The government has awarded £114,000 to the Muslim Women’s Network UK to expand their “specialist” and “culturally sensitive” service to Muslim women and girls from diverse backgrounds suffering or at risk of abuse.
The money comes from the Tampon Tax Fund – part of a new £15 million annual fund to support women’s charities (this is equivalent to the VAT raised on sanitary products each year).
In recent years Muslim organisations that have taken money from the government have been shunned due to vast sections of the community being opposed to the government’s Prevent strategy which is seen by many as an ideological attack on Islam and Muslims.
On its website the MWNUK says it aims to promote the needs of diverse Muslim women. Its vision is for a “society where Muslim women can have an effective voice and the opportunity to exercise their rights to contribute equally. And “to gather evidence about the experiences of Muslim women and girls on key issues affecting them and use the information to improve their rights through advocacy and campaigning.”
MNW describes itself as an “Islamic feminist movement that uses the Quran’s spirit of equality and justice to challenge human interpretations (based on culture and tradition) that discriminate against women and girls, to achieve equal rights and opportunities for all.”
Recently the MWN wrote a letter to Jeremy Corbyn to complain about “systematic misogyny” which saw female Muslims being blocked from seeking office by male Labour councillors.
MWNUK called on the Labour leader to investigate the “systematic misogyny displayed by significant numbers of Muslim male local councillors” during the selection process for new election candidates.
In January the MWNUK also sent a public letter of complaint to Birmingham Central Mosque regarding the “misogynistic attitudes of Mr. Muhammad Afzal who is a trustee and Chair of the mosque.”
The letter said he was “dismissive on the issues of forced marriage and domestic violence and we are outraged by the views he expressed during a meeting we had with him in December 2015. His attitude towards women’s issues make him unfit for positions of authority in which he should be serving all communities – men and women.”
On a recent speech by David Cameron about extremism, Chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK, Shaista Gohir, commented: “I agree with the Prime Minister when he says that some young Muslims are being drawn into extremism by non-violent hate preachers who themselves manage to stay inside the law. To add to this, ISIS are using online platforms and combining religion with grievances, excitement, and empowerment.”
She added: “However, any government strategy must be carefully implemented and it cannot become the ‘thought police.’ Although the Prime Minister did say the strategy would narrowly target extremists, I am worried in practice this may not happen. For example, I am concerned British Muslim school children may start getting profiled when expressing legitimate grievances given the new responsibility of schools to identify extremist views.”