British Muslims

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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.
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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In our #MakingAStand roadshow earlier this month, we’ve come across hundreds of women, who want to make a stand and take the lead. Their passion has shone through and should be an inspiration to us all.

As we travel throughout the country, we’ll publish videos of these truly inspirational women. Please watch, enjoy and if you want to join these women at an upcoming #MakingAStand Event, please fill in our online registration form.

Click here to see testimonials from our past events.

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The Times(£), 10 March 2015

Muslim parents must warn their daughters about the threat of sexual from grooming posed by Islamic State, just as they would alert them to any other risk to their safety, a campaigner as urged.

Sara Khan, director of the anti-extremism charity Inspire, said that jihadist fighters were using highly sophisticated techniques to lure impressionable teenage girls by exploiting their tendency for forming crushed on older boys.

Ms Khan said she was particularly concerned about the new Isis propaganda campaign group al-Zawra which had been specifically set up to lure girls by romanticising the jihadist fighters.

“First there is radicalisation, then there is froom. Then, Thrown into the mix are normal teenage crushes. Instead of lusting after someone like Zayn Malik from One Direction it is these jihadi men. They have become pun-ups,” she said.

She named Omar Yilmaz, the Dutch fighter whom some girls are calling their “jihadi pin-up”, adding : “It’s quite sick. For girls at that stage, already radicalised, already groomed, they become convinced that the most masculine man is a jihadi warrior who want to be a martyr, so what could be better for a girl [than] t be married to one.”

Ms Khan, who set up Inspire in 2009, said she felt “aggrieved and upset” when she heard that three girls from east London had flown to Turkey last month to join Isis. Shammia Begum and Maira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, crossed into Syria shortly afterwards .Just like other child abusers, the fighters were grooming the girls online and persuading them to leave their families. She was shocked at some of the responses to the girls’ plight, especially after the review into victims of sexual grooming in Oxford, who were labelled “very difficult girls making bad choices”. Ms Khan said: “This ‘let them go’ attitude is how we dealt with sexual grooming 20 or 30 years ago…We are blaming them instead of helping them.”

Little was being done to warn the girls of the risks they were running, she added, and parents had a key role to play. “Too many parents are afraid to speak about Isis at home, fearing they may be bringing the risk into the family. In reality it is already there, everyone is talking about it because it is all over the news.”

She recommend an open-ended conversation, with parent asking their daughter what they think about Isis and what they have heard.

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Kalsoom Bashir will be joining Counter Terrorism Senior National Coordinator (SNC) Helen Ball, in hosting a UK-wide webchat at 12:00hrs on Sunday 08 March as part of International Woman’s Day, to discuss and take questions about the worrying trend of young women putting themselves and children in grave danger by travelling to Syria, leaving their families devastated.  You can take part in the webchat here:

Kalsoom explains further why such initiatives are important:

As a parent of both daughters and sons I have witnessed this last few weeks with an aching heart  the anguish of parents who have lost children to the barbaric state ISIS.

I have seen the parents of the three young girls from London who have been reported to have left for Syria appealing for their return and this week heard the voices of the  mother and father of the convicted science  teacher from Manchester in a recording. They make heartfelt appeals to him to turn his back on those extremists that are not only persuading young people to turn their back on their families but murdering with brutality anybody that gets in their way be they men women or children.

In Bristol, my home city we have seen another 15 year old who has left, leaving behind as in all the other cases a devastated family and community.

This is something that can no longer be ignored and it is clear that safeguarding our children from extremists is not something that can be managed by police and security services alone.

Resilience to extremist ideologies must be started at home and we must begin to have conversations with our children  to protect them from the lure and pull of ideological and sexual grooming that  ISIS is using to attract victims to its cause. These victims are getting younger and will now be in a situation where they may not be able to return. This is the harsh reality.

I can only imagine the pain that parents that have lost children are going through but I can resolve to make a stand against extremism and protect my children and communities.

I will be joining  Counter Terrorism Senior National Coordinator (SNC) Helen Ball,who is hosting a UK-wide webchat at 12:00pm on Sunday 08 March as part of International Woman’s Day. Alongside other colleagues from policing I will be part of an all female panel, to discuss and take questions about the worrying trend of young women putting themselves and children in grave danger by travelling to Syria, leaving their families devastated.

We have made the following resolution:

“We care deeply about the well-being of women and girls throughout the world. We reject the degrading treatment of women by terrorist organisations. We seek to prevent the tragedies caused by it.

“We declare that women and girls should not be subject to forced or bogus marriage, raped, held in slavery, denied education or encouraged to put themselves and their children in danger.

“Men and women who do these things to others are to be condemned.

“We resolve to work together and would like to invite others who want to work with us to join us to end the malign influence and abuse that diminishes the potential and lives of women.”

Police and partners want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about where they can get support. You can reach specially trained people for help and advice by calling 101. 101 call handlers throughout the UK have been briefed

You can also pledge your support on the MPS Facebook page

We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young women who have or are intending to travel to Syria. It is an extremely dangerous place and the reality of the lifestyle they are greeted with when they arrive is far from that promoted online by foreign terrorist groups. The option of returning home is often taken away from them, leaving families at home devastated and with very few options to secure a safe return for their loved one.

We want to increase their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward at the earliest opportunity so that we can intervene and help.

This is not about criminalising people it is about preventing tragedies…

Find out more and join us on Sunday;

#Preventtragedies 2015 webchat

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What a week.  The start of our nationwide roadshow of our campaign #MakingAStand began with the news that three teenage girls from East London had left the UK to join ISIS.  The words of grief shared by the girls’ families were painful for anyone to watch.  But the case of Shamima, Amira and Kadiza only strengthened our resolve at Inspire, to do what we can in preventing people from being drawn into extremism.  It is why #MakingAStand, especially in these times, is so important.  Our message to women resonated.  If we will not challenge extremism in these times, then when?  If we will not speak out against those who prey on our children, who deliberately target them with an extreme religious and political ideology then who will?

