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15. September 2010

SAVE UK Advisory Board

Welcome Elham Danish, Shaista Gohir, Hanan Ibrahim and Sasha Havlicek

In June 2008 we established the SAVE UK Advisory Board. We are proud to gain Elham Danish, Hanan Ibrahim and Sasha Havlicek as board members.

Please read the following short profiles of the offical SAVE UK Board members. Hanan Ibrahim represents the Somali community in and around London. As the founder of the Somali Family Support Group she acts as an important bridge builder. Dr. Elham Danish is a leading voice of the Saudi community in the UK; it is her goal to enable dialogue between British and Saudi women. Sasha Havlicek is Director of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London.

Hanan Ibrahim - Supporting Somali Women

Hanan Ibrahim, based in London, founded the Somali Family Support Group (SFSG) and has created an entire network of immigrant women who advocate for inclusion of women in general - and from ethnic minorities in particular - in policy and programmes aimed at prevention of extremist violence within the UK. The SFSG is a community organization serving Somali families, East Africans, Horn of Africa asylum seekers and refugees as well as other families who live in deprived areas. It is a voluntary grassroots community organization that provides a range of services including a family advice center, one-on-one support in a wide range of areas, promotion of health awareness and basic literacy, skills development and job-search advice. Her aim is to motivate and assist people with similar problems and to help them to gain skills relevant to the labour market, because Hanan believes it is everyone’s responsibility to help and to educate less fortunate families and women. In 2004, Hanan’s hard work was honored with the Queen’s award for voluntary services in the community.

Hanan also runs a group aimed at women, Shaah iyo Sheeko (tea and chat). Their activities encourage Muslim women to be active in their communities and participate in decision-making to make sure that their voices are heard. Shaah iyo Sheeko was recognized in the 2008 CLG Empowering Muslim Women Case Studies.

Hanan’s considerable grassroots experience in two cultures allows her to quickly identify needs and act to provide solutions. Faced with racial abuse after the July bombing in 2005, Hanan developed a constructive response: the Taaleen (Education) Taaleen Dialogues. This project is aimed at developing understanding between faiths, especially between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Hanan was also a member of the National Community Forum, is a founding member and chair of Barnet Muslim Women’s Network, Vice Chair of FORWARD, a founding member of African SANG, a member of Women Interfaith Network (WIN) and a member of Barnet Interfaith Network.

Hanan is most proud of her children’s accomplishments, all of whom are educated and successful. Hanan used her insights as a mother as the basis for workshops involving parents, especially mothers, to promote family activities. This, she feels, is important, because in order to achieve peace in this world, she says, “we need to start within ourselves.”  Before you can reach out to others, you first have to create peace in your house, in your community, and in your workplace.

Sasha Havlicek – Strategic Dialogue Expert

As founding Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), Sasha Havlicek has been responsible for the strategic development of this London-based think tank heading up programmes, research and policy work in the fields of social cohesion and counter-radicalisation, European neighbourhood and Russia policy, cultural and media dialogue with Muslim communities and the Arab world. She also oversees the Institute's Weidenfeld Scholarships and Leadership Programme launched with Oxford University in 2007.

Sasha previously served as Senior Programme Director at the US think-tank, the EastWest Institute (EWI), where she developed a prominent portfolio of border management and cross-border conflict mitigation projects, setting up and running field operations across the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Russia. Sasha also served on a Task Force of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe in the aftermath of the Balkan wars. Sasha sits on the Board of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), which she helped found. She also is Chairman of the charity Next Generation Nepal (NGN).

A British national, educated at undergraduate and Masters levels at the London School of Economics (LSE), she also holds a graduate diploma from the Institut D'Etudes Politiques (IEP), Paris.

Elham Danish - Saudi Arabia meets the UK

Dr. Danish is the head of the Women’s Section at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the UK which is currently run by Her Royal Highness, Princess Fadwa bint Khaled who is the wife of Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf. Elham Danish came to the UK in 1998 to finish her PhD in molecular genetics.

Upon receiving her degree she returned to Saudi Arabia to work at King Abdullah University in Jeddah, where she heard that HRH Princess Nouf bint Fahd bin Khalid Al-Saud was seeking to establish a women’s section at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London. Reflecting back on her struggles and loneliness during her time in Britain, Elham wrote a letter to the Saudi ambassador in England. In the letter she outlined her beliefs that there was a vital need for such a section in the Embassy, to bring the Saudi community together and to help integrate Saudi women into British society. Elham also suggested concrete steps to create such a section.
The Ambassador, impressed by her letter, quickly invited Elham for an interview and then appointed her as head of the Women’s Section.

Many years later, Elham still holds the position and loves that she can see the results of her work. Elham believes that due to Saudi women’s conservative and religious beliefs, they may find it difficult to integrate into British society. Her role is to thus encourage Saudi women to interact with European women and to correct the image of Saudi women in British society. Rather than defending themselves against the negative image put forth by Western media, Elham believes it is important to put forth an accurate image of the Saudi woman. The women’s section seeks to accomplish this task by encouraging Saudi women to participate in international events, and by helping Saudi students and families studying abroad in the UK.

Elham also firmly believes that women play a central role in combating violent extremism, for they can raise their children to respect others and to accept divergent opinions. The educational system is also responsible for transmitting these concepts to children.

Elham views Islam as a peaceful religion, and cherishes her role in helping the West to understand Islam’s peaceful nature and in promoting a sense of community by integrating Saudi Arabian women into British society.


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