This is an archive of the Inspire Women CIC website. The CIC no longer exists but the Inspire website as seen here, provides a historical account of the ground-breaking work delivered by Inspire from 2008 to 2018.  Sara was a co-founder of Inspire, and a co-director during that time.

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20th June 2017

On 20th of June 2017, Sara was invited to Colfe’s School to deliver a lecture titled “Our battle against extremism: Defending our Shared values”.

In attendance were 150 fully engaged students- feedback following the event was excellent with the school saying that they had never asked so many questions from a visiting speaker.  The school’s Headmaster Richard Russell said:

“This was amongst the most engaging talks that we have had in recent years. Islamist inspired extremism is a difficult and emotive topic but Sara spoke confidently about its origins and the key contemporary issues in a clear and effective manner, engaging successfully with a large audience which included pupils from both independent and state schools. She dealt openly and honestly with subsequent questions and retained the interest of her audience throughout.”

Feedback from students included:

“It made me think of things I’d never considered before, such as how the use of the term “Muslim community” pigeonholes people. It also inspired me to fight for human rights and confront all kinds of terrorism.” Michael Y10


“The talk was on an extremely hot and relevant topic.  I learnt a lot of valuable things, most importantly I found out the religion (Islam) is generally very peaceful, and that words like sharia and jihad have been hijacked by extremists.” Tom Y10


“You gave me an insight into how serious islamophobia is, and how innocent Muslims often feel the repercussions of terrorist actions. It is important not to generalise when talking about Muslims because all Muslims are different, there are some who use Islam negatively and others who peacefully follow the religion.” RJ Y10


“It gave me an insight into the actions taken to prevent radicalisation in prisons, schools and online.” Teddy Y10


“It gave me the chance to hear another perspective and understand that the religion isn’t about hare, but in fact about peace and love.  It’s just how people choose to interpret it to get their own views across.” Antonia Y10


“The talk made me realise how badly the fight against extremism is expressed by politicians and the government, as well as in the news and media.” Emerson Y10


“I thought Sara Khan was most insightful, particularly when she said that even if you’re saying something to protect Muslims, grouping people together based solely on their faith is discrimination even if no harm was meant.  She gave unbiased facts to share information, rather than attempting to influence people.” Lettie Y10





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May 2017

Sara spoke at the UK’s leading national security eventCounter-Terror Expo at Kensington Olympia in May 2017 on: Countering Radicalisation: Strategies and Challenges – A Holistic Approach.  She argued that while countering radicalisation was necessary from a counter-terrorism perspective, it is essential that we adopt a more wider holistic, multi-pronged strategy that looks at the role of families, schools and education, civil society, the role of businesses and corporates, faith leaders and institutions and the role of government.

She also gave examples of how society and public institutions can make fundamental mistakes which have often emboldened extremists as opposed to challenging them.

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April 2017

In April 2017 Sara was invited to speak at the Conatus “Defending Progressivism” Conference.

Below is an article in which Sara is cited on why we must defend progressivism.

“Conatus” is defined as the inherent drive in something to exist and continually improve itself. Sartre conveyed the concept as the ‘coefficient of adversity’ and Schopenhauer described it as the ‘Will to Live.’ In our modern worldview inevitably coloured by the theory of the evolution, it is struggle that allows us to change for the better, or adapt to our environment, at the biological level. Without the impetus of hardship steering us toward dynamic responses, we are liable to remain static. These dynamic responses are, in essence, progress.

You might have come across #defendprogress on social media. In a day long event entitled “Defending Progressivism,” organised by Conatus News and Culture Project, a series of panellists dissected the theme from a number of angles. Renowned activists and academics, including A.C. Grayling, Peter Tatchell, Claire Fox, Phil Pearl, Sara Khan, and Gita Sahgal- to name but a few- brought to the table their perspectives on an array of hot topics, including Brexit, mental health, feminism today, the refugee crisis, and the future of activism.