This week we were in Birmingham and Luton and the discussions with the participants were honest, critical, introspective, refreshing and uplifting.  In the safe spaces we had created, women shared with us their direct experiences of extremism.  Cases of extended family members who had become radicalised, concerns over messages of hate coming from mosques and the lack of counter-messages being taught to kids in these places of worship.  Some women had very strong views; including a firm belief that madrassas should be regulated.  Many mothers argued that parents needed to take greater responsibility in deciding where they send their kids for an Islamic education.  Parents should demand to see the curriculums, find out if they have child protection policies and other normal policies one would expect from institutions that are teaching children.  Concerns were raised over the internet about the dominance of extremist websites and about groups operating in their own local communities who peddle a narrative of hate and an “us V them” worldview to young impressionable Muslims.  The issue of gender inequality within sections of British Muslim communities, was unsurprisingly raised.

But women also told us how they are making a stand and next steps they plan to take.  Examples of how they have been challenging hatred, bigotry and extremism were offered.  Some of the practical ideas we heard were great and we hope to share the activism of these principled women with you in the future.  So watch this space.  Next stop will be Leeds on the 10th March.  If you’re interested in attending, please register on our website.  The #makingastand movement is growing!

This week Inspire also did many local, national and international media interviews, about the three schoolgirls.  I wrote an article for the Independent you may wish to read, arguing why these girls were not only radicalised but were also groomed by ISIS.

Seeing the pain of the parents of the three schoolgirls, I also wrote an open letter to any young girl who maybe considering joining ISIS.  Within 72 hours the letter was viewed over 20’000 times in countries across the world from Canada to India and has been translated into different languages.  It was also reported in the Independent, Huffington Post and the Metro.  Teachers told us they would read it in their morning assembly.  Young Muslims contacted us saying what an important message it contained.  Some people contacted us saying they now understood the difference between ISIS and Islam.  My motivation for writing the letter was to sow the seed of doubt in the minds of any young girl (or boy for that matter) who maybe considering to leave the UK to join ISIS.  If the letter convinces even one person, then it has fulfilled its purpose.

You can read the letter here.

May we all continue to make a stand against all forms of extremism, violence and hatred.   #MakingAStand

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On Sunday’s The Big Questions on BBC, Inspire Co-Director Kalsoom Bashir participated in a discussion about the challenge of radicalisation, the successful prevention of extremism, and the role of schools in working with young people.
The programme saw broad agreement among participants on the need to challenge violent extremism, and considered the role of teachers in identifying students’ potential of being pulled into extremism.

Drawing on her experience of having worked with women’s groups on a grassroots level across the country and as a teacher for 15 years, Kalsoom emphasised the importance of teachers paying close attention to ‘tell-tale signs’ of troubling behaviour in teenagers. ‘Teachers are very well positioned to spot those push and pull factors among young people, particularly in those vulnerable years… Schools have always been at the forefront of safeguarding.’

To watch Kalsoom discuss this issue, follow the link here:

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In this year’s Debrett’s 500, Sara Khan was recognised in the category War and Peace as one of the most influential people in the UK. Only 2 out of the 20 nominees in this category are women – and both Muslim.

For almost 250 years Debrett’s has been recognising people of influence and achievement in British society. It is a positive endorsement and recognition of Britain’s 500 most influential people, nominating outstanding achievements in 24 different categories, which are a reflection of the concerns of British society nowadays.
This nomination is yet another recognition of the importance of Inspire’s efforts to work towards a more peaceful, inclusive society.

“I am humbled to be recognised in Debrett’s 500; a list of the 500 most influential people living and working in the UK today, but I’m particularly honoured to be featured in the War and Peace category as someone who is working towards peace and stability in the United Kingdom. The threat of extremism is real and impacts on us all. I hope to continue working for a peaceful and just society for all.”

Please see the entire list here:

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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:

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Last week’s attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris have left Britain in shock about their sheer brutality and in deep solidarity with the victims. In the immediate aftermath, Muslims all over Europe, and especially in Britain, issued messages of condemnation and commiseration.

The Sun dedicated an entire page to the last week’s events, letting us hear the voices of British Muslims as they comment on the horrific events. In a strong statement, Sara Khan condemns the attack, saying “There is nothing that can be used or argued to justify what happened. (…) We need to continue to challenge such horrendous attacks of brutality and the ideas that justify them. But like many, I fear that ordinary, law-abiding Muslims will unfairly and unjustly pay the price.”
The Sun 090115

As Charlie Hebdo’s new issue hit newsstands this week in unprecedented levels, the renewed depiction of Prophet Mohammed on the cover has sparked considerable controversy and heated debate.
In response to the cover, on Wednesday’s BBC Radio 4 Today show, Sara Khan spoke about questions of solidarity, traditions of satire and depictions of the Prophet in Islam and the messages behind the cover. (at 1:30)

Sara also appeared on BBC London Radio at 8.45 Wednesday morning (14th January 2015), where she was interviewed on the same topic. Please find the links here:

In last night’s Amanpour on CNN, Christiane Amanpour portrayed the broad spectrum of Muslim reactions to the Charlie Hebdo cover. Sara Khan joined her in the studio to discuss the cover, necessary debates within Islamic communities, and freedom of expression.

In a similar manner, this Guardian article describes the atmosphere following the publishing of this week’s Charlie Hebdo edition. It quotes Sara Khan as saying, “the image on the front cover is not an image of anger on behalf of Charlie Hebdo. I don’t see it as an image of provocation either.”