UK: British government to set up a Muslim Women's Advisory Group
Statistics and research show that Muslim women tend to be more marginalised than men - and in some communities face an uphill struggle to be heard outside their own homes.
Officials hope that greater support for a "silent majority" of women, including mentoring leaders, will help prevent terrorism by leaving them better placed to identify and block extremists radicalising young Muslims.
But the BBC has learned that some of the women invited to join the group have already faced direct criticism from inside their own communities, amid fears they are being recruited to "inform" for government. And some have already warned officials their work will be fatally undermined if it is presented purely as a counter-terrorism measure, rather than a broader attempt to tackle inequalities.
Shaista Gohir, an activist from Birmingham and director of polling organisation Muslim Voice UK, said that the women who had signed up wanted to make a positive lasting difference in their communities, rather than be seen as just another counter-terrorism prong.
"I would not be involved if I did not think I could do something positive. It's good that government is at last listening to Muslim women - until now it has been just token gestures," she said. "I hope we can help government to understand how to assist Muslim women to play a greater role in civic or public life. Extremism is just one of the long list of things we want to address. If Muslim women can be empowered they can make a difference. But it is not something that happens overnight. If we are going to do anything to tackle extremism then that will probably be a long-term indirect impact. We're talking about a generational thing."
But a group which specialises in engaging with Islamic communities was sceptical about the plan.
Huda Jawad from Forward Thinking said: "On past experience the government has not been successful in reaching the grass roots. There's already a real danger the £70m allocated to the Muslim community last autumn will not have any impact."
She said Muslim women were already at the forefront of the fight against extremism as no mother would want her son to become a suicide bomber.
The group says its own research suggests a more effective way of countering extremism is for the government to spend more time talking to communities and addressing their problems, such as lack of education and employment.
Forward Thinking also says its research suggests Muslim women feel more emancipated, self-reliant and ambitious than is commonly thought. In fact, young Muslim men were most marginalised and in need of help.
The Department for Communities is expected to fund some women's projects from its £70m earmarked for counter-extremism measures. Forward Thinking is due to brief civil servants regularly on their progress in helping Muslim women.
By: Dominic Casciani
23 January 2008
- Kurdish groups in UK protest 'terrorism' charges against Silan Ozcelik
- Missing female Sudanese rights activist found beaten in street
- Egypt: Women's rights activist among 17 facing spurious charges in security forces' 'cover up'
- Bahrain: Authorities continue to target women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer
- Egypt: Press Release by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders on the Appeal Verdict in the Case of Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif
- Egypt: Judicial harassment of Ms. Azza Soliman
- Please acquit and release Asia Bibi
- Over 220 Global Organizations Call for Immediate Release of Seven Imprisoned Women Human Rights Defenders in Egypt
- Send your support to Yara Sallam and other human rights defenders imprisoned in Egypt
- URGENT: Join the international campaign against Egypt’s repressive protest law!
- Egypt: #noprotestlaw campaign abridged toolkit
- No One is Safe: Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System
- Child, Early and Forced Marriage: A Multi-Country Study.
- "Maybe we are hated": The experience and impact of Anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim Women
- Walking a Tightrope: Women and Veiling in the United Kingdom