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On Mother’s Day We Reflect On The Bond That Shapes and Protects Our Children

We’ve all heard of ‘women’s intuition’. Psychologists debate the science behind the concept, but sometimes we don’t need to wait for the experts to present proof.

We know, as mothers, that we are best placed to understand our children. We were the first to recognise an issue when they were babies, toddlers, primary school goers.

It never ceases. Even when they are teenagers. Perhaps especially when they’re teenagers.

On Mother’s Day, we at FAST are celebrating this incredible bond between mother and child.

We play the most important role in our children’s lives as guides, care givers and protectors.

Often, mothers have been on the front line of defence, and in relation to the work we do at FAST, mothers are key to spotting the signs of radicalisation before anyone else, and educating themselves about how to act if they are concerned.

In recent years, we have heard heart wrenching stories of mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to radicalisation. As they look back over the events that caused them to lose their children, they reflect painfully upon what they might have been able to do to stop this happening.

On Mother’s Day, we recall the story of Londoner El Shafee Elsheikh, whose mother discovered he was listening to a CD of radical teachings by the notorious al-Qaeda-affiliated west London preacher Hani al-Sibai. His mother, Maha Elgizouli, tells how she watched with horror as he experienced a ‘lightning-fast conversion to radical Islamism’.

The story highlights her despair as five years on, she is still struggling to understand how the son she still calls her “little one” turned into one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. El Shafee Elsheikh became a member of the notorious Daesh execution cell which is responsible for the beheading of 27 hostages. He also tortured captives with electric shocks, waterboarding, and mock executions. His younger brother followed him to Iraq to fight with Daesh.

This Mother’s Day, we also remember the story of 19-year-old Rasheed Benyahia, who in 2015 left his mother and his home in Birmingham and travelled to Syria to join Daesh.

“He kissed me goodnight the night before [he left for Syria]” recalls his mother, Nicola Benyahia. Three days later she received word from him: “Please do not worry, I love you more than ever and again I am sorry.”

She didn’t hear from him for another 64 days, until he revealed he was in Syria. His mother says: “I was just waiting for him to be killed. My grief started as soon as I knew where he was. I had lost him already.” Rasheed was killed later that year.

These mothers have experienced every mother’s worst nightmare. Their pain, anguish and hurt is unthinkable.

This Mother’s Day, cherish your children. Let them cherish you. The bond you have with them is precious.

We owe it to them to protect them, to learn how to spot the signs of radicalisation if we are worried and notice changes in behaviour.

Trust your ‘woman’s intuition’. Respect your ‘mother’s instinct’. Intervene before it’s too late.

We have a page of resources about what to do if you are concerned.