muslim communities. Masquerading as representing “traditional” Islam rather than the modern 19th/20th century Islamist and puritanical ideologies which they in fact represent, they have helped normalise some of these very concepts among some British Muslims as evidenced in the Mannan family statement.

These fundamentalist views were obvious to Nabeelah Jaffer when she spoke to women who had joined Isil or who planned to join it. She discovered how each and every one of the women she interviewed held narrow, insular and rigid interpretations of Islam and that Islam “lay in whatever appeared to be as anti-Western as possible.”

You can’t ignore the benefit of living in a Western nation

Undoubtedly part of the push factors leading people to join Isil include strong anti-Western sentiment. But they also do so because of a lack of belonging, feelings of marginalisation and isolation from British society. There is little doubt the impact 9/11 had on Muslim youth but these Islamist grievance based narratives are dangerous because they exploit marginalisation and anti-Western rhetoric by legitimising such feelings.

Ignoring the benefits of living in a Western nation, including the freedom, opportunity and legal protections available to Muslim women in the UK, Bsis and Islamists instead promote anti-Western narratives – which are similar to the violent extremists. This pusheswomen and girls on a path towards radicalisation, making them more likely to be susceptible to Isil propaganda. The reality is that many people who join Isil, like the Mannan family, quote the same religious-political arguments as non-violent extremists do; ideology is the common thread between both.

Bsis’ fiery passionate speeches, imbibed with victimhood status and proclamation of God’s name, would impress any vulnerable 14 year old girl. A Muslim woman who used to be part of HT in her teenage years contacted me after watching the BBC South Today programme and recalled how this was the same poisonous narrative that was being preached 15 years ago when she was in HT. She went on to tell me how it took her a long time to stop feeling paranoid and to break her indoctrinated thinking that the West was out to destroy Muslims. “It’s severe brainwashing” she told me. Another told me that when she was heavily involved with such groups, if Isil back then had declared such a caliphate, she too would have gone without a second hesitation thanks to the ideology of these organisations based here.

I am ready for a long battle

The likes of Bsis’ engage in a politics of fear to drum up support for their Islamist agenda. In contrast my organisation’s #makingastandcampaign centres around the politics of hope, empowering British Muslims to challenge extremism in their homes and communities. Highlighting how they belong to Britain and Britain belongs to them. We visited eight cities across England and Wales engaging with hundreds of Muslim women, providing them with a safe space to talk about extremism. The campaign was well received because the importance of women’s voices and activism is acknowledged when it came to challenging extremism. And through my experience, when you empower women, it is women who are far more likely to speak out against extremism. Like the mothers who came together to confront the imam who was preaching derogatory comments about non-Muslim women to their children. Or the women who said they’d publicly rebut Muslim preachers who often spoke to large audiences promoting hatred of others. They were tired of such figures being given free reign to promote what they perceived to be bigotry, misogyny and extremism. They want to make a stand because they feel their children deserve better. But they like I, know that this is a long battle and despite the backlash they inevitably will receive, especially as they are women, these women believe it is a price worth paying.

Over 700 British Muslims have left to join Isil, and some of these include families like the Mannan’s who incidentally didn’t mention one word about foreign policy in their statement. And while we all have a responsibility in defeating extremism, it is for Muslims to challenge extremist views that are cloaked in theology and which claim to be the only true interpretation of Islam. We have seen in recent weeks British families suffer in different ways because of terrorism and radicalisation. The narrative of Bsis and organisations like CAGE are seeking to prevent our crucial counter radicalisation work. However, their message will not stop the Muslim women, families, Imams, local authorities and teachers I know who are all hell-bent on working together to protect young people and their loved ones from radicalisation. We won’t be silenced or stopped.

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