Two Muslim employees have resigned from a lifestyle platform aimed at Muslim youth after learning that the Home Office has been covertly funding the platform as part of its counter-terror strategy.
Former SuperSisters employee Sabah Ismail said:
In my naivety, 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.
According to the Guardian, J-Go Media formed SuperSisters:
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.
On the SuperSisters website, J-Go’s directors Jon Hems and Jan Bros have said:
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].
However, they declined to comment on whether they have ever worked with the Home Office’s clandestine Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU).
Non-Muslim teams and secular content
Ismail said that when she joined the team as social media manager, she was surprised to discover that there were no Muslim women in editorial or creative roles. Some contributors have also complained that, at one point, the SuperSisters editorial team employed no Muslim women. J-Go has denied this claim.
Moreover, Ismail shared problematic language used by a non-Muslim J-Go employee, who prior to joining as creative producer had tweeted: “I can handle religion if you’re not involving me in it and it’s not causing world wars, terrorist attacks or homicides. Oh wait…”. Ismail also revealed a de-Islamisation of their content, despite the website targeting Muslim women. Content she had produced which quoted the Prophet Muhammad was “all… taken off the site and archived. They said they wanted to do away with anything overtly Islamic”.
J-Go has since admitted to deleting some of Ismail’s Islamic posts:
We acknowledge that J-Go is not an Islamic organisation in either mission, majority staff composition or majority leadership composition. We therefore do not believe we have the credibility or authority to post passages from theological texts.
Covert anti-terror funding for Muslim media
The Canary recently reported on revelations that a Muslim outlet called This is Woke similarly received covert Home Office funding. The outlet is run by a company called Breakthrough Media, which, according to the Guardian:
is closely aligned to government and has been key to the delivery of multiple RICU projects. The Home Office declined to comment on this case, claiming that national security concerns were “of overriding importance”
British academic Yahya Birt has described the practice of creating government-funded Muslim grassroots organisations as “astroturfing“. Covert funding for Muslim media outlets, as a result of the controversial Prevent strategy, appears to have become a cause for concern among British Muslims.
Featured image via YouTube/ TRT World