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Photo Source: https://www.yahoo.com/news/donald-trump-retweets-deputy-leader-britain-firsts-anti-muslim-posts-115801522.html

The symbiotic relationship between Islamist extremism and far-right extremism is well established.   Sharing a common narrative of hate, intolerance and sometimes violence, both feed off each other, validating each other’s existence.  Following every Islamist inspired terrorist attack in Western countries, we see a spike in anti-Muslim hate both online and offline, against innocent law abiding Muslim citizens. This is then capitalised upon by groups such as ISIS for whom anti-Muslim hatred is a key recruitment tool in convincing Muslims to believe their message that the West is a hostile place for Muslims and an enemy of Islam.  Breaking this cycle is one of the challenges of our time; yet as was demonstrated yesterday, there remains a complete failure to understand this.

President Trump claims he wants to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism” yet part of his misguided strategy appears to legitimise extremists by retweeting Jayda Fransen, the Deputy Leader of the far-right, racist and anti-Muslim party “Britain First.”   This is not only irresponsible but incredibly dangerous.  What Britain First stands for is not a hushed up secret.  Jayda herself is convicted of religiously aggravated harassment of an innocent Muslim woman in front of her children. Britain First, like all extremists, seek to amplify their messages of hate by relying extensively on fake news to generate fear and justify their hate-filled politics.  The video shared by Fransen and Trump, which apparently showed a “Muslim migrant” beating up a Dutch boy has already been debunked by Dutch officials as fake. Despite the damage done in feeding anti-Muslim hate and bolstering far right hate groups like Britain First, this hasn’t resulted in Trump undoing his tweet which was shared to over 42 million of his followers or offer an apology.

On the day POTUS retweeted Jayda, she gained upwards of 15000 new followers and numerous mainstream media interviews where smilingly, she appealed to Trump to intervene in her conviction. David Duke of the KKK, tweeted to show his approval. However Trump’s actions were not just a gift for the far-right, who he has continually validated since he came to power.  It’s also a boost for Islamist extremists, who can now use Trump’s retweeting to evidence that the West is indeed a hostile place for Muslims whilst ignoring the fact that so many of the public expressed disgust and Government officials, including Prime Minister Teresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd who explicitly condemned the President as “wrong”.

According to a report published in August by The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and The Centre for Investigative Reportings, there were almost twice as many terrorist incidents by right-wing extremists as by Islamist extremists in the U.S. from 2008 to 2016. Looking at both plots and attacks carried out, the group tracked 201 terrorist incidents on U.S. soil from January 2008 to the end of 2016. The database shows 115 cases by right-wing extremists ― from white supremacists to militias to “sovereign citizens” ― compared to 63 cases by Islamist extremists.  So whilst Trump lectures us about dealing with Islamist terrorism, his silence on far right extremism demonstrates his complete inability (or unwillingness) to tackle far right extremism.

To date, far right extremists have been reliant on sophisticated social media strategies to push out their hateful narratives and recruit supporters and followers, including the use of Bots and fake accounts. However, this seems no longer necessary when the supposed leader of the Free World appears to be actively legitimising and promoting far-right extremism. And if he continues down this path, he makes Islamist extremism that much stronger and harder to challenge for the rest of us.

Finally just imagine if Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had retweeted Islamist extremists; Trump – and the entire world for that matter, would be the first to publicly rebuke him, yet the US President has defended his action of retweeting extremists and many more have stayed silent.   While lecturing our government to solve the problem of extremism in the UK, he is unwilling to address white supremacism in his own country while he himself legitimises the far right extremist worldview.    Our country does not need to take lessons from President Trump on how to defeat extremism.

Yasmin Weaver

30/11/2017

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5PillarsUK:  What are Muslims Islamists thinking?

Despite the global rise of Islamist extremism, the response to it here has been unfortunately predictable and highly counter-productive.  Partly because of widespread ignorance around Islamist ideology, coupled with the active deflection by Islamists themselves and their sympathisers, the debate around Islamist radicalisation in our society is nothing short of regressive.

