The idea for a British Muslim news, opinion and analysis website has been in my head for about five years but I’ve never done anything about it.
This is mainly because I’ve never been able to secure funding for a venture that I assumed would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
And indeed over the years the naysayers have tried to put me off. “The community won’t fund it,” they said. “The only money available is money which pushes a certain government or sectarian agenda.” “Others have tried and failed.”
But then again, I thought, maybe the community will read it (and, yes, fund it) precisely because it doesn’t belong to any government or sectarian group. Instead it will belong to them.
Perhaps the community will read it precisely because it’s free to say whatever it wants to say unrestrained by political agendas. Perhaps the community will read it because the content will be good. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
So after years of dithering and listening too closely to these people, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and launch 5Pillarz.com. I can’t say I’m 100 per cent confident of success but I’m damn well going to give it a good try.
To be honest, 5 Pillarz was born out of frustration. Frustration that despite the fact that there are nearly three million Muslims in the UK we still don’t have a quality community media platform which is independent and professional. We want to put that right.
At 5 Pillarz we believe that the other community platforms have their merits and do some genuinely good work, but we also believe that they let the community down in many ways. Our vision is for an opinion and analysis-based website that will explain news related to British Muslims first and foremost, but also to the global ummah given that Muslims have always had a wider outlook.
And it is our belief that 5 Pillarz will have the following unique attributes that no one else can match:
We aren’t controlled financially by anybody. In fact, we have taken the decision to start this project without any start-up money at all – everything so far has been financed from our own personal savings. No one draws a salary, everything you see on here is done purely to serve the community.
This lack of resources has its disadvantages for sure, but it also means that we are free to write what we wish, how we wish, and without fear or favour. And that’s the way we like it.
It also means that we do not feel it is necessary to take an editorial line on every single issue. We see ourselves more as a forum for debate and a reflection of the ummah as it is in the UK and abroad (warts and all), rather than a propaganda organ. This means that the editorial board will publish material that it does not agree with, as long as that material is professionally produced.
But rest assured that it isn’t our intention to remain poor because we know that serious journalism requires serious investment. That said, we give you the assurance right from the start that we will never accept money from any government because we know that money will come with “strings attached.”
We do, however, aim to raise money for this site through advertising and through individual grants and donations which will not impinge on our editorial freedom.
This site is run by people with journalistic pedigree. We are not amateurs playing at journalism, disrespecting the trade. We have been there and we have done it.
We have great contacts in the UK and around the world, we know many of the main players and actors in the ummah. However, given that serious journalists require serious money (and we don’t have any as yet!), we also hope that a new generation of young, budding journalists and activists will find a home here.
This site will always prioritize the common man/woman over the rich and powerful – they already have the rest of the media on their side after all. So we aim to reflect what people are saying on the ground, however uncomfortable that may be, and not just in the corridors of power.
We strongly feel that the Muslim community is being divided on sectarian lines and that this is driven more by politics than theology. We believe a divided ummah fighting each other is an ummah destined for failure. Therefore, this site will do its best to represent all Islamic traditions fairly and without prejudice and, insha Allah, be a source of unity rather than division.
That said, we realize that there are genuine theological and political differences between Muslims worldwide. We will not shy away from discussing difficult issues but this will always be done in an atmosphere of rationality and mutual respect.
We believe that western/Israeli foreign policy is the main cause of the disasters afflicting the Muslim world. Yet we also believe strongly that the ummah should be prepared to look at itself in the mirror and ask difficult questions.
We remain committed to an Islamic ethos so any blatant contraventions of Islamic etiquette will not be tolerated on this site.
We believe in working constructively and living harmoniously with non-Muslims and we hope they will read and contribute to this website.
Please donate generously to this website! We promise to spend the money you give us on quality journalism and legitimate administration costs. We have no intention of paying ourselves any money whatsoever at the beginning, but eventually we do hope to do everything on a professional basis because that’s how we can supply you with the best possible service. And we will publish our accounts monthly and prominently on this website to ensure total transparency and so that you can see where your money is going.
Leap of faith
So that’s all I want to say for the moment. Only time will tell if the naysayers were right or not, but at least I would have given it a go, and I will only have myself (and perhaps the Muslim commnunity) to blame if it all falls flat on its face.
In the meantime I intend to enjoy the ride. I hope you will too.
You can follow Roshan Muhammed Salih on Twitter @RMSalih