Campaign

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We are honoured that young talented Graphic Design student Nina McAndrew chose the work of “Inspire” to inspire her college project.

Nina’s poster with her use of Ghandi’s quote ” Be the change you want to see in the world” perfectly captures Inspire’s own ethos and efforts in empowering women, whilst the powerful image of a silenced girl symbolises the many millions of girls and women deprived of human rights.

In Nina’s own words:

‘I’m studying for a HND in Graphic Design at Fife College in Scotland. you may be interested to know how I came to use your organisation in my project. 

The brief was to create a poster using mixed media techniques where a quote and an image are combined so they complement each other. The poster was to be part of a campaign for a non profit organisation.

I picked a quote from Gandhi that I really liked and thought about whose cause it could sit with best. Women’s rights and equality are close to my heart so I started with that. As part of the research I googled “Influential women in Britain” and came across Sara Khan. I then learnt about Inspire and how the organisation carries out valuable work on a grassroots level.’

Thank you Nina for your tribute to our work. We are very touched.

 

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In the wake of the uproar caused by the news of three teenage girls from East London travelling to Syria to join ISIS, Inspire’s Co-Director Kalsoom Bashir appeared on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on 1 March 2015.

She spoke about the lure of the extremist narrative and the danger it poses particularly to young, impressionable women seeking guidance and direction. Kalsoom also highlighted Inspire’s work with grassroots organisations and in particular the latest campaign #MakingAStand, which seeks to equip women across the country with a strong counter narrative.

Please watch the segment here, starting at 34:46:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b054z7gt/the-andrew-marr-show-01032015

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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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Inspire is pleased to learn today (25th November 2015) that the Law Society have withdrawn their practice note on sharia wills which was issued in March this year.

Inspire was deeply concerned by the practice note, which was duly promoted as ‘good practice’, and as a result instructed law firm Hogan Lovells to raise our concerns with the Law Society.

Sara Khan, co-director of Inspire said: “As a counter-extremism and Muslim women’s rights organisation, we were troubled about a number of issues the practice note raised.

Firstly, the Law Society was promoting one narrow interpretation of Sharia, despite the breadth of religious interpretations (including gender equality interpretations) and had chosen to promote a particular interpretation of Sharia law which endorsed the distribution of estates in a way that discriminates against women.”

There exist diverse religious readings of inheritance laws not only among the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence but also contemporary interpretations.  Morocco’s reform of its family law for example the Moudawana has taken on a holistic approach where the principles of the Islamic faith have been reconciled with international human rights law.

Sara Khan continued: “Secondly, we were concerned whether the Law Society had acted in accordance with its own Equality and Diversity Framework in issuing the Practice Note and with international law, in particular with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as other human rights treaties.

Thirdly, the qualifications and views of those who were referred to in drawing up the practice note was of particular concern to us as outlined in section 5 of the practice note. We highlighted our reasons to the Law Society about this.”

Inspire is pleased however that its concerns were duly noted and accepted by the Law Society.

Sara Khan added: “We would like to thank the Law Society for writing to us yesterday in informing us that the practice note has now been withdrawn and will not be replaced.  We also accept their apology and welcome the opportunity to engage and work with the Law Society in offering our guidance and advice where we are able.

“We would also like to thank Hogan Lovells for taking this case on for us and for their outstanding professionalism.”

For all media enquiries please contact media@wewillinspire.com

In the latest issue of CHARTIST, Tehmina Kazi writes on the complications found in efforts to unite Muslims

During September 2014, the #notinmyname hashtag went viral. Young British Muslims at the East London-based Active Change Foundation created a video condemning ISIS, with a tagline at the end: “ISIS do not represent British Muslims.” This was a great show of initiative by young men and women from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. It complemented the July 2014 letter, signed by over 100 Sunni and Shia imams and religious leaders, which urged young British Muslims not to join ISIS or fall prey to sectarian divisions.

Further, in September 2014, Inspire launched a women-led initiative against ISIS at the Royal United Services Institute. Home Secretary Theresa May was the keynote speaker, and their #makingastand hashtag has also been shared widely. I was fortunate enough to have attended the launch; it was heartwarming to see a Muslim women’s initiative receive enthusiastic backing from people of all backgrounds, professing a wide variety of beliefs. This is the spirit in which we must go forward to tackle all kinds of extremism and sectarianism, no matter where they emanate from.

Initiatives like #makingastand provide a refreshing change from those that have dominated the British political scene for years. Too many political alliances are fickle, opportunistic, drawn along sectarian lines, and are conceived in opposition to ‘the West’ as opposed to standing for anything positive. These kinds of efforts – which often attract otherwise well-meaning individuals – actually take us backwards and propagate the cycle of hate.

Further afield, efforts to unite different groups of Muslims – including Sunnis and Shias – have spanned the gamut from the King of Jordan’s well-received ‘Amman message’ to the recent US-Islam World Forum convened by the Brookings Institute and the Government of Qatar, designed to bring together leaders in the realms of politics, business, media, academia and civil society. The Salafi governor of Medina also had a noteworthy meeting with the Shia community in which he said “It is an honour to visit this tribe.”