Rather than acknowledging the threat it poses, time and effort has been spent on the downplaying and denial (even the existence) of Islamist ideology, coupled with a complete lack of pushback by civil society.  Worse still, some anti-racist groups have partnered with and supported Islamists.  This sorry state of affairs has in some quarters become virtually normalised in British society, in particular within certain Muslim apologist activist circles, the liberal Left and even amongst the authorities.

Which is why these very same people, who care about upholding human rights and our democratic values, should watch this recent video put out by 5Pillars , a British based Islamist website.  In their 1 min 45 second video, they helpfully expose their own anti-Western agenda and  support for the Islamist worldview by neatly summarising the central tenets of Islamist extreme ideology which include support for a caliphate, Islamic penal codes and physical jihad.

5 Pillars: “What do "Muslim reformers" want to change about Islam?”
5 Pillars: “What do “Muslim reformers” want to change about Islam?”

The same extreme Islamist worldview which was actively promoted for years by the now proscribed Al-Muhajiroun – ALM (led by the infamous Anjem Choudary).

5 Pillars: “What do "Muslim reformers" want to change about Islam?”
5 Pillars: “What do “Muslim reformers” want to change about Islam?”

The same Islamist ideology which also played a part in radicalising some British Muslims to leave the UK in support of ISIS’s caliphate.

Tellingly, the purpose of the video was to name and shame those British Muslim groups who 5Pillars believe threaten Islamist ideology and beliefs; I am proud to say Inspire being one of them.  Adopting the Islamist old age tactic of charging these Muslim groups of seeking to “change Islam” which needs “defending,” 5Pillars have repeatedly sought to denigrate and vilify counter-Islamist Muslim voices who support human rights, gender equality, and believe in the modern day norm of democratic nation states.

For decades, defending and promoting Islamist ideology has unsurprisingly been a key focus of British Islamist groups.  Their Islamist outlook however is totally at odds with leading Muslim theologians.  Prominent scholar, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah for example has highlighted how outdated religious laws must always change and has done so since early Islam.  While claiming to ‘represent’ and ‘defend’ Islam, Islamists themselves expose their own opposition to the Islamic tradition and Islam’s own historical record!

This is certainly the case with the outdated notion of a caliphate, or as scholar Wael B. Hallaq calls it “The Impossible State”  because of the inherently self-contradictory notion of an “Islamic State. ” Today, leading theologians have argued that the caliphate is an outdated concept and that Muslims should adopt the idea of the nation state and equal citizenship .

Islamists regularly bemoan the end of the Ottoman Empire, idealising the last caliphate.  They do so with selected memory. Their claim to establish a global caliphate is utterly at odds with the historical record.

It is well known during the 19th Century, how the Empire adopted secular laws and reformed it’s practices which included the decriminalisation of homosexuality.  (5Pillars also attacked the normalisation of LGBTQ ‘lifestyles’ in their video.)   Ottoman society in this period of time began to move away from punishments such as stoning; and the death penalty for apostasy was not implemented.  These laws ironically were hardly applied in practice in Muslim history; Syrian scholar Ibn Taymiyyah (d.1328) remarked that there has never been stoning in Syria up till his time. Imam al-Burzuli (d.1438) rejected stoning and lashing and replaced them with financial penalties and incentives in the 14th century.

Yet here we are in the 21st Century where Daesh carried out such practices and where British Islamists continue to support and call for these extreme practices. Telling us the dire state of debate among some British Muslims and the failure of our country to confront Islamist extremism.

Fundamentally what 5Pillars’ video did so well is a) expose them and b) highlight the existence and support for Islamist extremism among some British Muslims.  The comments on their Facebook page is proof of this.  Despite the regular playing down of non-violent extremism, the video is evidence of how Islamist ideology and the ideas behind it are central to groups like ALM and Daesh.