The word ‘progress’ is traditionally associated with left-leaning politics- the politics of change, of revolution, of resistance to the prevailing order. The liberal-minded have historically questioned authority, religious and political, and have advocated for freedom of thought and expression at great personal risk. In recent years, however, identity and deconstructionist politics have caused the left to spiral out into a sort of nihilism – is it a coincidence they are frequently associated with anarchists? – advocating for the abolition of any moral consensus in the name of relativity, subjectivity, and a perversion of the ideal of equality. They took noble ideas, transformed them into monsters of hyperbole, and exploited them to lash out with violence against anyone who would suggest the validity of a different perspective; a singularly non-liberal act of silencing and shaming.

Determining what made the regressive left abandon the working class, for example, as ‘reactionary’ and ‘conservative’ in favour of Muslim communities, and conveniently turn a blind eye to their anti-progressive views, was no simple task. But it was generally accepted that the knee-jerk anti-US-imperialism sentiment made for an easy alliance between otherwise opposing groups with the help of a common enemy. The amalgamation of a thousand different causes into one awkward, lumbering, and often self-devouring beast is further proof that this theory holds up. Otherwise, what would a radical, lesbian feminist have in common with a devout, homophobic Muslim preacher other than the butt of a bad joke?

Sara Khan, author of The Battle for British Islam, blamed identity politics, in part, for her precarious position as a Muslim woman taking a stand against Islamic extremism. It is identity politics, she said, that make people dub her a sell out, a traitor, for defending secular values. She criticised British politicians for appeasing the regressive left and silencing progressive Muslim women who speak out against fundamentalism. ‘I do not wish to be seen through the singular prism of my religion,’ she declared. The panel went on to discuss the relationship between corruption and the lack of implementation of women’s rights in countries where extremism thrives. Khan said women are the first to pay the price of both fundamentalism and extremism. The first thing religious extremists do is curtail women’s rights and countries that deny women participation in political life and in the social sphere through segregation are more prone to extremism. It was a relief to note that the focus was on these situations of international importance and immediate concern, and not the petty bickering over privilege.

“Defending Progressivism” was, in my opinion, a call to take back the words ‘progress’ and ‘liberal.’ Healthy, lively debate and constructive exchange were the salient features of Saturday’s conference. What struck me as I listened was the sense of disillusionment with the state of the left today. The panellists hardly agreed with each other over every matter – that was the beauty of the debate that, while animated at times, never descended into disrespect – but there was a general consensus that the left was abandoning its ideals. Terry Sanders referenced the rise of emotional and personality politics. Heather Brunskell-Evans said she had ‘abandoned the left’ and that what was currently happening with it was representative of a deep ‘malaise’ in society. Claire Fox, author of I Find That Offensive!, lamented the state of free speech on campuses and berated those students who, under the protection of safe spaces, hide from ideas and arguments.

Millennial fragility and the frequent abuse of terminology associated with mental health – the ubiquitous ‘trigger’ comes to mind – led nicely into Phil Pearl’s humorous yet incisive delivery on the topic. In no uncertain terms, he made clear his disdain for the ‘label’ culture that reduces people into conditions through self-diagnosis and an exaggeration of the ills of mental distress. Anxiety, he said, is our friend. It is a sign that we need to address something. Without anxiety, no one would get out of bed. Naturally, he distinguished between this healthy form of anxiety that serves as motivation and chronic anxiety. Pearl warned the audience that, as a society, we are over-medicating and silencing healthy cues that should otherwise be the stimulus for improvement. ‘Labels exclude the possibility of change’ is a phrase that will stay with me. Contrary to the current trend in penning endless neologisms to suit every last variation of the dynamic human personality, we can exist and improve without becoming the sum of our conditions. And we certainly do not need protection from healthy levels of distress. Relevant in an era where Post-Election Stress Disorder is a thing. Peter Tatchell, thankfully, assured us that Trump is no fascist. There are, as of yet, no concentration camps and we still don’t have a one-party system.

