The UK’s Home Office, specifically its counter-extremism program “Building a Stronger Britain Together” (BSBT) seems to see the potential for extremism – and an avenue to covertly influence it – in many places where Muslims congregate online.
The program currently funds 233 different groups, the BBC writes. One of them is J-Go, a non-profit company from London who owns a lifestyle site for Muslim teenagers, SuperSisters.
However, the revelation about the source of the funding has proven to be controversial, with SuperSisters apologizing on social media for the lack of transparency around the origin of the money, while promising that the site’s editorial choices are unaffected by the Home Office.
In a statement, the Home Office described BSBT as “an open and transparent program which supports local people in their vital work to bring communities together, promote fundamental values and tackle the spread of all extremist ideologies.”
But the funding process doesn’t seem to be quite as transparent as the Hope Office suggests. At the same time, receiving money from a counter-terrorism program didn’t sit well with everyone at SuperSisters. The platform’s now-former social media manager Sabah Ismail says that she left after discovering where the grant had come from.
And the readers were angry to learn this, too, accusing the publisher of “betraying the Muslim community,” writes the Guardian.
SuperSisters was established by J-Go after several Muslim schoolgirls joined Islamic State in Syria in 2015. The site is now facing accusations that it was set up specifically “to promote a state-approved notion of the Islamic faith with the potential to track its target audience of British Muslim girls aged 13 to 19.”
Readers are now expressing shock at the Home Office’s involvement, and are rejecting the notion that non-Muslims should be allowed to shape their “unified identity.”
The controversy goes a little deeper than merely the issue of the source of the funding, though, as there have been allegations of periods when SuperSisters’ editorial staff, despite the platform’s stated goal of catering to young Muslim women, didn’t comprise any Muslim women.
This is not the first nor the only effort by British authorities to influence the Muslim population, especially the youth – in what is essentially a covert manner.
It was revealed in August that an online network for young Muslims, “This is Woke,” was acting for UK’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) – with its staff bound by the Official Secrets Act, the Guardian recalled.