Yet as someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in the British counter-terrorism and counter extremism community, I am tired of those within that community display blinkered thinking and policy. Too often colleagues and partners exclusively focus on Daesh, while ignoring the radicalisation that is taking place right here under our noses by UK based Islamist groups and the brazen promotion and support for Islamist ideology.   It has become apparent to me that even for many well intentioned activists, faith leaders and authorities, challenging this ideology – and the British groups who promote it – has been placed in the “difficult box” leaving it to a few handful of people who are repeatedly vilified as demonstrated in 5Pillars’ video.

The authorities would do well to heed the words of Jason Burke.  The author, writing about the fall of Daesh’s caliphate, forewarns the next Islamist threat and has argued that Islamist militancy follows the same trajectory; the first a slow, unnoticed period of growth.Many of us are only too well aware of the growth of those ideas in our country, but the truth is nobody is prepared to do anything about them.  Which is why, at our peril, countering Islamist ideology will continue to remain in the “difficult box,” unless there is a sea change in our thinking.

History, as they say, repeats itself.  We, however, never seem to learn.  Just as we look back now and wonder how as a society we defended and condoned FGM, forced marriages and even CSE (and ignored the voices of the then campaigners), we today are witnessing the same inability and unwillingness to challenge and counter Islamist extremism. Another self-fulfilling prophecy which has already led to devastating consequences and will lead to more.

Sara Khan

20/11/2017

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The need for robust due diligence procedures and consistency when hosting or sharing platforms in Parliament

Inspire deplores last week’s event “Tolerating the Intolerant” hosted by Rt Hon Bob Blackman MP on the 18th of October 2017, which was addressed by the anti-Muslim extremist Tapan Ghosh in the House of Commons. Whilst we welcome Bob Blackman’s statement that he does not endorse Mr Ghosh’s views, it remains the case, as can be seen on Mr Ghosh’s website, that the event was used by Mr Ghosh to give himself a level of credibility and legitimacy he would not have otherwise had.  As a counter-extremism organisation committed to working towards building a pluralistic and tolerant society, we are deeply concerned to see such an individual invited to speak in Parliament

We urge MPs to ensure they have robust due diligence procedures which are fit for purpose when deciding who to host, invite or share platforms with and be consistent in their approach. Just as an MP would not have invited far right anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson to speak at Parliamentary events, they should not invite anyone who promotes extremist views regardless of their nationality or religion.

As our society struggles to deal with all forms of extremism, it is imperative that MPs do not legitimise groups and individuals who seek to divide us and attempt to undermine the very fabric of our society.  We will also be writing to the Charity Commission to register our complaint against the National Council of Hindu Temples who invited Tapan Ghosh as a key speaker.

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COURT OF APPEAL FINDS THAT GENDER SEGREGATION CAN AMOUNT TO UNLAWFUL SEX DISCRIMINATION- October 2017

In a landmark judgement handed down today, the Court of Appeal found that ‘separate but equal’ treatment on the basis of gender at a school can amount to unlawful sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA).

The Court (Etherton MR and Beatson and Gloster LJJ) had been asked to consider gender segregation at the Al-Hijrah school, a voluntary aided Muslim co-ed school in which boys and girls are completely segregated from the age of 9.

The Court found that the school’s policy of strict segregation was discriminatory since it had an adverse impact on the quality and effectiveness of the education given by the school to both the girls and boy pupils respectively, and could not be justified under one of the exceptions set out in the Equality Act.

Moreover, Gloster LJ went further and accepted the submissions of SBS and Inspire that the effect of gender segregation, in the specific context of this Muslim school, was not gender neutral but informed by particular precepts and practices of certain Muslim communities.

Drawing extensively upon the ‘Casey Review’, which was referenced in SBS and Inspire’s submissions, Gloster LJ concluded that the school’s policy was particularly detrimental for girls in that it reinforced the different spaces – private and public – that men and women must occupy, and their respective stereotyped roles which accord them differential and unequal status.

This is an important judgment with far reaching consequences for the rights of minority women and girls to equality and the freedom to participate in public life as citizens.