I would have liked to ask a few questions of the panellists, meet more people, and take more pictures. But I’m grateful I was able to attend. I wholeheartedly put my name in with the appeal to take back the word ‘progressivism.’ Human rights should certainly not be a partisan bone of contention in our increasingly divided politics.

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Tuesday 9th February 2017

The Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill announced in the Queens Speech is set to usher in new counter-extremism legislation. In light of this Tackling Radicalisation in the UK 2017 will explore the next chapter of harnessing public sector resources to reduce the threat of radical behaviours across the country.

In line with updated PREVENT duty guidance, this conference will expand on how to apply best practice across all specified authorities bound by the duty. Effective rehabilitative methods will also be explored, as well as the emerging threat of radicalisation online.

Moreover, this conference seeks to distil the ideological context in which radicalised behaviours in the UK sit, in order to not only improve prevention techniques, but to accommodate the plurality of beliefs for a more cohesive society.

With representation across the full spectrum of agencies dealing with tackling radicalised individuals and groups, Tackling Radicalisation in the UK 2017 promises to cultivate progressive, rational, and effective solutions to the ongoing debate to create a safer, more secure society for all.

Sara’s address will be on:
“Effectively Engaging at Community Level to Counter Extremist Dialogues”
  • Addressing the root causes of support for extremism: Tackling social exclusion and anger stemming from home and foreign policies
  • Empowering Muslim women to become more actively involved in public life through training programmes
  • Combatting the negative stereotypes of Islam that can be propagated in the media
  • Working in close partnership with schools to create resources designed to inform children about the realities of terrorism versus false propaganda available online

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JANUARY 27, 2017

Since 9/11 National Education Conference Sara Khan-Co-Director of Inspire 27.1.17 ©Richard Eaton 07778 395888

In an era of extremism, Sara was pleased to speak at the conference about standing together for our shared values.  The title of her presentation was “Under Threat: Standing together for our Shared Values.”  Her speech resulted in an exclusive article for TES and for the Telegraph.

The outline of her speech focussed on the following:

We are facing critical times.  With the rise of both Islamist and far Right extremism, our society is increasingly becoming polarised.  The middle ground of shared values and compassionate co-existence is under threat.  Fear of the “other” is causing us to burn bridges rather than build bridges.  Now more than ever, we need to be actively vocal in defending our common humanity in this climate of fear and hostility.  Sara will explain how.


Since 9/11 National Education Conference Sara Khan-Co-Director of Inspire 27.1.17 ©Richard Eaton 07778 395888
Since 9/11 National Education Conference
Sara Khan-Co-Director of Inspire
©Richard Eaton 07778 395888


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Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women's Voice

Inspire were pleased to support Bristol City council to apply for funds and host a conference for Muslim women in the city- the “Bristol Big Sisters’ Conference”. As well as support consultation groups to ensure representation of women from across the city,  Kalsoom Bashir Co-director of Inspire facilitated a workshop on “Barriers to Employment” and was part of a question time panel on Islamophobia and radicalisation.

The conference was attended by over 100 women and addressed the key themes of discrimination, extremism, education and employment. Inspire facilitated the barriers to employment workshop and also chaired a multi agency panel on Islamophobia and the Prevent agenda.


Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women's Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women’s Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women's Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women’s Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women's Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women’s Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women's Voice
Photo by Lucie Laborde Briulet, Bristol Women’s Voice

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Kalsoom is an organiser of the Bristol Big Sister's event taking place on Sunday 16th October 2016 at The Park Community Centre.

Kalsoom Bashir is the community co-chair of Building the Bridge, a partnership approach to increasing community cohesion and resilience, and reducing the risk of radicalisation; an organiser of the Big Sister’s conference in Bristol and a director of Inspire, a non-governmental advocacy organisation working to counter extremism and gender inequality.

