Inspire

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Theresa May (left) with Inspire founder Sara Khan (right), #MakingAStand campaign

Inspire describes itself as an ‘independent’ ‘counter-extremism and human rights organisation which seeks to address inequalities facing British Muslim women’ to create a ‘peaceful and fairer Britain’. [1]

Inspire’s #MakingAStand campaign was launched by former home secretary Theresa May in September 2014 and received partial funding from the Home Office. [2]

Controversial history

Inspire have been inconsistent about their own history. Its website states that Inspire was created in 2009: however, as part of a 2015 inquiry into ‘Countering extremism’ led by the Home Affairs Select Committee, Inspire submitted evidence indicating the organisation was actually created in 2008 but 'formally launched' in 2009.

In fact, Inspire seems to have been in in existence since 2007. A deleted profile page on the organisation’s website states that Inspire partnered with Hounslow Council in December 2007 to design and implement the ‘Hounslow Leadership Training for Muslim Women’ programme. For this, co-founder of Inspire Tahmina Saleem received the ‘Government Office London Conference Award for Innovation’ for the best ‘Women’s Project’ in 2008. The training programme was undertaken with funding from the Prevent Extremism Pathfinder Fund. Additionally, the Principal Community Officer for Hounslow council who managed this fund was Sara Khan’s sister Sabin Malik, now current deputy head of the Home Office’s strategic communications agency, the Research Information and Communication Unit (RICU).

Inspire’s formal launch conference was held in January 2009 in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police; amongst the speakers at the event was Sabin Malik. Her involvement in Inspire gives the impression of a close relationship with Inspire. Further questions are raised by the role of former director Kalsoom Bashir. Inspire has stated that Bashir was appointed in January 2014 as a director: this statement however neglects documents at Companies House that show she previously served as secretary from October 2012 [3]; Bashir also states on her LinkedIn profile that she joined the organisation in 2011. While serving as secretary from 2012, she was employed by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary: if she were paid for her work at Inspire while also working for the police, her involvement also potentially raises a conflict of interest.

The relationship between both Malik and Bashir with Inspire was highlighted by Labour MP Naz Shah in written evidence submitted to the same 2015 Home Affairs inquiry, which describes Inspire as ‘amongst the most loathed organisations within Muslim communities’ based on first-hand encounters with many British Muslims. [4]

Product of the Home Office

An internal document by the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT), dated March 2015, was uncovered by Powerbase in 2016 that included Inspire in the government's 'national counter narrative' strategy, appearing to acknowledge the organisation is part of a covert propaganda strategy and directed by the RICU.

In a section of the OSCT document, the #MakingAStand campaign run by Inspire is described as creating a ‘network of British Muslim women across Prevent priority areas’ in order 'to transmit HMG counter extremism messages into communities and hard to reach audiences’. The 'resources required' in the attempt to reach these audiences is 'access to women's civil society groups'.

Funding

In evidence before the Home Affairs Select committee in November 2016, Inspire founder and director Sara Khan stated that its campaign received Home Office funding between 2014 and 2015, but did not disclose the full details of their relationship to RICU. [5]

Inspire claims this funding was ‘public knowledge’ and stated on the organisation’s website. They have also previously claimed however that Inspire never received ‘direct’ or ‘core’ funding from the Home Office but only ‘project funding’. The distinction between direct funding and project funding are unclear; RICU claims however it does not directly give funding to civil society groups.

Inspire has also received funding from the grant foundation Sigird Rausing Trust (SRT). To date, SRT has given a total of £60,000 to Inspire, including an active year-long grant of £30,000 started in August 2016 and £30,000 the year before. [6]

Ties to Breakthrough Media

Sara Khan co-authored a book titled ‘The battle for British Islam: reclaiming Muslim identity from extremism’ published in September 2016 with Tony McMahon, a consultant working with Breakthrough Media. [7]

Breakthrough Media is a favoured contractor of RICU. As part of the government's PREVENT counter-radicalisation programme, the company receives funding from the Home Office to produce digital material (films, Facebook profiles, websites etc) in order to 'influence online conversations by being embedded within target communities via a network of moderate organisations that are supportive of it’s [sic] goals'. [8] These materials are then ‘hosted’ by civil society groups.

The collaboration between Khan and McMahon points to further evidence that Inspire’s work was co-opted by the government. A report published by the Muslim- focused campaign group Cage [9] indicates that Breakthrough Media also orchestrated a campaign launched by the Home Office titled #FightBackStartsHere, which was by supported by Inspire. Ben Hayes, co-author of the report, said:

’Inspire were actually among the first group of organisations that piqued our interest in RICU. We believe the relationship is extremely close and fully expect further disclosures to this effect. Inspire now acknowledge that the Home Office funded their 'Making a Stand' campaign and it would be a huge surprise if Breakthrough Media were not behind the production’.

People

  • Sara Khan – ‘’Director’’, October 2012 -

Khan has also featured in a series of Prevent training videos produced for schools and head teachers. [10]

Former

Contact details

  • Address:
Woodlands 19 Valley Road,
Portishead, North Somerset,
BS20 8JU

Resources

Notes

  1. Home page, ‘’Inspire website’’, accessed 16 January 2017.
  2. Home Secretary supports #MakingAStand campaign, ‘’GOV.uk’’, accessed 19 January 2017.
  3. INSPIRE WOMEN CIC, ‘’Companies House’’, accessed 19 January 2017.
  4. Written evidence submitted by Naz Shah MP, ‘’Parliament.uk’’, 17 November 2015, accessed 19 January 2017.
  5. Oral evidence: Countering extremism, HC 428, Parliament.uk, 17 November 2016, accessed 16 January 2017.
  6. Grantees | Inspire, ‘’Sigrid Rausing Trust’’, accessed 13 February 2017.
  7. Simon Hooper, Top anti-extremism campaigner linked to UK 'covert propaganda' firm, ‘’Middle East Eye’’, 23 December 2016, accessed 19 January 2017.
  8. Ian Cobain, Alice Ross, Rob Evans and Mona Mahmood, Inside Ricu, the shadowy propaganda unit inspired by the cold war, The Guardian, 2 May 2016, accessed 16 January 2017.
  9. Simon Hooper, UK government 'running covert counter-extremism propaganda campaign', ‘’Middle East Eye’’, 2 May 2016, accessed 19 January 2017.
  10. Home page, ‘’Counter-extremism | London Grid For Learning’’, accessed 19 January 2017.