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.
Tags Posts tagged with "Extremist Ideology"

Extremist Ideology

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By Dominic Casciani, citing Kalsoom Bashir, Inspire Co-Director. First published Tuesday 6th September 2016

Radical preacher Anjem Choudary has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for inviting support for the so-called Islamic State group.

The 49-year-old was convicted at the Old Bailey after backing the group in an oath of allegiance published online.

Police say Choudary’s followers carried out attacks in the UK and abroad.

The judge, who described Choudary as calculating and dangerous, passed the same sentence on his confidant Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, 33.

Both men were also sentenced to a notification order lasting 15 years, which requires them to tell police if details such as their address change.

Choudary, of Ilford, east London, and Rahman, from Palmers Green, north London, were convicted last month of inviting support for IS – an offence contrary to section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015.

The trial heard the pair also used speeches to urge support for IS, which is also known as Daesh, after it declared a caliphate in the summer of 2014.

Counter-terrorism chiefs blame the preacher and the proscribed organisations which he helped to run, such as al-Muhajiroun, for radicalising young men and women including the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.

But they said they had been unable to act for many years as Choudary – a former solicitor – had stayed “just within the law”.

As he was sentenced, Choudary’s supporters stood up in the public gallery and shouted: “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for God is Great. He smiled and disappeared down to the cells.

For 20 years Choudary has been the police’s headache – now he is the prison service’s. He will start time in the high security unit – a prison within a prison – at HMP Belmarsh in south-east London. Only a few of the most dangerous individuals in the country are ever held there at one time – and the priority will be keeping him apart from the impressionable minds whom Mr Justice Holroyde said he did so much to influence.

Whether the prison service will succeed is unclear. Only last month it published a report that raised serious questions about how well the UK manages violent extremists behind bars. So what happens to Choudary from now on may demonstrate whether jails can securely hold people like him and prevent them from doing further harm.

Sue Hemming, CPS head of counter terrorism said: “Both men were fully aware that Daesh is a proscribed terrorist group responsible for brutal activities and that what they themselves were doing was illegal.

“Those who invite others to support such organisations will be prosecuted and jailed for their crimes.

Kalsoom Bashir from counter-extremism organisation Inspire, said she was relieved the law had caught up with Choudary, saying he has been described as “the gateway to terror”.

“He has enticed those individuals who were on the fringes of society towards supporting violent extremism and giving them, behind closed doors, justification for committing acts of violence in the name of terror – those who heard him then went on to commit those acts of terror.”

The pair caused “frustration for both law enforcement agencies and communities as they spread hate”, said the head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism command, Commander Dean Haydon.

“We have watched Choudary developing a media career as spokesman for the extremists, saying the most distasteful of comments, but without crossing the criminal threshold,” he said.

“This has been a significant prosecution in our fight against terrorism, and we will now be working with communities to ensure that they are not replaced by others spreading hate.”

In court, Choudary refused to stand up in the dock as his sentencing hearing began.

Passing sentence, the judge, Mr Justice Holroyde, said the pair had “crossed the line between the legitimate expression of your own views and a criminal act”.

“A significant proportion of those listening to your words would be impressionable persons looking to you for guidance on how to act,” he said.

He told Choudary he had failed to condemn “any aspect” of what IS was doing, adding: “In that way you indirectly encouraged violent terrorist activity.”

The judge said that in one of Choudary’s speeches he referred “happily to the prospect of the flag of Islam flying over 10 Downing Street and the White House”, and in another set out his ambitions for Islam to “dominate the whole world”.

Choudary’s supporters included the men who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby – Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.

Mr Justice Holroyde went on to describe Rahman as a “hothead” while Choudary was more “calculating” and more experienced, adding that both men were dangerous and had shown no remorse.

“You are both mature men and intelligent men who knew throughout exactly what you were doing. You are both fluent and persuasive speakers.”

Choudary’s lawyer, Mark Summers QC, asked the judge to take into account the impact of solitary confinement on his client’s mental welfare when deciding how long he must serve in jail.

However, the judge refused to shorten the sentence and said it was a matter for the Prison Service.

He added that he could not decide sentences based on “speculation” over whether Choudary would be held in solitary confinement “to minimise the risk that persons such as you two will radicalise other prisoners whilst serving your sentences”.

