UK gives millions to teach Muslim women confidence building and assertiveness skills "to curb terror"
January 6, 2008
Muslim women to curb terror
MUSLIM women are to be sent on leadership and assertiveness courses to help to prevent Islamic extremism.
In an attempt to stop young Muslims being seduced by Al-Qaeda, women will be sent on training courses designed for FTSE 100 managers to give them the skills and confidence to confront fanatics.
Amid fears that extremists are becoming more sophisticated in their recruitment, Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, has concluded that a key way to stop extremist ideas further permeating Muslim communities is to give "the silent majority" a stronger voice.
She is to publish a good practice guidance document which will say that "resilient communities can only exist where women are playing a full and active part".
Blears will tell local authorities to use part of a £70m government fund set up to combat extremism to pay for the courses in confidence building, communication and mediation skills.
Muslim women will be offered work placements with business leaders and top athletes to imbue assertiveness and leadership and help them to advance their careers. Funding will be available to set up local Muslim women's groups to provide a "safe space" where they can discuss their concerns. The plan is likely to attract criticism from some Muslim men who will see it as a threat to cultural traditions about the role of women in society.
Blears believes that Muslim women have "untapped potential" to become a voice of moderation in communities targeted by fanatics. Half of all Muslim women have never worked and the government believes that improving their educational and job prospects will boost their influence.
A Whitehall source said: "Muslim women can have a unique moral authority at the heart of families as sisters, mothers and friends and must be supported to play a greater role in tackling extremist ideology."
The plans have already provoked a mixed response among Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain accused the government of trying to turn women into government spies. "The government at first wanted our imams to act as spies on young British Muslims and now they seem to want Muslim women to do the same," said Inayat Bunglawala, the council's assistant secretary-general.
Shaista Gohir, chief executive of the Muslim Women's Network, said: "It's not about Muslim women becoming investigators, it's about giving them a greater role in Muslim public life."
Professional motivational firms will run role-play courses in which Muslim women will learn how to confront fanatics. Some of the courses will be run by actors who are expected to pose as radicals espousing violent jihadist arguments, whom the women will be taught to challenge effectively. Mothers will also be offered confidence-building courses to help them speak out if they see their children being wooed by extremist preachers.
The courses will help young women to have the confidence to challenge young radical men in debate.
The Home Office estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 British Muslims support Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The document, to be published this month, will express concern that extremists are targeting young people aged between 16 and 35.
"Extremists' operation methods and use of technology are becoming ever more sophisticated. They are exploiting ungoverned spaces such as the internet, bookshops and cafes and using new media to put across slick and seductive messages," a draft of the paper says.
"This is about giving the silent majority a stronger voice in their communities and equipping people with the skills and strength to withstand the messages of extremists preaching division and hatred."
Muslims have three times the unemployment rate of the general population, with more than half economically inactive.
Thursday 31 January 2008 12:35
Communities and Local Government (National) http://www.gnn.gov.uk/content/detail.asp?NewsAreaID=2&ReleaseID=349213
The National Muslim Women's Advisory group (NMWAG) was formally launched today by the Prime Minister. The group attended the Prime Minister's Eid reception at Downing Street.
NMWAG will be led by 19 Muslim women representing a wide spectrum of communities, professions and traditions. They will discuss issues and concerns that affect Muslim women, for example education, employment, access for women to mosques and their management committees and cultural barriers including issues around forced marriages.
NMWAG comprises of a group of women who are in positions of leadership or are working with communities. They will meet several times a year and are an independent informal group advising on issues to empower Muslim women and increase their participation in civic, economic and social life. NMWAG has been set up by Communities and Local Government as part of its work to prevent violent extremism.
The Government believes that we need to do more to help the voices of moderation in our communities be heard and listened to. This group will also help to encourage more women to engage with individuals at risk of being targeted by violent extremists.
The Prime Minister said:
"Muslim women have a huge role to play in helping us build a stronger, better society. That is why I am delighted today to mark the official launch of the National Muslim Women's Advisory Group. From a range of different communities and traditions, and with careers including business, journalism, academia and public service, the group represents an extraordinary richness of experience and understanding.
"They will be role models, showing the breadth of Muslim women's achievements, and ambassadors for the grass roots, speaking direct to the heart of Government on vital issues such as education and employment. I wish them every success in this important work."
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said:
"I'm delighted to have a group of such talented women to advise us. Resilient communities can only exist where women are playing a full and active part. They have a unique viewpoint on the challenges faced by the communities they live in and as such have a unique role to play in advising us on a wide range of issues including issues around tackling the spread of violent extremism. That is why we are putting our work with them centre-stage - to give the silent majority a voice and make it easier for more empowered, confident women to play a part"
"The group have already begun to make a difference through their involvement in the recently published case studies document for Muslim women. The projects detailed in the guide are designed to highlight some of the work being carried out in communities and encourage local authorities to consider what more they can do to help Muslim women overcome barriers to greater empowerment."
The group is made up of women who have first-hand knowledge of what is happening in our communities. They will report on the progress of existing projects, and they will suggest imaginative new ways to give Muslim women a real voice and the opportunity to play a bigger role in their community.
The specific remit of the group will be to:
* act as ambassadors for Muslim women at grass roots and represent their views and concerns to Government;
* provide leadership to communities and act as positive role models for Muslim women in society;
* empower Muslim women to engage more with the media on a wide range of issues and help dispel myths around the role of Muslim women in society;
* meet in the form of a round table to discuss issues and concerns that are affecting Muslim women eg. Access for women in Mosques.
* map out what work is currently taking place across the country to empower Muslim women and then draw up specific action plan for each region and work out where the gaps are.
Notes to Editors
1. Pictures from the formal launch of the group at Downing Street are available form the Downing Street Press Office - please contact 0207 930 4433.
2. A list of the women on the advisory group:
Siddika Ahmed, Oldham
Fareena Alam, London
Farkhanda Chaudhry, Glasgow
Rukaiya Jeraj, London
Tasneem Mahmood, Leicester
Adeeba Malik, Bradford
Sabin Malik, London
Sabira Murtaza Lakha, London
Batool Al Toma, Leicester
Parvin Ali, Leicester
Shaista Gohir, Birmingham
Shahien Taj, Cardiff
Reedah El-Saie, London
Zulekha Dala, Nelson, Lancashire
Rokshanna Fiaz, London
Samina Kauser, North West
Shahda Khan, Middlesbrough
Naheed Arshad-Mather MBE, Yorkshire and Humber
Andleen Razaq, London
News Releases: http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsroom
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