The British authorities are using YouTube to warn British Muslims not to go on jihad to Syria.
If you type the word “Muslims” into the YouTube search engine one of the first things you will see is a sponsored video by “Project Shanaz” called “Syria Aid, not Conflict.”
The video, which was published last month, features a mother who shares her thoughts on young people travelling to Syria, warning of the dangers of radicalisation. She explains why it’s important for mothers and families to talk to young people about how they can help the humanitarian effort from the safety of the UK.
Project Shanaz was developed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to encourage women to play an active part in the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent agenda.
According to APCO, The Shanaz Network’s objectives include: to work to address ideologies which terrorists use to recruit people to their cause; to work to support those who may be vulnerable to radicalisation; and to work to strengthen institutions which can play a role in Prevent.
Another sponsored video by JIMAS warning of the dangers of fighting in Syria also prominently appears at the top of the page after the search term “Muslims” is entered into YouTube’s search engine.
The video again warns of the dangers of young, well-intentioned Muslims going to fight in Syria and potentially exacerbating the conflict that is taking place there. However, 5Pillarz has been unable to verify so far if the video is government-sponsored.
Government social media fund
It was reported recently that the government was planning to spend nearly £200,000 on social media activity to deter would-be jihadis from leaving the UK for Syria.
The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) aimed to counter “pro-jihadi propaganda” on social media glorifying the conflict by setting up its own online project to convince British Muslims not to go to Syria.
Documents seen by The IoS show that the FCO was granted £173,000 in urgent funding for “social media activity to deter UK residents from travelling to fight in Syria”.
Counter-terrorism officials have described the growing numbers of Britons involved in the Syrian conflict as most serious terrorist threat to the United Kingdom since the 9/11 attacks. Scotland Yard’s former head of counter-terrorism, Commander Richard Walton said earlier this year it was “almost inevitable” that some Britons fighting in Syria would seek to carry out attacks in Britain on their return.
On the other hand, advocacy organisation CAGE has condemned the “criminalisation” of British Muslims going to Syria.
In a recent article CAGE director Moazzam Begg, who is currently awaiting trial on terrorism charges, said British Muslims fighting in Syria are doing so to topple a dictatorship and are not going there to join Al Qaeda.