“I do not think it would be right to reduce your sentence because of the possibility that your own behaviour may cause the prison service to deal with you in a particular way,” he said.

Both Choudary and Rahman were previously convicted over a protest march held in London in 2006 over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Choudary was fined £500 for failing to give notice of a public procession while Rahman was convicted of soliciting murder and jailed for six years.

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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:





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Our Work: Reflecting on 2015

At the start of 2016 we would like to take the opportunity to thank all our supporters, friends and donors who have helped us in our work in countering extremism and supporting human rights. The work we do is difficult, challenging and sometimes downright depressing. We all witnessed families taking unsuspecting children, or young bright A-grade teenage girls who had all the opportunities to fulfil their potential in Britain instead choose to live under ISIS’ rule.

The killing of innocent people whether in Paris, Baghdad, Beirut, the US, Nigeria, Somalia and other countries did (or should have done) trigger off alarm bells that the threat of Islamist extremism is not only real but it is thriving. The tragic consequences impact ordinary people on a local and global scale.

From Syrian children (fleeing both ISIS and Assad) drowning in the Mediterranean to Shia Muslims and Christians being killed for simply being Shia and Christian. From cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo being gunned down for expressing their views, to Muslims being attacked on the streets of our country because of anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet the circle of hatred and violence continues. Post Paris, ISIS further encouraged Muslims to commit lone wolf attacks. Post San Bernardino Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.

It is hard to feel optimistic about the future but giving up is no answer. Instead we must carry on with heavy but determined hearts. And we do so because after every incident, we have witnessed the greatness of the human spirit exemplifying hope and compassion: communities becoming more united, with support and protection offered to those most vulnerable. We have also met many inspirational young British Muslims over the year who have aspirations to contribute positively to society, who are comfortable with their identity and who recognise that diverse Muslim voices, who promote human rights and a British Islam, is desperately needed now more than any other time.

As a small civil society organisation this year we:

  • Undertook over 200 local, national and international media interviews including for Sky News, Good Morning Britain, CNN Amanpour, ITV’s Loose Women, BBC News, Radio 4’s Today Programme, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, Channel 4 News and many others.
  • Delivered our anti-ISIS Making A Stand campaign and visited 9 cities across England and Wales reaching hundreds of Muslim women where we:
  1. Taught women theological counter-narratives to extremist ideology
  2. Helped them to recognise early signs of radicalisation and the role they can play
  3. Signposted them to external agencies who could provide help to vulnerable individuals in their family or community
  4. Encouraged them to take the lead in challenging extremism in their communities and to exert influence in their mosques and communities.
  • Overwhelmed by the number of requests we have had from schools, we have delivered training to thousands of teachers and senior leaders across the country about how to safeguard children from extremism whether far right or Islamist extremism. We have also worked in partnership with the Association of Schools and College Leaders. Part of our training has included explaining the difference between Islamist extremism and Islam, encouraging staff to challenge extreme and intolerant views whether anti-Muslim prejudice or anti-Semitism., clarifying Islamic concepts that staff find confusing e.g jihad, as well as helping staff to understand vulnerabilities to radicalisation. Our contribution in schools has also helped create a comfortable environment for teachers to ask us questions on culturally sensitive issues which is of direct concern and relevance to them.
  • We have been working with many parents and pupils at school. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. But struggling to meet the demands that have come from every corner of British society from many parts of the country has not always been possible due to the small size of our organisation. In 2016 we are working to expand our organisation.
  • We have also spoken internationally in Washington, at the European Parliament, in Virginia and San Francisco to name just a few and here in the UK at many conferences.
  • Sara was honoured to be named in BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Top 10 Power List of influencers.

Since the first day Inspire was founded, the work we do engaging directly with Muslim women in communities is the dearest to us. We have done so as individuals for over 20 years now and we never tire of it. Women have told us how important and in some cases, life changing our programmes have been for them. Their voices are too often ignored by the media and even by traditional Muslim structures. They share with us their untold stories of battling misogyny daily in Muslim communities or the reality of hate preachers targeting their children.