It was heartwarming to see a Muslim women’s initiative receive enthusiastic backing from people of all backgrounds, professing a wide variety of beliefs. This is the spirit in which we must go forward to tackle all kinds of extremism and sectarianism

There are also grassroots efforts in Iraq itself, such as the Organisation of Women’s Freedom, which runs a safe house for women fleeing ISIS persecution, and publicly denounces their genocidal campaign against minorities. These grassroots groups are contending with a seemingly never-ending cycle of brutalism, which was cruelly stoked with the 2003 US invasion. According to a Pew research survey in 2011, the majority of Iraqis are Shia (51%, compared with 42% saying they were Sunni). However, Saddam Hussein’s regime was, of course, Sunni-dominated. After the 2003 invasion, the Shias came to power, and sectarian violence continued until 2008, on both sides. Much of this was exploited by Al-Qaeda terrorists, who killed scores of Shias in bomb attacks.

In March 2010, parliamentary elections took place, and Nouri Al-Maliki’s Shia State of Law Coalition went up against the mainly Sunni Iraqiya Coalition, led by Ayad Allawi. The latter won 91 seats, compared to the State of Law Coalition’s 89. The initial jubilation of most Iraqi voters was not to last: the new Parliament only opened after three months of negotiations, allegations of electoral fraud, and a recount. To top it all off, Maliki remained the Prime Minister of Iraq. After a brief ceasefire, the violence increased again, partly due to Sunnis feeling disenfranchised and under-represented in Government (several were arbitrarily detained by police after protests about this in 2013), and partly after witnessing the actions of militants in the Syrian civil war. All of this has boosted the following of ISIS.

Today, Yazidis, Kurds and Christians have been killed en masse in their own ancestral villages. Shia shrines have been threatened. The border between Iraq and Syria has been decimated. Over 650,000 Iraqis have been internally displaced and are living in transit camps. Sexual violence is endemic, and at the same time, ISIS are enforcing strict female dress codes. Child soldiers have been recruited. Who could stand idly by in this situation? On 27th September 2014, British MPs voted overwhelmingly to support US air strikes over Iraq, albeit cautiously, only offering the use of six Tornados, and refusing to intervene in Syria. Various staunch opponents of the original Iraq war – of which I was one – have noted that the situation is very different this time round.

As Sadiq Khan MP (who voted for intervention) wrote on his blog: “On this occasion, ultimately, a sovereign state has asked for our help, and we had a responsibility to answer that call.” Even Caroline Lucas MP, who voted against intervention, stated on her website: I don’t think this is like the last Iraq war. I don’t think that the Prime Minister is manipulating intelligence or lying to the House.” Further, just because British MPs voted for military action, it doesn’t mean that political and diplomatic solutions are redundant – quite the opposite.

To start with, Iraq’s politicians need to persuade Sunnis that they can participate as equal citizens in an Iraqi state. Secondly, Jordan’s announcement of a draft UN resolution – calling for a new international offence on crimes against humanity that target specific communities – is a welcome one. Thirdly, it is rare to see instances of Sunni-Shia co-operation when it comes to fighting IS in Iraq, but these are rising steadily. When IS fighters tried to storm the Tigris River town of Dhuluiya north of Baghdad in early October, they were stopped by a group of Sunni tribal fighters inside the town and Shias in its sister city Balad, on the opposite bank. Then there was another powerful Sunni tribe who fought alongside Kurdish forces to drive IS fighters from Rabia.

Further, the international community should give greater financial backing to secular groups who fight both extremism and fundamentalism. Professor Karima Bennoune, law professor at University of California Davis and author of Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here notes: ‘While Qatari coffers have nourished jihadists across the region, secular groups who fight Islamists scrounge for funds.’ This brings us nicely to the last recommendation: the UK must establish a clear and consistent foreign policy that is based on respect for international law and human rights norms. This does not mean selling arms to regimes like Saudi Arabia; the British Government approved £1.6bn worth of exports to the Kingdom in 2013 alone. A Human Rights Watch report from 21st August 2014 revealed that 19 people had been executed in the twelve days prior to that. No matter where we live or which belief system we profess to follow, we cannot allow tribalism and allegiance to one’s own particular group to trump universal standards of justice and human rights. That is one of the lessons to be learned from the horrific situation that Iraq – and other countries in the Middle East – now find themselves in.

Tehmina Kazi was writing in the latest issue of CHARTIST, which can also be found by clicking here.

Tehmina Kazi

Tehmina Kazi took up the position of director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy in May 2009. On top of this, she was a freelance consultant for English PEN’s “Faith and Free Speech in Schools” project, is a trustee of anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate, an advisory board member of the Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks project, a committee member of the newly-formed Inclusive Mosque Initiative, and a judge of the Accord Coalition’s Inclusive Schools Award 2014. She is a co-Executive Producer of the “Hidden Heart” documentary on Muslim women who marry non-Muslim men. 

