search for “British Muslim spokesperson” will bring as the top result Anjem
Choudary, one of the UK’s most dangerous radical preachers, who helped recruit
hundreds of British Muslims to join Daesh in Syria.
misrepresentation should do more than raise eyebrows. It not only demonstrates
the unwillingness of tech companies to ensure that violent rhetoric is demoted
online, but shows how tech giants are directing their users to hateful
seven months ago, Sir Mark Rowley, the former British police chief in charge of
counterterrorism, sternly admonished Google’s granting of Choudary such a high
ranking. Since then, Google has done nothing.
engine giant’s algorithms are designed to sensationalize news stories to boost
viewership, but this clickbait tactic contravenes any balanced attempt to
inform readers. As a result, extremist views are more likely to appear in
internet searches, reaching more viewers and in effect giving hate preachers
free, global publicity.
of political leaning or religion, people are fed up with the hateful ideology
that the likes of Choudary espouse. As Brits, and as Muslims especially, we
know that the distortion of Islam increases Islamophobia.
It is no
surprise that more than a third of Brits now believe Islam is a threat to the
British way of life. This vilification of Muslims isolates the very communities
we need to enfranchise. It misconstrues our identities, hijacks our beliefs and
draws people in the wrong direction.
ago, the senseless Westminster terror attack left five innocent people dead and
more than 40 injured. Horrified by the attack, I started a campaign to raise
money for the victims, called Muslims United for London, joining forces with
British Muslim MPs Naz Shah and Yasmin Qureshi.
time, I wrote that the only martyrs were the victims, and the only jihad fought
was that of the ambulance crew. But for me, condemning the attacks was not
enough. The Muslims United for London campaign demonstrated that I was not the
only British Muslim to feel this way. The campaign raised £18,000 ($22,660) in
one day, and met its £30,000 goal in three, with more than 1,000 people
donating money directly to those affected by the atrocity. The results of the
campaign are typical of what British Muslims contribute to UK society, and
illustrate the very opposite of what Choudary and his ilk promote. British
Muslims donate more to charity than any other demographic group in Britain. We
contribute £31 billion to the UK economy, with my own company being just one
among 13,000 thriving Muslim businesses in London alone.
Mayor Sadiq Khan, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, actor Riz Ahmed and fashion blogger
Dina Tokio are a few of the commonly known Brits who do far more to deserve the
title “British Muslim spokesperson” than the likes of Choudary.
such as theirs very rarely hit the top of search results when looking up
“Muslims” or “Islam.” Instead, if a search does not end up promoting hate
preachers such as Choudary who distort Islam from within, it often leads to
WebPages that defame Islam from without. Such websites include Jihad Watch, run
by Robert Spencer, the notorious extremist banned by the UK government since
2013; the Investigative Project, run by Steve Emerson, who was behind the myth
of Muslim no-go zones in Britain; and the Center for Security Policy, founded
by Frank Gaffney, who has endorsed and hosted white supremacists. The list goes
on. Such platforms routinely demonize some of the world’s leading voices of
moderation in the Islamic world, labelling all efforts by Muslims inspired by
the Islamic faith as extremist deception. The good work done by countless
Muslim organizations to combat misreadings of jihad, promote gender equality
and bring diverse faith and non-faith communities together is described as a
conspiracy to infiltrate societies and terrorize them by stealth.
rampant fake news on these sites, their popularity means that Google continues
to elevate them, driving a self-reinforcing cycle of viral disinformation that
repeatedly pushes the same toxic message: Muslims and Islam are a threat to the
leading search engine, Google has a responsibility to educate and promote
content that does not normalize violence or misrepresent a valuable and diverse
faith group. Spoilt for choice on positive British Muslim spokespeople, why are
hate preachers continuously given the platform they are looking for?
Ahmed is an advisory council member at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Source: The Arab News