Here are Kalsoom’s top-five Bristol favourites:

The Downs

“I live close to the Downs and being able to head out for a walk towards the Sea Walls and marvelling at the view every time I see it makes me feel like the luckiest person ever. I love seeing the joggers, children playing and learning to ride their bikes, dog walkers and kite flyers. It’s fantastic. The trees look amazing in the autumn.”

The parks

Clifton slider – worn smooth by generations of Bristol bottoms

“Having had four children, the parks were a lifesaver no matter what the weather. St Andrew’s Park with the paddling pool, Redland Green with the sandpit, Eastville Park and the ducks, Cotham Park’s play area, the sliding rocks in Clifton, Leigh Woods, Ashton Court and of course Bristol Zoo.”

The harbourside

“On a nice day – and even on not such a nice day – there is nothing like walking down to the harbourside enjoying the view and marvelling at the ss Great Britain. The Watershed is a great place to sit and meet friends and I will always have lunch at Falafel King.”

St Mark’s Road 

“Food is important and this is the best place to go when I need to stock up on herbs, spices and ingredients for home cooking. As well as Pakistani food, I love Turkish, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine so this is the place to shop, and I am always guaranteed a warm welcome in Sweet Mart.”

Redland Library 



“I love reading and am not able to walk past my local library without just a quick browse to see if anything on the shelves catches my eye. I love the fact that it’s well used by people of all ages and is always full. Long may it remain so.”


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On Wednesday 12th July 2016, Kalsoom Bashir, Inspire’s Co-Director had the honour of hosting the South West launch of the new film “Left Behind” by Prevent Tragedies.  The National Counter Terrorism Policing Headquarters campaigns team’s latest film features four police Prevent Contact Officers talking about the impact on families when a loved one travels to Syria or another conflict zone. They describe the distress and heartache families go through and appeal to viewers to seek help if they are concerned about someone they know and love.


In attendance at the event were women and representatives from a number of communities in the region, providing valuable feedback and and committing to provide ongoing support to the initiative.

The short (6 minute) film,  hosted on the Prevent Tragedies website, has also been produced in subtitled format in Turkish, Somali, Urdu, Punjabi, Sylheti, Kurdish, Bengali and Arabic. An English subtitled version has been developed for deaf and hard of hearing communities.



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Inspire logo counter extremism

On Wednesday 27 April a group of Year 10 and Year 12 students took part in a workshop that was designed to tackle issues relating to self-confidence and healthy relationships for Muslim girls. Poet and activist Shagufta Iqbal, and author and co-director of the women’s NGO ‘Inspire’ Kalsoom Bashir were invited to lead the afternoon’s activities.

The students were given a safe and honest space to raise questions and tackle misconceptions about their roles and expectations as women in society. The Year 12 students acted in the capacity of mentors and the afternoon culminated in the writing and performing of poetry to express the dialogue of the day.

Shortly after the event, Shagufta tweeted “Had an incredible afternoon with the lively and awesomely talented young women…(at Cotham learning community)…can’t wait to read their poems!”

The students’ poems will be published in the next full newsletter available here:




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Sara wins in the Social and Humanitarian category

Inspire is thrilled to announce that our Co-Director Sara Khan won the Social and Humanitarian category at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2016 that took place last night at the Hilton, Park Lane, London.

Social & Humanitarian Award Winner 2016- Sara Khan- Inspire

The other nominees within the category who also deserve a nod for their service and commitment to the cause of empowering and inspiring women to fight and overcome abuse, inequality and injustice are:
Santosh Bhanot, Founder & Chair, The Circle: Asian Circle
Manjit Gill, Founder & CEO, Binti
Winnie M Li, Co-Founder, Clear Lines Festival

Sara and Inspire are deeply honoured to have our work recognised in this way by Asian Women- Congratulations Sara!


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Inspire’s Co-Director Sara Khan with her trophy at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2016