Tehmina was shortlisted for Cosmopolitan Magazine’s “Ultimate Women of the Year Awards 2011” in the “Campaigner” category for her work. She also won an “Outstanding Achievement” Award at the Syeda Fatima Interfaith Conference at the House of Lords in June 2012, and was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Women in October 2013 and October 2014.

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Yusra Hussien is the latest of up to sixty young Muslim girls who may have been radicalised here in the UK and then travelled  abroad perhaps to join the so-called Islamic State. We have utmost sympathy for Safiya Hussien, the mother of Yusra, who has appealed for her to return home.There are now a growing number of bewildered parents across the country facing the same anguish. Victims of terrorists and extremists peddling a distorted version of our faith. We are sadly aware of the devious ways in which these radicalisers operate trying to give young women a sense of purpose. But these are falsehoods that end in a nightmare.This is why we have launched #makingastand – to make our communities more resilient to terrorists, to give mothers the confidence to oppose their arguments and to stop young girls like Yusra even considering joining the barbaric IS.There is now a real urgency to our campaign. To avoid more families being affected by this heartbreaking situation. Women understand that only by actively countering extremism can we protect, support and divert vulnerable teenagers from those who would destroy their future.Radicalisation and recruitment comes from many sources and individuals. We must be vigilant in challenging the ideology of violence and rhetoric of extremism that our children are exposed to. In this way, we will push back against the supporters of the so-called Islamic State.

I urge all women to join us in declaring our abhorrence of the message peddled by these preachers of hate who are destroying our communities, and are now preying on our daughters as well as our sons. Show your support by tweeting using the #MakingAStand hashtag.

KALSOOM BASHIR
CO-DIRECTOR, INSPIRE

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What a day! I was incredibly humbled by the response of our #MakingAStand campaign launch yesterday. Prior to the launch we received messages of goodwill and support from British Muslim women across the UK who wanted to voice their opposition to ISIS but didn’t feel a platform was there for them. #MakingAStand is that platform.

The hope expressed by attendees yesterday was clear; the speeches moved them and upon leaving many were determined to make a stand and take the lead in voicing their opposition to extremism, wherever they may find it.

The Home Secretary, who spoke at our launch, made it very clear that, like us, she believes women arecrucial in defeating the extremism which threatens families and communities alike. Ms May received a round of applause when she stated that our declaration – that ISIS are un-Islamic, was being heard in every corner of the UK.

Twitter was awash with messages of solidary for the campaign, not only from women, but men too from all faiths. We even had a young American Muslim woman who tweeted her support for the campaign by donning a headscarf of the American flag!

With this stirring endorsement of #MakingAStand, I know that we’re off to a great start. But there’s so much for us all to do. We must grow our campaign beyond the success of yesterday and I urge every single one of you to get involved in any way you can. We’re here to help you get started. Whether you’re Tweeting your support or keen to set up a local #MakingAStand group, the team at Inspire are here to advise, encourage and support you.

Get in touch – and together we will make a difference.

Let’s start making a stand and taking a lead!

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Speaking to BBC Radio 4, founder of Inspire Sara Khan explains why as many as 60 young British Muslim girls to date have left the UK in support of ISIS as either a “jihadi bride” or even to take up arms.

Inspire’s #MakingAStand campaign, launched last week, is a direct response to the radicalisers who are poisoning the minds of these young girls, further evidenced by the recent disappearance of 15 year old Yusra Hussien from Brighton, suspected to be travelling to Syria. For more information on the campaign, see www.wewillinspire.com/making-a-stand/ and tweet your support using the hashtag #makingastand.

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#MakingAStand has launched, inviting Muslim women from across to UK to join us in rejecting the Islamic State and taking a stand against extremism and terrorism, protecting our children and communities.

Both the British and International Media were present at the launch of the campaign in London, with reports from The Telegraph and Al-Arabiya English amongst others.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/art-and-culture/2014/09/24/-MakingAStand-British-Muslim-women-launch-anti-ISIS-culture-drive.html (Al Arabiya)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/11118828/Theresa-May-British-Muslim-women-must-challenge-extremism-and-fight-the-Islamic-State.html (Telegraph)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/11119150/British-Muslim-women-come-together-to-condemn-Isil.html (Telegraph)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11120869/Muslim-women-Forget-radicalisation-in-mosques-Sheikh-Google-is-the-real-threat-to-young-Muslims.html (Telegraph)

http://www.cairoscene.com/ViewArticle.aspx?AId=14190 (Cairo Scene)

http://www.onenewspage.com/n/World/750moofzr/Muslim-women-make-stand-against-IS.htm (One News Page)

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/video-news/video-muslim-women-make-a-stand-against-is-30613154.html (Belfast Telegraph)

SOCIAL MEDIA

EVENTS