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 "Women’s Rights"

Women’s Rights

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Sara Khan was asked by the European Parliament’s Committee of Culture and Education to give evidence on the prevention of radicalisation on the 15th October 2015. The only Muslim and the only female on the panel,the purpose of the hearing was to debate issues relating to the prevention of radicalisation and the possible approaches to prevent the various forms of radicalisation in the European society.

You can read more what Sara and the other panellists debated here:

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It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of a dear friend and supporter of our work. Bushra Farooqui, died while on a trek in Oman. Her death is testimony to her selfless nature-she died whilst trying to get help for other members of her party that had got lost.

Bushra combined her passion of mountains with her commitment and passion for improving educational provision for underprivileged children, particularly girls in Pakistan.

I met Bushra when we trekked to Base camp Everest to raise money for a charity improving educational access for girls in Pakistan. Our love of trekking and passion for womens rights brought us close. I went on to join Inspire as Co-director and Bushra set up ‘inspire for the love of mountains’ a charitable organisation supporting primary education for children in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan. After a trek to the region she understood that there were no places for girls in the schools because families prioritized the education of sons. Raising money with friends from the UK, she helped to fund teaching for 60 girls at the boys’ primary school in Sidri village in Baltistan, 100 kilometres from the nearest town, Skardu The money she raised supports 360 girls in different villages. Bushra opened primary schools in Sadpara and Malpan.Today, there are 360 children, both girls and boys, between the ages of four and 14 years enrolled in these two schools.

Bushra was a role model for all of us. She was a special constable for the metropolitan police in her spare time and was also manager of the Aquatics centre at the 2012 Olympics. All this was alongside her job as international consultant banker.

Her death has been a tragedy that has been felt by her friends and colleagues across the world. As her brother Sohaib said

“She was energetic, enthusiastic. She lived for others, not just for herself.

“Mountaineering was the love of her life and it was her first love that drew her to the children of Baltistan. It was not just girls’ education but children’s education she wanted to take forward.”

Friends and family have committed to continuing Bushra’s legacy by setting up a page to raise funds for Sadpara school. Please visit the link below. The initial plan is to build 2 more rooms and keep supporting the 140 students.

http://www.gofundme.com/bushra-slegacy

For any queries about Inspire for the love of mountains, please contact her sister and member of the board of directors of Inspire, Aisha Farooqui ataishafarooqui96@gmail.com. The official website address is www.inspire-initiative.org

Kalsoom Bashir

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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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What a week.  The start of our nationwide roadshow of our campaign #MakingAStand began with the news that three teenage girls from East London had left the UK to join ISIS.  The words of grief shared by the girls’ families were painful for anyone to watch.  But the case of Shamima, Amira and Kadiza only strengthened our resolve at Inspire, to do what we can in preventing people from being drawn into extremism.  It is why #MakingAStand, especially in these times, is so important.  Our message to women resonated.  If we will not challenge extremism in these times, then when?  If we will not speak out against those who prey on our children, who deliberately target them with an extreme religious and political ideology then who will?

This week we were in Birmingham and Luton and the discussions with the participants were honest, critical, introspective, refreshing and uplifting.  In the safe spaces we had created, women shared with us their direct experiences of extremism.  Cases of extended family members who had become radicalised, concerns over messages of hate coming from mosques and the lack of counter-messages being taught to kids in these places of worship.  Some women had very strong views; including a firm belief that madrassas should be regulated.  Many mothers argued that parents needed to take greater responsibility in deciding where they send their kids for an Islamic education.  Parents should demand to see the curriculums, find out if they have child protection policies and other normal policies one would expect from institutions that are teaching children.  Concerns were raised over the internet about the dominance of extremist websites and about groups operating in their own local communities who peddle a narrative of hate and an “us V them” worldview to young impressionable Muslims.  The issue of gender inequality within sections of British Muslim communities, was unsurprisingly raised.

But women also told us how they are making a stand and next steps they plan to take.  Examples of how they have been challenging hatred, bigotry and extremism were offered.  Some of the practical ideas we heard were great and we hope to share the activism of these principled women with you in the future.  So watch this space.  Next stop will be Leeds on the 10th March.  If you’re interested in attending, please register on our website.  The #makingastand movement is growing!

This week Inspire also did many local, national and international media interviews, about the three schoolgirls.  I wrote an article for the Independent you may wish to read, arguing why these girls were not only radicalised but were also groomed by ISIS.

Seeing the pain of the parents of the three schoolgirls, I also wrote an open letter to any young girl who maybe considering joining ISIS.  Within 72 hours the letter was viewed over 20’000 times in countries across the world from Canada to India and has been translated into different languages.  It was also reported in the Independent, Huffington Post and the Metro.  Teachers told us they would read it in their morning assembly.  Young Muslims contacted us saying what an important message it contained.  Some people contacted us saying they now understood the difference between ISIS and Islam.  My motivation for writing the letter was to sow the seed of doubt in the minds of any young girl (or boy for that matter) who maybe considering to leave the UK to join ISIS.  If the letter convinces even one person, then it has fulfilled its purpose.

You can read the letter here.

May we all continue to make a stand against all forms of extremism, violence and hatred.   #MakingAStand

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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 this year’s Debrett’s 500, Sara Khan was recognised in the category War and Peace as one of the most influential people in the UK. Only 2 out of the 20 nominees in this category are women – and both Muslim.

For almost 250 years Debrett’s has been recognising people of influence and achievement in British society. It is a positive endorsement and recognition of Britain’s 500 most influential people, nominating outstanding achievements in 24 different categories, which are a reflection of the concerns of British society nowadays.
This nomination is yet another recognition of the importance of Inspire’s efforts to work towards a more peaceful, inclusive society.

“I am humbled to be recognised in Debrett’s 500; a list of the 500 most influential people living and working in the UK today, but I’m particularly honoured to be featured in the War and Peace category as someone who is working towards peace and stability in the United Kingdom. The threat of extremism is real and impacts on us all. I hope to continue working for a peaceful and just society for all.”

Please see the entire list here: http://www.debretts.com/people/debretts-500-2015/war-peace/sara-khan

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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

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Sara Khan meets with a group of Muslim women in Wandsworth who have gathered to discuss how they can take the lead in their community #MakingAStand against extremism, and what challenges they have faced trying to do so.

Muslim women accross the UK are adding their voice to the #MakingAStand campaign. “Women are the heart of their own communities whether it’s in their household or their neighborhood…..If we don’t try and make a stand for something better, than who else is going to?” Hodan Hussein, the Elays Network.

Add your voice by tweeting the hashtag #MakingAStand.

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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