A report published by Middle East Eye on 15 August revealed that a media outlet for young Muslims is in fact “a covert British government counterterrorism programme”:
'Woke' news platform aimed at young Muslims is actually a secret British government counterterrorism programme pic.twitter.com/gvtTAH6x2x
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) August 16, 2019
Security officials have admitted that the news platform This is Woke is part of the government’s counter-terror strategy. It was created by a media company for the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), a department of the Home Office. However, OSCT has refused to disclose its reasons for this initiative, citing national security concerns.
Members of the Muslim community have taken to Twitter to criticise the Home Office’s lack of transparency. And many believe it will create further distrust of the authorities among British Muslims.
Infuriated about the Home Office's Chicken Shop knife crime campaign? There's more. The Home Office pretended to be a "woke" media company that was actually a covert counter terror programme.
— Areeb Ullah (@are_eb) August 15, 2019
Pro-PREVENT people: we’re open and transparent and certain groups are just scaremongering
Home office RICU: we clandestinely fund projects that target Muslim communities and seem like they’re grassroots orgs, but they’re not. Can’t tell you more, because national security
— AssedBaig (@AssedBaig) August 17, 2019
This complete absence of transparency is just one of many reasons why there is such little trust between Muslim communities and govt on CT initiatives https://t.co/CLIb1gTpws
— Khadijah Elshayyal (@DrKElshayyal) August 16, 2019
so angry abt home office/this is woke situation I can’t articulate myself. How can the govt expect Muslims not to have trust issues with our govt. If you are going to consistently operate like ******* snakes infiltrating communities under the guise of community & empowerment.
— Nafisa / amaliah.com (@Nafisa_Bakkar) August 16, 2019
The betrayal of trust that we face at every level of every institution including online spaces, media platforms, arts and culture events, civic life and everything else is honestly something I think everyone concerned w racism at ALL needs to be SCREAMING about! This is urgent!
— Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (@thebrownhijabi) August 17, 2019
The problem runs deeper
From discussions online, it quickly became clear that this is not the only covertly-funded government initiative within the Muslim community. A company called Team JGO which created Super Sisters Mag, also appears to have received Home Office funding. Needless to say, the revelations have caused considerable distress among Muslims:
Take @SuperSistersMag that was founded by Team JGO who claim this mag is a Home Office project they delivered and have taken Prevent funding previously on their own website. @UK_CAGE @thebrownhijabi @RobFaureWalker @Tarek_Younis_ @YBirt @IanCobain is this Breakthrough Media too? pic.twitter.com/X0xEmQwOGy
— Dr Asim Qureshi (@AsimCP) August 16, 2019
I used to work at Breakthrough media back in 2016/2017 and can confirm this. There’s also UmmahSonic, Stoosh and a few Somali organisations. Got cut out of a lot of those meetings even tho I was their primary audience.
Left as soon as I was contractually able to. https://t.co/g4OO3YqDAk
— Amina (@Ayymina_) August 17, 2019
Having tweeted this & followed @AsimCP’s thread last night someone DMd me about this tweet giving the wildest insight into @SuperSistersMag… READ THIS DM… how is it not parody that middle aged white men pretend to be a Muslim women’s mag as part of counter terror efforts!? pic.twitter.com/9yXHz6bgVi
— Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (@thebrownhijabi) August 17, 2019
And now someone else who used to work for JGO has DMd me to say exactly that. pic.twitter.com/eI9TAzeSBj
— Dr Asim Qureshi (@AsimCP) August 17, 2019
Academic Yahya Birt has described these attempts to create government-funded Muslim grassroots organisations as “astroturfing“. Instead of supporting initiatives organically started by Muslims themselves, the state is keen to infiltrate Muslim spaces, often covertly, for its own security agenda.
Birt says in his article: “Opaque government manipulation of British Muslim community life has become pervasive”. The targeting of Muslim communities as potential sites of terror is informed by, and further feeds into, anti-Muslim paranoia.
If you liked this story then you'd definitely like this piece by @YBirt. He looks into "Astroturfing". The age-old colonial policy designed to give projects the appearance of being “grassroots” when in fact it is driven from above by state funding.https://t.co/tS7EoHzUjV
— Areeb Ullah (@are_eb) August 17, 2019
It's curious that WOKE isn't listed as one the the Building a Stronger Britain Together pgms, suggesting that even the large # of fake civil soc orgs listed by @ukhomeoffice and @MCSaatchiLondon are just the tip of the iceberg of their subversion of UK democracy
— Dr Rob Faure Walker (@RobFaureWalker) August 16, 2019
Ultimately, the revelations about Woke display bad faith and a blatant disregard from the Home Office for the freedom and privacy of British Muslims. But apart from bad faith, it’s bad politics, as this incident will only widen the rift between British authorities and already heavily-surveilled Muslim communities in the UK.
Featured image via Flickr/ nolifebeforecoffee
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