Ramadan is a time of very generous charitable giving. People have a right to feel confident that their generosity is not abused and that their donations are being used for legitimate charitable purposes.
Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission said:
Ramadan is very much a time for giving, but unfortunately there are individuals prepared to exploit this. We want to ensure that the generous donations made by people from Muslim communities end up supporting the deserving causes for which they were intended. The commission is committed to ensuring that trust and confidence in charities remains high, so we would encourage the public to follow our simple tips before making donations.
Top ten tips from the commission to make sure you give safely this Ramadan:
- Before giving, check the charity’s name and registration number against the online charity search tool: Find a charity – register of charities
- Fundraisers require a licence from the local authority (or the Police in London) to collect in a public place. Check that they have this. If the collection is in a privately owned place, check that they have the owner’s permission.
- When approached by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed.
- If in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.
- Genuine fundraising materials should feature the charity’s name, registered name and a landline contact number. Be wary of those that list only a mobile number.
- Make sure when you give to radio and television appeals that the process is secure. Ofcom lists the rules for radio and television charity appeals on its website: Licensing – Ofcom website.
- Take care when responding to emails or clicking links to a charity’s website to ensure that they are genuine. Instead, search online for your chosen charity to check you have the right web address. For further guidance see: Guidance for donors – Get Safe Online.
- Carefully review collection bags for clothing and household goods to ascertain whether they are from a genuine charity.
- After making these checks, if you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and inform the Charity Commission: Action Fraud – Police.
- Don’t be pressurised to give to a collection immediately. If in any doubt, donate directly to charity.
The order laid in Parliament on Monday 12th December 2016 has now come into effect and National Action has become the first extreme-right wing group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
Here are some useful links:
- Who Are National Action (video)
- Home Secretary Op-Ed in Yorkshire Post (read)
- A more detailed look at National Action and the process of proscription is here:
- My article for the Independent – What is Prevent doing about the Extreme Right Wing – can be found here.
In support of HM Government’s Prevent Strategy, the aim of this competition is to find innovative ways to prevent vulnerable people from becoming radicalised to support or carry out terrorism. This is part of HM Government’s Prevent Strategy.
Projects must focus explicitly on one or more of the objectives below in line with the Prevent Strategy.
- increasing the understanding of and reducing the risk of radicalisation within a particular sector (for example, health sector)
- increasing the understanding of and reducing the risk of radicalisation within a particular demographic (such as young people)
- delivering new and innovative ways of working to deliver Prevent objectives
- working with vulnerable individuals or groups through outreach projects
- helping project participants to develop the judgement skills to challenge others’ views confidently
- addressing terrorist use of the internet, including by:
- improving understanding of the manifestation, dissemination and impact of terrorist content online
- building an evidence base to show how radicalising networks form online, and how they can be disrupted
- raising awareness of terrorist propaganda online, and promoting digital resilience by equipping individuals with the skills to protect themselves and others
- developing technical solutions to protect those in important sectors, such as education and health, from terrorist content online
Evaluation will be provided and delivered centrally by the Home Office.
More information can be found here.
Who are ISIL?
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a proscribed terrorist group that uses sophisticated propaganda and online messaging to recruit new members.
They are a brutal group that want to impose their rule on people and has regularly uses violence and extortion; it is a violent terrorist organisation that has caused huge suffering in the name of an Islamist extremist ideology.
Having previously been affiliated to the al-Qa’ida network in Iraq, ISIL were expelled from the network following its move into Syria in 2014.
After gaining control of large areas of uncontrolled territory in Syria, in June 2014, ISIL advanced on Iraq, taking the city of Mosul and declaring the establishment of the ‘Caliphate’. At this time ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was declared ‘Caliph’.
ISIL PROPAGANDA ONLINE
Why is ISIL producing online propaganda?
ISIL propaganda aims to portray the group as the successful administrators of a new Islamic state for Sunni Muslims. It is not only trying to recruit young men to fight jihad in the region, but also skilled workers, women and families. ISIL is offering them citizenship and a fulfilling life, claiming that they can help build this utopian society in the ‘Caliphate’.
This messaging has an international focus – ISIL tells people that they have a religious duty to join the group, regardless of their age, gender or current location. In order to reach these people, ISIL produces propaganda tailored to a number of different audiences, and in multiple languages.
How does ISIL produce propaganda?
ISIL has a number of central media arms that produce official propaganda for the group, which are known for being particularly slick and professional-looking. Typical official products from the group include:
Videos – Often in HD quality, ISIL videos are well-edited, stylised and branded. Their footage of battles borrows the style of Hollywood action films.
