UK: Website for young Muslimas that counters “extremism” found to be funded by the Home Office

Last month the Muslim social media network This Is Woke was discovered to be a government project, and now this. Why is it so hard to find actual moderate Muslims who will work against the spread of the jihad ideology within Muslim communities? And Muslims are enraged now: activist Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan fumes: “[It matters] because not only our public institutions, but our media platforms, arts and culture events, civic life and social lives are being targeted at every level because we are Muslim. This is what decimates trust. Who and what are we supposed to trust for information or opinion or insight when our identities and experiences are being violently coopted and repackaged to us in the name of ‘protecting’ us? At every level of every institution, the idea that Muslims are all at risk of perpetrating violence has been enshrined in the name of security and is causing the mass surveillance and targeting of us across the board. This is Orwellian.”

Nowhere did SuperSisters suggest that all Muslims were at risk of perpetrating violence, but its being unmasked as a Potemkin village will make genuine counterterror efforts all the more difficult.

“Lifestyle website for Muslim teens is covertly funded by the Home Office,” by Nosheen Iqbal, 

A Muslim online lifestyle platform targeting British teenagers is covertly funded by the Home Office’s counter-extremism programme, the Observer has learned.

The revelation about funding of the project has led to a row between its owners, a former Muslim employee and its Muslim audience.

SuperSisters was built in 2015 by J-Go Media, a company of nine staff members from east London that describes itself as “a not-for-profit community group” and has two decades of experience of engaging with Muslim communities in East London. SuperSisters is promoted as a “global platform for young Muslimahs in east London to share and create inspiring and empowering content”.

But after realising that recent funding for the project was coming from Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT), an arm of the government’s counter-extremism strategy, readers expressed anger and accused its directors of betraying the Muslim community. Two Muslim employees have since resigned.

Sabah Ismail, a social media manager for SuperSisters from February to August this year, said: “In my naiveity, I thought that through this ‘opportunity’ at SuperSisters, I really could help to make real change, pushing forward a different narrative from Muslim women themselves, showing that we are empowered and multi-faceted … I realise now that with the Home Office funding the project at the root, there was no way I could do this, regardless of the content I was pushing out.”

SuperSisters was conceived by J-Go in response to Shamima Begum and two other British schoolgirls running away to Syria in 2015. The project secured funding from Prevent, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office’s controversial strategy, which was set up to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Prevent has repeatedly faced claims of state-sanctioned spying on Muslims and is currently under independent review.

J-Go’s directors, Jon Hems and Jan Bros, stated: “Where we acknowledge we went wrong, and we apologise for it, is not more clearly stating the source of funding on the SuperSisters Instagram and blog, not just our [parent] website [J-GoLtd.com].”

According to J-Go, “countering extremism for us is about sharing an alternative narrative to highlight positive stories coming from a diverse contributor network”.

However, SuperSisters is left battling the widespread suspicion that it was purposely designed 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. One reader, Aeysh Ahmed, wrote on Instagram: “I am actually shocked … it’s deeply problematic that non-Muslims feel they have the right to define what our unified identity is.” Another user, @the_hybrid_life, said: “This is truly shocking and disturbing and feels entirely like a violation.”…

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, an activist and poet who withdrew from the Bradford Literature festival in July after learning it was also funded by BSBT, describes the Home Office’s practices as “shadowy” and “racist”. She said: “[It matters] because not only our public institutions, but our media platforms, arts and culture events, civic life and social lives are being targeted at every level because we are Muslim. This is what decimates trust. Who and what are we supposed to trust for information or opinion or insight when our identities and experiences are being violently coopted and repackaged to us in the name of “protecting” us?

“At every level of every institution, the idea that Muslims are all at risk of perpetrating violence has been enshrined in the name of security and is causing the mass surveillance and targeting of us across the board. This is Orwellian.”

BSBT has awarded more than £9m to organisations since 2015. The Home Office said: “BSBT is an open and transparent programme, which supports local people in their vital work to bring communities together, promote fundamental values and tackle the spread of all extremist ideologies.

“The Home Office has provided BSBT grant funding for the SuperSisters project since 2018 to provide support for Muslim women.”

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