We do not doubt that it is women who are key to preventing extremism but too frequently the powerful role they play is discouraged and played down often by those same communities. While challenges such as anti-Muslim prejudice are real, we cannot turn a blind eye to the huge challenges that exist within British Muslim communities too. We have seen too regularly how when some Muslims dare point out the injustices, sexism and regressive and hate filled attitudes that exist within some British Muslim communities, they have experienced abuse in an attempt to silence their voices. This does not serve the interests of British Muslims or wider society. The vast overwhelming majority of British Muslims contribute positively to our country; this is our home but we need to challenge those who promote extreme and intolerant views and who seek to divide our society.

We would like to thank the great, considerate and generous British public –whose emails, donations, standing orders and kind words of support spurred us on and allowed our organisation to keep ticking. There are so many individuals and organisations – far too many to name – whether imams, theologians, to headteachers, activists and people from all backgrounds – who have sought to help us, for no other reason but for believing in what we do. We cannot even begin to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you.

We would like to wish everyone peace and blessings and a fruitful 2016.

Sara Khan and Kalsoom Bashir

30th Dec 2015

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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 (  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 ( 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


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Inspire have been working with teachers and schools across the country to help equip them to challenge extremism.  We provide training, support and consultancy and as experienced trainers offer a offer a wide range of training programmes for teachers, parents and pupils which can be adapted to meet specific needs of the target audience

Please contact us for further information or to discuss your needs.

For more information , please do click here: 

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In our #MakingAStand roadshow earlier this month, we’ve come across hundreds of women, who want to make a stand and take the lead. Their passion has shone through and should be an inspiration to us all.

As we travel throughout the country, we’ll publish videos of these truly inspirational women. Please watch, enjoy and if you want to join these women at an upcoming #MakingAStand Event, please fill in our online registration form.

Click here to see testimonials from our past events.

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Dear Sister,

You won’t know me but like you I too am British and Muslim. Some of your friends may have gone out to join ISIS and you are also considering going out too. Social media is awash with accounts of how life is wonderful under ISIS; that you will be promised a husband and the chance to fulfil your religious obligation of making hijra. You may have even read stories of women describing how they are given free homes, maintenance, and a sisterhood made up of women from across the world and that ISIS provides security. But most of all you believe that the painful journey of leaving your parents and siblings is a pain worth sacrificing for the pleasure of God.

I have no other intention of writing this letter but to tell you that you are being lied to in the wickedest of ways. Just because your liars are cloaked in religious clothing, speak in a religious language, and claim to be speaking in God’s name does not change the simple fact that you are being lied to through a gross manipulation of the teachings of our faith. You are being lied to first and foremost about your religious duty as a Muslim but also about the reality of life under ISIS. And the thought of you destroying your life, for a pack of lies is what motivates me to write this letter. Because you deserve to know the truth and to live a fulfilled and happy life.

There is no religious obligation to make hijra or to pledge allegiance to this self-declared leader who claims to be Caliph. Muslims for centuries have lived in lands that were not under Muslim rule. Even during the Prophet’s lifetime, he did not ask those early Muslims who initially made hijra to Abyssinia to make hijra to Medina, when Medina was ruled by the Prophet (pbuh).

But this self-appointed caliph Baghdadi calls on you to make hijra you say? But I ask you, what kind of a caliph is this person who in direct contrast to the teachings of the Qur’an and our blessed Prophet Muhammad pbuh, justifies killing Muslims who declare the shahaadha including convert Abdul Rahman Kassig? How does he this so-called caliph justify killing innocent people? How does he justify the killing of Muslim leaders and scholars who only call for peace and love? The taking of even one innocent life is a great crime in Islam equated to killing the whole of humanity. Yet with so little regard, this same caliph justifies killing Muslims and non-Muslims alike including humanitarian workers like Alan Henning; a man who chose to give up celebrating Christmas with his family to instead help Syrian children.

Tell me what crime did thousands of young girls in Iraq and Syria commit to justify being sold into sexual slave markets and to be raped by ISIS fighters? I am not telling you a lie; ISIS’ own publications have openly stated this to be the case.
Tell me what reason is given for the destruction of centuries old churches and the killings of other minority groups like the Yazidis when God clearly states “For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of God is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down.” — Qur’an 22:40.