To read Inspire and Southall Black Sisters evidence click here.

Pragna Patel of SBS said: “We very much welcome the judgment and its recognition that gender segregation can be unlawful and discriminatory, especially in contexts where the practice is tied to the rise of religious fundamentalist and conservative norms. For over three decades, we have seen how regressive religious forces have targeted schools and universities as a means by which to control and police female sexuality in minority communities. The imposition of gender segregation, dress codes and sharia laws are just some means by which gender inequality is legitimised and promoted despite the serious and harmful consequences. This judgment is a vital step forward in our effort to persuade the courts and state bodies to take account of the reality of the misogyny and gender stereotyping that is promoted in our schools and universities in the name of religious and cultural freedom. We are delighted that the court has seen through this and upheld the equality principle.

Sara Khan of Inspire said: “I am pleased the Court of Appeal has recognised that in the context of co-ed schools which apply gender segregation throughout the school day, separate is not equal.  Inspire have long argued that the practice of gender segregation is discriminatory and is a violation of the Equality Act.  Over the years, religious fundamentalists in our country have aggressively sought to normalise the practice of gender segregation in our schools and institutions; and unfortunately we have witnessed a growing accommodation to it in particular by local authorities.  This landmark ruling can now act as a bulwark against this.  The Court of Appeal’s judgment makes clear that the policy of gender segregation as practiced by Al-Hijrah and other co-ed schools across our country is unlawful and has no place in our multicultural and multi-faith society. I hope this serves as a reminder that equality and the rights of women and girls especially from minority communities must not be sacrificed in the name of culture or religion.”

 

Read about Southall Black Sisters and Inspire’s intervention at the Court of Appeal in July 2017 here

 

END

 

To contact Southall Black Sisters please contact:

Pragna Patel
pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk
020 8571 9595

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Just Yorkshire’s false statements about Inspire

We were appalled to read Just Yorkshire’s “Rethinking Prevent” report which while claiming to be “credible,” peddled shocking falsehoods about our organisation and director, Sara Khan. The authors, Dr Waqas Tufail and Dr Bano Murtuja claimed that Inspire “were funded directly by the Home Office and managed by a professional public relations company called Breakthrough Media, despite their claims of being grassroots and independent.”

The report then quoted an “anonymous source” claiming Inspire is “managed by Breakthrough Media” and as a result have been given a media platform that we otherwise would not have had.

We reject these false and entirely inaccurate accusations Just Yorkshire have made about us.

Inspire is an independent, non-governmental organisation. We have been in existence for almost ten years; founded by Muslim women who sought to focus on the realities of terrorism, extremism and gender inequality within Muslim communities, when others did not want to. As a result and directly because of our work, we have always had interest from the media and have pro-actively engaged with them. The suggestion we are “managed” by a media firm is as absurd and condescending as it sounds.

Over the last ten years, Inspire have worked hard delivering many projects, campaigns, conferences and training programmes. As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions previously  only one of our projects, our anti-ISIS campaign, Making A Stand that we delivered almost three years ago now in 2014/5 was funded directly by the Home Office. At a time when teenagers were travelling to join ISIS, Muslim mothers themselves were expressing concern to us about the potential radicalisation of their children. Our campaign engaged directly with hundreds of Muslim women in over 9 cities. We not only taught Islamic theological counter-narratives to extremist ideology, but provided women with a safe space to talk about Islamist extremism that they come across within their families and communities.

In the period before this campaign and since it’s conclusion, we have not received any direct Home Office funding. There are many BME women’s groups who have had projects funded by the Home Office whether dealing with forced marriages, honour based violence, FGM etc. Just Yorkshire do not question the independence of these women’s groups. Nor do Just Yorkshire appear to recognise that over the years, countless Muslim organisations in our country have received Prevent funding. However highlighting their own divisive agenda, Just Yorkshire have focussed on Inspire, one of the most prominent female led counter Islamist extremist organisations in the country, which in of itself speaks volumes.

