United against I.S.

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As we approach International Women’s Day (8 March), the National Army Museum is hosting a public discussion about the representation of women and gender in recruitment propaganda. Appearing on the panel will be Kalsoom Bashir from Inspire alongside Professor Jo Cox and Claire Langhamer

Exploring the imagery in propaganda posters of the First World War up to present day (including terrorist organisations like Daesh), we will ask how and why gender has been used to encourage men to fight, and for women to send their men off to war.

The panel of experts will have ten minutes each to discuss these questions from the perspective of their own research and experiences before opening the floor to questions from the audience.

For further information and bookings, please visit:

http://www.nam.ac.uk/microsites/ww1/events/women-britain-say-go-use-gender-recruitment-propaganda/#.Vs2Kh32LTnD

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Six months have gone by since Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from their villages in northern Nigeria, six long months of waiting for a sign of life and hoping for their release. Yet, just last week, the terrifying news reached us of a renewed kidnapping of dozens of girls by the militant terror organisation.

Amidst the horror; three brave girls, taken from their beds by militants at night, courageously escaped Boko Haram’s brutal clutches and reunited with their families. The BBC is now retelling their incredible story as a cartoon, dedicating a short animation to them as part of their 100 Women series.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 500 girls and women in Nigeria, a horrifying toll. Human Rights Watch published a new report this week, detailing the mental and physical violence endured by the abducted.  Read more here.

We urge all women to join us in #MakingAStand and condemning this barbarism which treats women as spoils of war to be traded.

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British Muslims are coming together to say that the so-called Islamic state has nothing to do with our faith. It’s a twisted version of Islam that we condemn utterly. We won’t tolerate Great Britain being poisoned by extremist propaganda.

Inspire launched “Making A Stand” because British Muslim women are incredibly angry and frustrated about their faith being hijacked and want to make a stand against terrorism. We oppose IS and extremism. We see how young people are being radicalised and fear that our children will be next.

When we hear about teenage boys and girls going out to Syria and Iraq to join IS we feel outrage and horror. These young people are being brainwashed and as women we want to do something about it.

But our message can go further. The Sun is today asking Britain to unite as a whole and make a stand against extremism. Terrorists are committing acts of brutality and we have to say we are not taking it anymore.

As a nation we stand for tolerance, respect, equality and human rights. That is what makes Britain great. We’re making a stand against any intolerance and hatred and everyone has a role to play.

Imams in our mosques need to continue to reach out to young people and to openly reject what IS is doing. They need to reach out to young Muslim girls in particular. At times, these girls find that they are not welcomed in the mosque and they are not having their voices heard. So they turn to the internet for religious guidance and find extremist views.

Imams also need to continue to open up their doors to the wider community and promote tolerance. That good work has got to be amplified at the moment because it is so desperately needed.

Young Muslims have a vital role to play in the fight against extremism. They need to stand up and say that IS is simply not cool and spread that message to their peers.

IS likes to promote the idea that their fighters are ‘real men’ but there’s nothing masculine about blowing people up. A man is somebody that respects life and humanity and builds bridges within the community.

IS also like to say that the young women travelling over to be jihadi brides will be treated as equals. But the reality is so much different. They are treated as second class citizens and their role is within the home. They’ve bought into a pack of lies and they’ve given up the freedoms and women’s rights that Britain offers.

People of a non-Muslim faith can help in this fight against IS by stamping out hate as a whole. IS plays into the fears that some people have about the Muslim faith and burn the bridges within our society.

If we respond by promoting hate to each other we are letting them win. They want Muslims to feel marginalised so they will want to join their twisted cause.

We need to say we’re not going to allow you to destroy us and we say that by not tolerating hatred or violence to anyone.

The common theme here is to make a stand against any hatred or extremism. It’s not what it means to be British.

IS is touching every part of British society. In the last week we had a 15-year-old British girl travelling to Syria to join the cause and we had the barbaric murder of Alan Henning.

But that should make us stronger. In these times of crisis we need to stand up even more united and stand up stronger. We’re not going to allow them to divide our nation.

We are British. We need to take to social media and go into our communities to spread the message and show that we are all making a stand.

Sara’s words can be read as part of Wednesday October 8’s seven-page spread in The Sun Newspaper:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/5979045/United-Against-IS-Young-Brits-denounce-jihad-savages-of-Islamic-State.html (£)

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/sun_says/5978998/The-Sun-Says-Together-we-can-defeat-Islamic-State.html (£)

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/5978853/The-Sun-urges-ALL-Brits-to-unite-against-Islamic-State-extremists.html (£)

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