ISIS omits to tell you that for centuries Christians and other minority groups lived in the Middle East in harmony with their Muslim neighbours. Because it is rather inconvenient to their poisonous narrative of Islam. As Muslim jurist Khaled Abou el Fadl writes , the Qur’an teaches that the act of destroying or spreading ruin on this earth is one of the gravest sins possible. Fasad fi al-ard, which means to corrupt the earth by destroying the beauty of creation, is considered an ultimate act of blasphemy against God.

Those who corrupt the earth by destroying lives, property, and nature are designated as mufsidun (corruptors and evil-doers) who, in effect, wage war against God by dismantling the very fabric of existence, yet this is what ISIS have committed themselves to.
Islam does not seek to impose itself over other religions. The Qur’an states that God has made people different and diverse as a test so that we may come to “know one another, not despite each other”. Human diversity is, as Fadl writes, part of the divine plan, and the test is for human beings to co-exist and interact despite our differences.

ISIS state that girls should be married from the age of 9 and that women should remain “hidden and veiled from society” – but this stands in stark contrast to Muslim history. Islam produced some of the most amazing women who were anything but hidden away from society. Muslim women contributed to all walks of life including Fatima al Fihri who in 859CE founded the first academic degree granting university in Morocco. Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya (d480/1087) who ruled Yemen with her husband as did her daughter in law, Arwa. Both these female heads of state were so respected that the Friday sermon in mosques were proclaimed in their names. Hidden, these women were not. The ISIL narrative of women flies in the face of Muslim history, the honour that Allah has conferred on women, and insults such great Muslim women who were pioneers in all walks of life.

ISIS claim to be calling for women’s liberation but do not be fooled – this is no liberation. This is subjugation and an abuse of women’s independence and authority that God has bestowed on women to be used serving humanity. Freedom is an essential core of Islam; ISIS only ever seem to deny it. Respect for life is a sacrosanct teaching of the Qur’an, yet ISIS only seem to cheapen it. Peace is what the Qur’an calls for again and again; yet ISIS only ever seek war and bloodshed. Some of the women who call you to ISIS are the same women who glorify the deaths of Muslims and non-Muslims and who call for the bloodshed of children in our country here in the UK.

What kind of Islam is this? When at its core Islam calls for the act of peace-making. Where is this peace in ISIS’s version of Islam? I see no peace, only death, destruction and misery. And this stands in stark contrast to centuries of Islamic tradition, a tradition based on mercy, compassion, pluralism, co-existence and human dignity.

You must know however, that once you go out there the chances of coming back are slim. Young women realising the error of their ways, have tried to escape but many have failed . The ability to fulfil any dreams you may have once had will be over as you discover how your identity, agency and freedoms are all denied and suppressed. ISIS’s treatment of women as second class citizens, is not the respect and dignity Islam promises women.

Finally, one can only end on the one person whom without you would not be alive today. Your mother. Your mother who for years raised and nurtured you, to enable you to achieve great things. Your mother who would lose sleep feeding you at night, who looked after you when you were ill and who would selflessly put you first, over and beyond her own needs. The same mother who would plait your hair for school every morning, ensured your uniform was ironed and your school bag was ready. And it is for this reason, mothers hold a special position in Islam. Your mother, your mother, your mother is what the Prophet Muhammad (saw) taught us. By asking you to leave your family behind, ISIS calls on you to turn your back on your mother.

Dear sister, do not destroy your life and your families lives by buying into a lie. You will find many of your fellow Muslim sisters have also rejected the call of ISIS as they have seen through the poisonous ideology it peddles. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like to talk more. And like so many others, join our campaign #MakingAStand. We are making a stand to reclaim our faith back from these extremists who denigrate Islam’s teachings. We are making a stand for peace, mercy, compassion and respect for others.
And we are making a stand against ISIS who instead, calls for bloodshed, death, destruction and rape. I hope you join our call over theirs.
Your sister in Islam, Sara

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In the wake of the extremist attacks in Paris last week that saw 17 people killed, BBC Panorama takes a closer look at the battle that is taking place over the hearts and minds of British Muslims. Inspire’s Sara Khan among other British Muslims, comments on the propagation of extremist voices that are increasingly shaping the narrative about what a British Islam would like like.

“I feel very passionate to make sure that the children I raise are not being drawn to an intolerant dehumanising interpretation of Islam, which currently is starting to become more and more mainstream.”

Please watch the full video here:

You can read Sara’s blog about the Paris attacks here:

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No-one can be under any doubt about the incredibly difficult times we find ourselves living in particularly here in Europe.

