John Glyn Society presents Sara Khan

Review by Lettie (Y10)

“The John Glyn Society was lucky enough to welcome Sara Khan, CEO of Inspire, to Colfe’s School. Inspire is an organisation that works closely with schools to educate people on important social issues such as women’s rights and tackling extremism. Islamic extremism was the topic of this lecture.

Terrorism has been prevalent in the media recently and Khan shared with us her own definition of terrorism: ‘people who are opposed to human rights, equality, and individual liberties’. She explained that whilst violence is a common tactic, she does not think all terrorists are violent – at least not to other people even if they may harm themselves. In the era of fake news it can be hard to gauge what is fact compared to fiction for example, Khan informed us that Muslims are six times more likely to be the victims of an Islamic extremist attack, however, this is often not conveyed by the press. There are only three million Muslims in the UK and a huge proportion of them are at the front line of preventing these attacks but they are not often given the opportunity to share their experiences in the mainstream press.

Prevention is arguably better than treatment, but when it comes to radicalisation the ‘symptoms’ are often less obvious. People are radicalised through platforms that they have interacted with safely for years, such as social media and their community, so it is not always obvious when someone begins to become radicalised. Khan explained the signs to look out for, such as spotting the persuasion technique of it being our duty to act or behave in a certain way. Furthermore, she demonstrated that an ‘us vs. them’ belief which is prevalent in grooming, questioning this is a key way of preventing radicalisation.

With so much experience working with Inspire Khan was able to reveal how challenging extremism is and commented that it is a constant balancing act. She frequently encounters people who disagree with her work completely as they believe counter terrorist groups are not strict enough on Islamist extremists. Conversely, other people are so careful as to not be Islamaphobic that they end up doing nothing. She advised us the best ways that we can personally, and as a nation, tackle extremism: challenging all those who promote hatred (this of course does not just apply to extremism but any denial of human rights), to support Muslims especially those who work tirelessly to help prevent radicalisation, and empower schools and parents. Khan suggests we do this by implementing discussions of human rights into the school curriculum and preserving the middle ground. This middle ground is the common traits that all extremist groups and countries share, by accentuating them we can show people on the path of radicalisation that it is not necessary.

In addition, the things that stuck with me the most were that even those who are trying to prevent Islamaphobia can worsen it. They continue to refer to Muslims as “the Muslim community”, but we cannot group together such a diverse group of people based purely on their religion. Khan also explained her belief that our opinions on religion are based on our own moral compass and that if we are tolerant people, we will be able to support them despite their religious belief. Those who are filled with hatred will do what they can to spread it, often it is directed at groups of people who do not deserve it

The media can portray whole religious groups however they please and with increasing numbers of terrorist attacks, I think it has become even more important for people such as Khan to discuss extremism, especially with students who may be more vulnerable in believing what they read. Khan spoke and answered all the questions excellently and I think her work is extremely important. The talk was both compelling and inspiring.”

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