Magazines – Again, these online magazines are very professional and stylised, particularly in comparison to the al-Qa’ida products.
Photosets – Following the jihadi tradition of creating photosets, this is an easy way to quickly release and share propaganda, particularly on social media.
Beyond its main media outlets, ISIL also has media organisations for each of the ‘provinces’ under its control, known as ‘Wilayats’. These groups produce material on a daily basis claiming to show ISIL’s successes and work to improve living standards in the area.
Alongside the official media outlets, ISIL supporters on social media will create their own images and memes promoting the group. They will often use the ISIL logo, images of key figures or events, or images taken from official ISIL products to make their own material – often in the style of online ‘fan art’ around pop culture and celebrities.
How does ISIL use social media to spread propaganda?
ISIL do not have any ‘official’ social media accounts, as they are quickly removed by the sites. Instead, ISIL uses its large following on social media to distribute propaganda material and encourages supporters to share it as widely as possible – a form of social media crowdsourcing.
The latest independent estimates suggest that there are around 45,000 pro-ISIL social media accounts worldwide. One of the benefits of not having ‘official’ social media accounts is that material can be shared between supporters when the original accounts have been removed, and that these accounts can be quickly replaced. This is called ‘swarmcasting’.
The main themes of ISIL messaging found in the group’s propaganda can be divided into three categories:
Following its territorial gains in Iraq and Syria 2014, ISIL has claimed to have established a new state. Its propaganda presents the ‘Caliphate’ as a utopia under Sharia law.
The group regularly produces images and videos of families living in ISIL-controlled areas, such as Raqqah and Mosul. They claim to show food and electricity are plentiful, children can attend schools, and that healthcare and other state support is freely available.
This is one of the most powerful factors for recruitment, as it shows people living as citizens of the first Islamic ‘Caliphate’ in nearly 100 years, an offer that is unique to ISIL.
These claims to statehood are false and are undermined by the following factors:
- Virtually all Islamic scholars have rejected ISIL’s claims to have created a caliphate.
- The claims of creating a utopia are untrue, and in many areas of ISIL-controlled territory people are experiencing hunger, power-rationing and disease.
- While claiming to provide for civilians, there are reports that ISIL has stolen international aid (including food and medicine), holding it back for fighters while ordinary people suffer.
- Instead of a justice system, violent punishments are carried out arbitrarily, including the use of cruel punishments for crimes not proscribed in the sharia (such as using mobile phones).
ISIL messaging relies heavily on the image that the group is successful in its military engagements. Propaganda presents the image that its fighters are powerful, and that the group consistently delivers victories in Syria and Iraq.
The group emphasises that it can give recruits a sense of personal strength and Islamic honour, something that potential recruits may be lacking in their own lives. This empowers ISIL supporters with the idea that they are backing a ‘winning team’.
However, there are many examples of how ISIL has failed to deliver its promise of success to recruits:
- ISIL has given naive young recruits from the West the impression that it is ‘unbeatable’, but its defeats in Kobane, Tikrit (and elsewhere) prove that this was a just a myth. Thousands of young ISIL recruits have already died as ‘cannon fodder’ in various battles.
- There is growing evidence of in-fighting within ISIL’s ranks, and the group has brutally executed disillusioned fighters who have tried to leave.
- Joining ISIL is not empowering – many who have been lured to join ISIL report being humiliated and made to perform menial tasks such as cleaning toilets by their foreign commanders.
ISIL seeks to portray itself as the defenders of Sunni Muslims in the region. It capitalises on pre-existing sectarian tensions by presenting itself as the liberators and protectors of Iraq’s Sunnis, by arguing that they face a threat from Shias, and from a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.
ISIL presents itself as exclusive, in the sense that it only welcomes Sunni Muslims, yet it is also inclusive, as it appeals to Sunnis regardless of their race or nationality. ISIL propaganda aims to show Sunni Muslims from throughout the world who have travelled to join the group, not only to show their power, but also to show all or welcome.
Despite its claims to protect Sunnis, ISIL is seeking to exploit sectarian tensions for its own gain:
ISIL is causing suffering to Muslims across Syria and Iraq, many of whom the group has subjugated and killed without mercy. As well as causing suffering to Muslims, it is damaging the name of Islam.
ISIL seeks to divide people by provoking sectarian division, but ISIL themselves have shown the same brutality towards the Sunni tribes as to Shias. They have ejected Imams from their Mosques, and even killed those who oppose them.
There is evidence of both racism and hierarchy based on nationality in the group. Reports from returned foreign recruits suggest that those from some countries receive better treatment than others.
RECRUITMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE ONLINE
ISIL’s slick propaganda products, combined with its prolific use of social media, have meant the group’s messaging has been able to reach young people in the West on a scale previously unseen with a jihadi group.
The group exploits any confusion or disillusionment young Muslims may have about living in the West, and manipulates them by claiming to be offering the chance to live in a utopian society, under the moral absolutes of their interpretation of Sharia law.
The messaging of ISIL resonates with young people in the way that a brand does; young people who engage with ISIL and its messaging feel particularly loyal to the group, and will adopt its imagery and language. Whilst the salafi-jihadi ideology plays a role in the appeal of ISIL, the messaging around Statehood, Success and Supremacy seeks to engage people on an emotional level.
There have been a huge number of rumours circulating in our communities about the forthcoming Counter Terrorism & Security (CTS) Bill, most of which appear to be entirely untrue, unfounded and designed to spread fear. You have to wonder why groups would purposefully instil fear in the communities they claim to represent at a time when we should be united in standing together against extremism and division.
The UK Government is clear that all forms of extremism and terrorism are unacceptable and must be challenged; where extremists are recruiting new followers to their causes they must stopped and those who are most vulnerable (usually the young) should be protected, supported and safeguarded. This applies to far right extremism, white supremacists, those inspired by Al Qaida / ISIL, Babbar Khalsa International, even Animal Rights. These are just a few of the groups known to have recruited people to commit acts of violence and terrorism.
Here are some of the common myths that are ‘doing the rounds’ on WhatsApp, Twitter and other social networking platforms:
Myth: If you pray five times a day or wear a hijab you will be arrested
To be clear, freedom of religion is protected in the UK by Article 9 of the European Commission on Human Rights (ECHR). The inference of this bizarre rumour is that religious orthodoxy will be viewed as ‘extremism’; in fact, the UK definition of extremism states that it is those who are actively intolerant of different faiths and beliefs that might be viewed as extreme (such as far right groups). Here is the full text of Article 9:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Myth: Have you ever felt anxious in class? You could be a potential terrorist under this new bill
Schools have a duty to safeguard all pupils in their care – whether it is from hate crimes, bullying, discrimination and so on. Exposure to extremist content, particularly via the internet, is sadly inevitable in today’s digital age so now we must also safeguard our children from these influences. Those who show signs of exposure to these ideologies which encourage violence or promote terrorism should be protected and safeguarded in the same way we would safeguard any child who was exposed to abusive or violent behaviour.
Myth: If you disagree with foreign policy you will be called a terrorist
Everyone has the right to disagree with any Govt. policy. We also have the right to protest, demonstrate and use democratic processes to change or influence policy. We do not, however, have the right to commit, incite or encourage acts of violence because we disagree with a particular policy, foreign or domestic. The definition of extremism includes “calling for the deaths of members of our armed forces”; disagreeing with a policy is very different from demanding that British citizens be murdered.
Myth: Councils, schools, universities will be made to spy on Muslims by law
Statutory bodies such as councils, schools and universities will have a legal duty to safeguard people from radicalisation. They already have a safeguarding duty to protect against other forms of harm; this ensures that the harm of being groomed for terrorism is included in their safeguarding policy. This applies to all forms of extremism and not to any particular faith, nationality, age, gender etc.
Myth: The bill will allow people being criminalised for their thoughts and beliefs
Article 9 of the ECHR (see above) also applies here: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
This is about safeguarding those who are most vulnerable to being radicalised, most often because of psychological factors that create vulnerability, and most often the younger members of our communities. A person’s thoughts are entirely their own; however, actively inciting violence against others because of a personal view is not acceptable. Similarly we would not want others to incite violence against us.
Myth: Any evidence or trial against you will be conducted in a secret court, where you or your lawyer will not be present
This does not happen in normal criminal trials (most of which any member of the public can attend), and only applies to a few people who may be on trial for involvement in the most serious terrorism crimes and only to very specific pieces of information within that trial that should not be made public; it is designed to stop information that can damage national security, and therefore place the public at greater risk of harm, from being disclosed. For example, one of the tactics of the IRA was to scrutinise public court documents so they could discover how their members had been found out and how their plots had been disrupted. This not only placed families at high risk of revenge attacks, but allowed the IRA to alter their methods to avoid future detection and continue their campaign of terrorism.
Myth: You could be effectively made stateless for 2 years on the basis of mere suspicion
The scare tactic here is the use of the words “mere suspicion”. In reality, the threshold for exclusion from the UK would have to be exceptionally high; in fact there would have to be an overwhelming wealth of information suggesting involvement with terrorist groups overseas for this to even be considered.