Unlike Just Yorkshire we believe, when Muslim women are seeking help to safeguard their vulnerable children from radicalisation, the Home Office has an obligation to provide such support to British BME women and their families, irrespective of their religion, race or colour.

Muslim women themselves shared the positive impact of our campaign, but despite claiming to represent BME concerns, Just Yorkshire appear only interested in reflecting the views of those BME people who fit their narrative and worldview. This is further demonstrated by the fact that despite writing about us they did not undertake the basic step of contacting us to seek to verify or corroborate the accuracy of the information they relied on to make such claims. Indeed, having interviewed many, including CAGE, whose links to prominent jihadists have been repeatedly exposed by the media, they did not contact us once, despite us being named in the report and having had first-hand experience, both positive and negative, of delivering a Prevent- supported project. We believe therefore that this ‘report,’ rather than being neutral or independent, was intended to be biased and prejudicial and was undertaken in order to advance pre-conceived agendas.

Inspire is a counter-extremism and human rights organisation. We recognise that terrorism and Islamist extremism pose a threat to the right to life, women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, cultural rights and freedom of expression. We fundamentally believe in order to counter extremism and terrorism, human rights must be the prism through which we do it. This is demonstrated extensively through our work. It is why for example, we gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on our opposition to the Government’s proposed Counter-Extremism Bill. It is why we have campaigned in support of the Human Rights Act, when the Government threatened to scrap it. Just Yorkshire however, appeared not to mention this in their ‘report’ as it would have laid bare the flaws in their own argument about our organisation.

While claiming to be a human rights organisation and a champion for BME people, Just Yorkshire sought to malign and discredit not only an independent Muslim women’s organisation and our human rights, equality and media work, but the voices of the many academics, think-tanks, counter-radicalisation experts and activists who agree with us. While lamenting “the good Muslim, bad Muslim narrative,” a narrative we have never used, Just Yorkshire ironically themselves engage in and promote this binary discourse by implying that we, as an organisation that counters Islamist extremism, are “bad Muslims.”

The Inspire Board

29th August 2017

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First published in The Mail on Sunday, 20th August 2017

Image from Murcia Today

The Islamic State-inspired atrocity that killed 14 and injured many more in Barcelona will be claimed as another example of the clash of culture, religion and ideas between the world of Islam and the West.

There will be a swift recognition that the perpetrators were young men, either first- or second-generation immigrants, radicalised by fundamentalist Islamism.

There will be hand-wringing about what motivates them to carry out such horrific attacks and how to prevent it.

But to restrict ourselves to the same narrow questions can only result in failure to get to grips with global jihadism.

I run an organisation which works to oppose Islamist extremism and have seen at first hand the reality of radicalisation of young people in Birmingham, Bradford and Luton.

It is clear to me that we must also look at the wider context of why so many young people are seduced by extreme Salafi-Jihadism. Only by knowing the nature of the beast can we know how to combat it.

To do that, we must recognise that despite the oft-repeated claims that there is a clash between Islam and the West, the real battle is within Islam.

Islam has more than a billion followers, but large swathes of today’s Muslims hold competing and often conflicting claims of what values and principles the faith stands for.

The result is that contemporary Islam is suffering a colossal crisis of identity which has created a vacuum. Islamist extremism and the terror it incubates has helped fill the vacuum.

Millions of Muslims across the world subscribe to interpretations of Islam that endorse co-existence, humanity, tolerance and compassion.

They genuinely believe Islam is a religion of peace. It’s why for centuries Christians, Muslims and other minorities lived together peacefully in many Middle Eastern countries before the ascent of ISIS.

When my parents moved from Pakistan to Bradford in the 1960s, they and many others of their generation had no expectation of Sharia law or wearing the veil. They did not believe Islam was incompatible with a secular democracy.

They were comfortable with being British Muslims, proud to integrate with their adopted country while keeping their religion.

However, equally a growing number of Muslims here and abroad have a different understanding.

