2 DECEMBER 2015
It's been 10 years since the bombings of 7/7 rocked London - killing 52, injuring hundreds and bringing the capital to a standstill. Sajda Mughal, our Ultimate Humanitarian winner of the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women Awards 2015, was one of the survivors on the tube when the bombs went off.
"It was a normal day for me apart from the fact that I was running late," Sajda, 33, remembers. "But as soon as the train left Kings Cross, there was a massive bang and the lights went out. People were screaming, banging on the doors, trying to smash the glass, and thick, black smoke was coming through the ventilation system. I just went into shock and all I could think about was how I hadn't said goodbye to my family, or got married and had kids. It was 40 long minutes until the emergency services came. That one voice of, 'It's the police, we're coming to get you!' was the best thing I'd ever heard."
While Sajda survived with no major injuries, it was the aftermath of the bombings that really affected her, as she became aware of the apparent rise of Islamophobia against her friends and family.
"People wouldn't want to sit next to us, or tried to pull family members' headscarves off," she remembers. "Once someone even shouted, 'Terrorist! Go back to your country!' at my friends and I in public. That was part of the reason I decided to join the Jan Trust."
Leaving her office job, Sajda joined the charity that works to stop radicalisation and extremism in the UK. Now, her daily work involves educating Muslim mothers through her programme Web Guardians, speaking to young adults and teachers at schools around the country, as well as dealing with those who have already been radicalised.
"I wanted to know why the four men responsible for carrying out the attack did it, and how it could have been prevented," Sajda says. "What better place to start with than the mothers who can protect their children? After speaking to them, I found out that 93% of Muslim mothers can barely turn a computer on. So giving them the education and confidence means they can protect their children from extremist content found online. They're the ones who can make the difference."
10 years on from the attack, Sajda is now director of the Jan Trust, has received an OBE from the Prince of Wales for her work in the community and is married to her then-boyfriend with two daughters.
"I work much longer hours than I ever could have imagined," she says. "That means I miss out on time with my husband and children. I've even received death threats to my house and office. But someone once asked me 'How would you explain Islamophobia to your daughters?' I said that I don't want to ever have to explain it as it shouldn't exist. So when a mother tells me I've helped save her child, it makes it all worth it."
22 APRIL 2020