With a sense of foreboding, I often wonder what I should be more worried about. On the one hand we have the rise of far right politics, neo-fascist extremism and violent anti-Muslim sentiment across the face of Europe, leaving many concerned about what kind of a Europe our children will live in. Just two days before the Paris attack, Germany witnessed the biggest ever anti-Islam march organised by Pegida with an estimated 18’000 people in attendance. As news emerged about the cold-blooded murder of staff and others at the Charlie Hebdo offices, #killamuslim initially began to trend on twitter provoking revenge attacks against mosques and French Muslims. But it’s not only Muslims who fear attacks; Jews often also fear and feel the impact of rising far right politics and anti-Semitism. Yesterday one of the gunmen attacked a Jewish supermarket in Paris, because he wanted to defend [1] Palestinians and target Jews.

On the other hand, as we have witnessed across the world, we have the rise of Islamist extremism, which at its core despises freedom and human rights. The threat to both Muslims and non-Muslims, posed by this ideology is real and underplaying it only creates a major obstacle in dealing with this challenge. But all too often that’s exactly what I see happening time and again. The constant denial of the role of extremist ideology serves no-one and in fact insults many victims. By denying the role of extremist ideology, you in fact insult the poor parents who have discovered their sons and daughters have left the UK to join the unIslamic State, you insult victims like Ahmed Merabet, the French Muslim policeman who was executed, you insult the 17 killed in Paris, you insult the 132 children killed in Peshawar gunned down in December, you insult the thousands of women in Syria and Iraq who have been raped en masse and sold in sexual slavery markets. And of course let’s not forget that the overwhelming majority of victims killed by Muslim extremist organisations are indeed Muslim.

While some Muslims are at pains to deny the role of extremist ideology, the extremists time and again tell us they are doing it in the name of Islam. One cannot deny, no matter how perverted, that the interpretation of Islam they have been taught has convinced them about the Islamic justification of what they do.

Twitter over the last few days has often seemed like a race to the bottom in moral terms. Tweets calling for all Muslims to be killed as the only viable response to this “war on western culture,” were many including “Islam is a vicious cult. Muslims have no place in any civilised country. Deport and kill them before they kill you!” But these tweets were among the many tweets glorifying the deaths of staff at Charlie Hebdo: “You (kuffar) have taken away the free speech of Muslims in the west with laws and jails. We will take away your ‘free speech’ with death.”

“Only coconuts would condemn the attack on #CharlieHebdo. I’m proud of those who did it!”

“May Allah swt reward our brothers in France who are real men, fear & love Allah swt, who have gheera and took revenge for the Ummah. #IS”

“Allahu akbar! This is the right response 2 those who mock with Islam! #Paris”

Two sides of the same extremist coin, both these hatreds and degenerative positions can all too easily transform into violence; but both are also rooted in fear of the other.

After the terrorist attacks in 2011 by far right extremist Anders Breivik who killed seventy seven people, Norwegian’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg stated, “We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values…our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.” In the challenging times we find ourselves in, with the rise of both far-right and Islamist extremism, I hope and pray that now more than ever, we hear that message echoed over and over; a message that is fundamental in combatting the narrative of hate and extremism. Stoltenberg is right; we need more openness, more democracy not the opposite if we want to overcome the extremism on both sides.

In countering both these extremist outlooks, Europe must cling to its hard won freedoms protecting speech, belief and minorities, while Muslims must reject and challenge the supremacist ideologies which are an affront to the victims of this ideology and indeed to Islam itself. I’ve repeatedly written[2] about moving on from mere condemnation (which by the way is not, nor has ever been, about “apologising”) in order to challenge the extremist narrative but as Fraser Nelson wrote[3], we also need better and stronger Muslim leaders to be able to deal with this challenge. And let us not be under any illusion about this challenge. Yesterday the MI5 head Andrew Parker stated[4] that Al-Qaida are planning to attack Britain; for those of us who work to counter extremism, this isn’t all too surprising, shocking maybe.

At Inspire we will continue to do what we can and are taking our Making A Stand[5] campaign out to Muslim women. We know the impact women have when they take the lead in countering extremism. And now more than any other time, we need to make a stand and take the lead. Join us.