Their beliefs are based on a politicised, puritanical ideology which is anti-Western, advocates religious supremacy, intolerance, the requirement to live in a caliphate, and an opposition to democracy and fundamental human rights.

They look to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who once claimed: ‘Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting.’

This was once a minority interpretation.

But over the past 40 years, aggressive Saudi proselytising of Wahhabism, the tyranny of authoritarian leaders in Muslim countries, and the propaganda opportunity provided by Western intervention in Muslim countries, has seen an exponential worldwide growth.

In 2015 the security organisation The Soufan Group revealed 27,000 Muslims from 86 countries had been drawn to ISIS’s so-called caliphate.

But rather than being an authentic representation of Islam, the fundamentalist ideology of Salafi-Islamism is actually a far-Right interpretation of it.

The ideology of the Salafists has won over an increasing number of young Muslims who misguidedly believe that Salafi-Islamism represents ‘normative Islam’.

You might expect second- or third-generation immigrants to be well integrated into British society. But it is among these young people that radicalism is spreading. They are of a generation where the internet is more influential than the mosque.

Just like the white supremacists in the USA, they have been exposed to YouTube preachers of hate. In powerful and emotive propaganda films, these Islamist preachers oppose democracy and integration and tell them they should be living in a caliphate.

I recall speaking to one young British Muslim woman who was adamant the extremist lectures she had been attending were mainstream Islamic teachings.

She did not understand she was defending a far-Right Islamist ideology and had no understanding of the differences between Islam itself and politically inspired Salafi-Islamism.

It is clear to me that Salafi-Islamism has become mainstream and that more enlightened versions of the faith have been marginalised. It is here that the battle against extremist Islamism is critical.

After the attacks in Spain, the Syrian Muslim scholar Muhammad al-Yaqoubi tweeted: ‘The Barcelona attack proves that we Muslims haven’t done enough to counter extremist ideology in our communities….it frustrates me when some Muslims say: “It has nothing to do with Islam.” ’

No, IT has. ISIS is from within us and is our problem. It is a problem we must tackle. We need to recognise that statements condemning terrorism will not diminish the appeal of Islamism.

 Groups such as ISIS recognise that the ‘them’ and ‘us’ narrative is an essential part of their recruiting propaganda.

Anti-Muslim bigotry has the same effect, as former CIA director David Petraeus acknowledged when he said such hatred ‘directly undermines our ability to defeat Islamist extremists by alienating [those] whose help we most need: namely, Muslims.’

Instead we need to challenge head-on the worldview and ideology of the extremists.

Muslim theologians need to provide an alternative to the toxic narrative propagated by Islamists and clarify theological issues such as jihad, sharia, the caliphate and the global Muslim community (ummah).

ISIS and its allies have been hugely successful in using the internet to spread their propaganda of hate.

Now those same techniques should be urgently used to powerfully articulate an Islam which embraces equality, human rights, freedom and democracy while exposing the incompatibility of Salafi-Islamism with Islamic teachings.

Similarly, counter-terrorism initiatives need to recognise this existential battle for the soul of Islam and support those Muslims who are on the frontline. It is a battle we must win.

 

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July 2017

Inspire logo counter extremism

Welcome to Inspire, an independent non-governmental counter-extremism and women’s rights organisation. Almost ten years old, Inspire has been at the forefront of empowering women, championing gender equality and countering extremist narratives.  In 2008, frustrated with the lack of concern and will from many so-called representative Muslim organisations (who were typically male-led) in addressing both extremism and women’s rights, Inspire was founded.  Since that time, some of our work has included:

 

update image 1

This is just a flavour of some our work.  Remarkably we have never had more than 2 full time and 1 part time employee in carrying out such cutting edge initiatives and projects.  Our funding has included donations from the public and private philanthropists, support from foundations and charities including Sigrid Rausing Trust and Barrow Cadbury, and in the case of our anti-ISIS project, the Home Office. (For clarity sake we have never received core funding from the Home Office, nor received any funding from them for over 2 years since the end of our Making A Stand campaign.)

