This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3309
January 6, 2008
Muslim women to curb terror
Marie Woolf, Whitehall Editor
From The Sunday Times (London)
January 6, 2008
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
Gordon Brown launches the muslim women's advisory group
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
Siddika is a Director of PeaceMaker a voluntary organisation in Oldham, and she has led on work promoting cohesion since the 2001 disturbances.
Fareena Alam, London
Fareena is the editor of the magazine Q-News, popular with Britain's Muslim communities. It provides analysis of current affairs, culture, ideas and spirituality.
Farkhanda Chaudhry, Glasgow
Farkhanda has worked in the voluntary sector for more than 20 years - in youth and community work, poverty and deprivation, and race equality development. She is a board and management committee member of a number of agencies such as the Muslim Women's Resource Centre in Glasgow and the Scottish Interfaith Council.
Rukaiya Jeraj, London
Rukaiya works for Muslim Youth Helpline and manages Muslim youth.net. This is Britain's first guidance and support channel for Muslim youth.
Tasneem Mahmood, Leicester
Tasneem graduated in Political Science and Social policy and carried out research into second generation British Muslims. She is actively involved in the Muslim Youthwork Foundation - an organisation that creates a positive space for young people to have their voices heard.
Adeeba Malik, Bradford
Adeeba is Deputy Chief Executive of Bradford-based charity QED (Quest for Economic Development) UK which aims to improve the economic, social and educational position of South Asian communities. She is also Chair of the Ethnic Minority Business Forum and was awarded an MBE in the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours list for her services to ethnic minority communities.
Sabin Malik, London
Sabin is the principal community cohesion officer for the London Borough of Hounslow with substantial community and local authority experience leading local and national Government initiatives focused on community cohesion, community development and extremism. She is currently leading on a major study on far right extremism and religious fundamentalism.
Sabira Murtaza Lakha, London
Sabira has a Masters in Law from the University of Warwick where she specialised in comparing the English and Sharia legal systems. Sabira is a volunteer with community groups in London and a keen promoter of civil and political participation for both faith based and ethnic communities.
Batool Al Toma, Leicester
Batool Al-Toma is a research and education officer at the Islamic Foundation and has devised and facilitated a number of training seminars, conferences, and educational forums both on and offline. As coordinator of the New Muslims Project she has established a variety of services related to the overall support, education and continuing development of converts to Islam in the UK.
Parvin Ali, Leicester
Parvin is the founder director of Forum for Advocacy, Training and Information in a Multicultural Area (FATIMA), which is a regional women's network that supports the economic empowerment of all women, especially those from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds.
Shaista Gohir, Birmingham
Shaista is involved in a number of Birmingham based and national initiatives that aim to increase Muslim women's participation in mainstream and community decision-making processes. She is Director of Muslim Voice UK (MVUK), the UK's first Muslim opinion online polling organisation which she established in 2005.
Shahien Taj, Cardiff
Shahien is founder and director of All Wales Saheli Association, a specialist user-led agency that works to advance the needs, concerns and aspirations of Asian and Muslim children and families. She is also Executive Director of the Henna Foundation, which provides advice for Asian women.
Reedah El-Saie, London
Reedah is a qualified barrister and set up ArRum, the UK's first club promoting Islamic art and culture based in Clerkenwell, London. She has planned events celebrating cultural diversity including debates, workshops, art exhibitions, film screenings, theatre, music, poetry and lectures dealing with current socio-political, economic and interfaith issues.
Zulekha Dala, Nelson, Lancashire
Zulekha works for Lancashire County Council and has pioneered programmes around cohesion and developing models of social enterprise for ethnic communities. In addition she was one of the founding members of 'Sahara' a women's organisation in West Lancashire in the 1980's, which led the way on issues such as domestic violence.
Rokshanna Fiaz, London
Rokhsana is the founding director of the Change Institute which specialises in public policy around race, faith, corporate affairs. She is leading work with the European Commission around extremism and de-radicalisation and has also been an ambassador for Muslim-Jewish dialogue and tackling discrimination.
Samina Kauser, North West
Samina has led on engagement with young people since the 2001 disturbances working closely with Asian gangs and breaking down barriers for young women.
Shahda Khan, Middlesbrough
Shahda is a Social Policy graduate who has worked at both Sunderland and Teesside Universities. She now works in partnership with key agencies within the private, community, voluntary and faith sector both locally and regionally to promote the social inclusion of hard to reach communities.
Naheed Arshad-Mather MBE, Yorkshire and Humber
Naheed is self-employed working in Higher Education sector both at under-graduate and postgraduate levels. She is a member of Voice 4 Change England with expertise in the field of education, housing, criminal justice system and the third sector.
Andleen Razaq, London
Andleen is a secondary school teacher and a trustee of City Circle, an organisation promoting the development of a distinct British Muslim identity. It seeks to promote community cohesion and integration by building alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim communities and by developing the skills and resources of Muslim professionals into practical projects at a community level.
News Releases: http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsroom
Client ref 022
GNN ref 156971P
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3309