“Thank you!” from Sara Khan- Inspire Co-Founder and Director
With regular requests and demands for Inspire’s services from across all sections of society, it’s been another busy year for us. Our work challenging extremism, defending human rights and promoting equality, has never been more important particularly as we saw a rise in hate crimes after the EU referendum. The challenge of extremism, both far right and Salafi-Islamist, continue to post a threat to our values and country. Through our work we have seen first-hand how young people in particular are falling prey to the coordinated activism of both far right and Islamist extremists respectively, whether operating online or in our communities. Undoubtedly this will continue to pose a significant challenge as we head towards 2017.
Globally, 2016 has also seen a rise in populist movements, the active promotion of the politics of fear, of “us verses them” and calls for the ‘closed’ society; in contrast to an open, inclusive and pluralist society which champions freedom, human dignity and equality. Inspire also believe in an ‘open’ Islam which champions such values. It is not surprising therefore that British Salafi-Islamist groups and websites who advocate for a closed, narrow and supremacist interpretation of Islam, continue to spread lies about our work and denigrate us. We will however, not be deterred or intimidated by such tactics and will continue to speak out against hate, discrimination and violence.
On a more personal note, I am pleased to say I co-authored and published a book “The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism” (September 2016, Saqi Books – available on Amazon and all good bookstores.) The book has received excellent reviews including from the Sunday Times. Fundamentally it explains why the work of Inspire matters in the battle against extremism and in defending our shared values but also highlights in groundbreaking detail the influence, reach and widespread activism of British Salafi-Islamists in Muslim communities and within wider British society.
Below is a snapshot of some of Inspire’s work over the last year. Looking forward, Inspire will be undergoing some changes. Firstly, co-director Kalsoom Bashir will be moving on from the organisation. Kalsoom attended our very first conference in East London back in January 2009. She was appointed project manager of our pioneering conference “Speaking in God’s Name: Re-examining Gender in Islam,” and later became co-director of Inspire. Since that time, she has played a pivotal role in helping Inspire to achieve its objectives. We would like to thank her for her hard work and support over the years and wish her the very best for the future.
Secondly, Inspire will be restructuring and expanding in the coming year. This is an exciting time for our organisation and we will keep you updated. So watch this space!
Finally we would like to thank all our supporters, donors and friends who once again helped Inspire achieve so much this year. We would not be able to do what we do without your support and are grateful for your encouragement and aid.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
(Director and co-founder)
- Safeguarding Against Extremism
- Muslim Women and Girls: Raising Aspiration, Challenging Misogyny
- Media Outreach
- Awards and Recognition
Safeguarding Against Extremism
Since our Spring update which details our training activities for the first half of the year, Inspire has maintained its work with schools on safeguarding pupils from extremism. We have now delivered training to approximately 5000 teachers and senior leaders across the country.
We have continued to produce counter-Isis videos. A video we released following news of the death of Khadiza Sultana- one of the schoolgirls from Bethnal Green girls who left for Syria in 2015, was viewed over 100,000 times in 48 hours.
2016 saw Inspire travel the breadth of the country, training and speaking at schools, Further Education and Higher Education establishments in the South West, Midlands, Hampshire, East Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the North West, Yorkshire, the South East, Central and Greater London. Inspire has worked hard to respond to all invitations and requests for our expertise and help, although this has not been possible with the increase in demand, combined with limited resources. We are ever grateful to our funders and donors who by supporting Inspire, have enabled us to respond to many of the demands received from numerous schools, colleges and universities.
A particular highlight for Sara was being asked to be the guest of honour at the awards evening of JCOSS, a Jewish school in Barnet, and being presented with a “peace plant.”
The latter half of the year has seen Inspire focus more on what appears to be the increasing polarisation and divisions within our society. This led to Inspire delivering sessions to hundreds of pupils following the EU referendum on the topic of extremism, inclusivity and overcoming the politics of fear. This message was further echoed during Sara Khan’s talk for Virgin Disruptors where she addressed 600 people on 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.
At Inspire, we recognise that safeguarding children from radicalisation is a joint effort between schools and parents. In 2016, our work to empower parents and in particular mothers to safeguard their children against radicalisation was further emphasised by our live webchat and Q&A with Mumsnet and address at Mumsnet’s Blogfest held in London in November 2016.
Muslim Women and Girls: Raising Aspirations, Challenging Misogyny
Of continued importance and priority for Inspire is the work we do directly with Muslim women and girls. During 2016, Inspire held writing workshops with Muslim students at secondary schools on faith, women and power, designed specifically to empower pupils, address low self-esteem, raise aspirations and help build resilience to extremism.
Inspire also conducted a series of workshops in partnership with Avon and Somerset Constabulary aimed at Muslim women to help raise awareness of the dangers of radicalisation and of travel to Syria in July 2016. Inspire also hosted consultations and workshops at the Bristol Big Sister’s Conference on “Barriers to Employment” and “Radicalisation and Islamophobia” in October 2016.
We continued speaking out against misogyny, appearing on a panel at the Old Vic in October 2016 alongside Stella Creasy MP and activist Nimko Ali, chaired by BBC’s Emilie Maitlis on challenging misogyny. Sara also delivered an inspirational keynote speech on leadership to the Leeds Female Leaders Network.
Inspire continues to inform policy in relation to Muslim women’s rights, counter extremism and radicalisation.
In addition to the meetings set out in our interim report, we have also provided evidence to the Joint Committee of Human Right and to the Liberal Democrats Liberty and Security working group alongside Lord Carlile, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Sara is also currently contributing to the Department for Education’s Counter-Extremism Expert Reference Group. Inspire also attended and spoke at a Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) event about the review of CONTEST (the Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy.)
In November, Inspire was invited to deliver a keynote speech at the Youth Justice Board Annual Convention on safeguarding young people from extremism. We also spoke on a panel at TrustWomen, on de-radicalisation and prevention.
Inspire actively harness the media to amplify our voices in challenging extremism and in providing analysis on live issues. With weekly, if not monthly media appearances and contributions via mainstream national press and TV outlets, the demand from the media takes up a great deal of our time.
In addition to our work earlier in the year, including Sara Khan’s appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, there have been further interviews with BBC hardtalk, BBC Radio 2, BBC radio 5live, Sky News, BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4 News.
Following the EU referendum vote and the spike in hate crime, Kalsoom published a piece in Bristol’s local press about how becoming united will we be able to weaken hatred and heal the divisions in our country.
On the same theme, following the murder of a French priest and the attack in Nice by Islamist extremists, as well as the mass shooting in Munich by a far right extremist, Sara wrote an op-ed for ” The Evening Standard titled “We must all unite to defeat politics of hate from IS and the Right” . Inspire also added our voice to the campaign against the burkini ban in France in both the Telegraph and Left Foot Forward.
We published our response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK, released on the 11th of August 2016 which was quoted in the Guardian.
The tragic news of Khadiza Sultana’s death was addressed in “The Herald” along with in depth commentary on how to prevent such future tragedies and what we can do to protect our sons and daughters from radicalisation.
In light of Isis’s welcome decline, The Big Issue and The Arab Weekly covered Inspire’s view on the threat of extremism here at home and reminded us, as published in Newsweek that “Not all Muslims are against the prevent counter terrorism strategy”.
On social media, Inspire used its Twitter and Facebook accounts to rebut regressive views expressed by some other Muslim organisations including challenging the view promoted by Bradford Council of Mosques who suggested that the Government should reintroduce blasphemy law in the UK. Inspire was also one of the first British Muslim organisations to condemn the glorification of Mumtaz Qadri, a Pakistani man who murdered the Punjab governor Salman Taseer. Inspire did this because a number of British mosques and imams glorified his actions in defense of blasphemy.
Awards and Recognition
2016 has been hugely successful and high profile for Inspire. Our work with the education sector, communities, policy makers and media during this funding year resulted in number of awards and recognition for Inspire and co-director Sara Khan. Alongside being named BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Top 10 Power List of influencers in 2015, Sara was again named in Debrett’s list of Britain’s 500 most influential people. She also won the Social and Humanitarian award at this year’s Asian Woman of Achievements Awards, and was named as Marie Claire’s Future Shapers award for Groundbreaking Activist (October 2016). Sara was also featured in the Sunday Times , as well in Standpoint Magazine (November 2016) and Good Housekeeping ( December 2016 )
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