update image 3

Yet now more than ever, the work of Inspire is critical.  As we witness the rise of all forms of extremism and the threat this poses to women’s rights in particular, the increasing polarisation and division in our society, Inspire’s aims which include defending our shared values and challenging hate is vital.

update image 2

Which is why we would like to inform you that Inspire is currently undergoing a stage of transformation and transition.  Over the next few months we are pleased to say that we are in the process of restructuring the organisation.  Our aim is to become bigger and better.  This is an exciting time for us, but we ask you to please be patient with us during this time. We are going to be very busy behind the scenes building Inspire.  While we will still be operating and working on a number of important projects, we are temporarily unable to resume many of our current services but please still contact us at info@wewillinspire.com if you have a particular request and we will try our utmost to meet your needs.  If you want to reach out to Sara Khan directly, you can contact her at mail@sarakhan.co.uk.

Over the years, the positive response we have received from ordinary members of the public (both Muslims and non-Muslims) has been incredible.  We have received hundreds and hundreds of emails, phone calls and other messages.  Many Muslims tell us that our work is essential in challenging the regressive, fundamentalist and anti-human rights Muslim lobbies who claim to speak on behalf of all Muslims.  Both Muslims and non-Muslims tell us that we are a voice of reason and that we demonstrably provide a vision of how it is possible for Muslims and non-Muslims to live together, on the basis of shared values, in this country we all call home.   The words of support (and donations) from the British public who urge us to continue and to never stop doing what we do, is a heavy responsibility we take seriously and profoundly.  Which is why we are looking to expand Inspire over the next few months.

update image 4

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters over the years and all those who continue to donate to us.  We would not be here today without your solidarity.

We look forward to updating you on our work and organisation over the next few months.

WATCH THIS SPACE!!

 

 

 

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30th June 2017

School X – a co-educational, Muslim voluntary aided school in the UK – segregates its pupils based on their gender. From the age of 9 to 16, Muslim boys and girls are segregated for everything – during lessons and all breaks, activities and school trips.

On 13 and 14 June 2016, the school was inspected by the regulatory body, Ofsted, which raised concerns about a number of leadership failings including those involving gender segregation, the absence of effective safeguarding procedures, and an unchallenged culture of gender stereotyping and homophobia. Offensive religious books promoting rape, violence against women and misogyny were discovered in the school library. Some girls also complained anonymously that gender segregation did not prepare them for social interaction and integration into the wider society. As a result of what it found during the inspection, Ofsted judged the school to be inadequate and placed it in special measures.

‘Separate but equal’

The school took legal action to stop Ofsted from publishing its report. They argued that, amongst other things, the report was biased and that gender segregation does not amount to sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

On 8 November 2016, following a High Court hearing, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Jay, found that there was no sex discrimination because of his reading of the law and the lack of evidence before him. He found that gender segregation did not amount to sex discrimination since both boys and girls were ‘separated equally’. He noted that although women hold minority power in society generally, there was no evidence before him that girls suffered specifically as a result of the segregation in this school. Mr Justice Jay noted the differences between segregation on the grounds of race in the USA and South Africa in previous decades and gender segregation in the UK today, concluding that he had not heard evidence that gender segregation made girls feel disadvantaged or inferior.

Ofsted appealed against the ruling of the High Court which will be heard at the Court of Appeal on 11 and 12 July 2017.

The case for intervention

Southall Black Sisters and Inspire are intervening in the case because of its great public importance – especially for the rights of minority women and girls. Although, gender segregation and its implications are not specific to School X, but apply equally to a number of other faith schools, the point of our intervention is two-fold:

First, to show how the growing practice of gender segregation in education is not a benign development: Like racial segregation in the USA and South Africa, gender segregation within BME communities in the UK, has a social, and political history that can be traced back to the Rushdie Affair when religious fundamentalists sensed an opportunity to seize education as a battleground and a site on which to expand their influence. Since then, we have seen emboldened fundamentalists in South Asian communities attempting to impose gender segregation in schools and universities. Mr Justice Jay did not look into the wider social and political context in which gender segregation is practiced in minority communities. Had he done so, he would have seen its broad-ranging and devastating long-lasting effect on all areas of women’s lives: that gender segregation is a political choice and that the struggle against it mirrors the struggle against racial segregation.

Second, we want to ensure that gender equality is placed at the heart of Ofsted inspections in all schools, irrespective of their status and composition. We recognise that gender segregation can sometimes be educationally beneficial. But in the hands of ultra-conservatives and fundamentalists, it has an entirely different intent and consequence which is to mount a wholesale assault on women’s rights: socially, culturally and politically.

A violation of human rights

UN human rights experts have noted that ‘fundamentalists everywhere target education in different ways: In some places, they kill teachers or carry out acid attacks on students. Elsewhere they attempt to impose gender segregation in schools or to exclude women and girls altogether. In other places, they seek to change the content of education, removing sex education from the curriculum or censoring scientific theories with which they do not agree’

School X’s approach is consistent with Muslim fundamentalist ideologies that strive to create a fundamentalist vision of education in the UK: one that discourages mixed-gender activities as ‘Un-Islamic’ and ultimately legitimises patriarchal power structures. Their aim is to reinforce the different spaces – private and public – that men and women must occupy, and their respective stereotyped roles, which accord them differential and unequal status. This approach constitutes direct discrimination under the UK’s Equality Act 2010. It also violates International human rights laws, standards and principles on equality and non-discrimination such as CEDAW and Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to which the UK has signed up. Women’s rights must take priority over intolerant beliefs that are used to justify sex discrimination.

Gender segregation is gender apartheid

This is a significant and potentially precedent-setting case about sex discrimination and equality. Ultra-conservative and fundamentalist gender norms are seeping into the everyday life of minority communities. Education has become a gendered

ideological terrain upon which the potential of women and girls together with their hopes, aspirations and dreams are extinguished. Gender segregation in school X is part of a wider political project that is ideologically linked to the creation of a regime of ‘gendered modesty’: one that promotes an infantilised and dehumanized notion of womanhood and, ultimately, amounts to sexual apartheid.

What you can do

We are mobilising a cross section of advocacy groups for the Court of Appeal hearing on 11 and 12 July 2017 from 9.30am onwards at Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL.

We urge you to join us by:

· protesting outside the court on both days;

· packing out the public gallery in the court so that the judiciary is under no illusion as to what is at stake.

· publicising our campaign widely and encouraging others to join us.

We ask for your solidarity in what is becoming a key battle between feminists and fundamentalists.

‘Every step forward in the fight for women’s rights is a piece of the struggle against fundamentalism’.

 

To contact Southall Black Sisters please contact:

Pragna Patel
pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk
020 8571 9595
@SBSisters

 

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19th June 2017

Inspire is shocked to learn about the terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park early this morning in the month of Ramadan. This attack is not only an attack on Muslims; it is an attack on us all and our British values of tolerance, pluralism and diversity that make our country great.

Sara Khan, director of Inspire states, “we must recognise that we are living in an era of growing extremism in particular from both far right and Islamist. Symbiotic in nature, they share common characteristics, both dehumanise, both promote a supremacist ideology and both seek to obliterate our shared middle ground of a common humanity. Extremists by their very nature are fundamentally opposed to human rights which is why as a counter-extremism organisation, we believe defending and promoting human rights is essential in the battle against extremism.

We must continue to challenge all forms of hatred, discrimination and extremism. We cannot allow fear to deter us from living our lives or from practicing our faith. Terrorists seek to change our way of life. Inspire will continue it’s work in countering extremism and promoting human rights. We regularly go into schools teaching this message to thousands of young pupils. Tomorrow will be no different, and we will be pressing home this message of human rights, tolerance and respect to pupils at a school in London. Only by standing together, will we be able to defeat the scourge of extremism.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA