Two years ago I launched 5Pillars with my colleague Dilly Hussain in an attempt to give British Muslims a professional, independent, non-sectarian online platform to air their views, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih. And by and large I think we’ve succeeded.
5Pillars is now the number one British Muslim news website – we get at least 5,000 unique visitors every day and can get up to 20,000 on busy days.
We have a very large and active Facebook page and a growing presence on Twitter. And those who write for us know that their views will be widely read and disseminated.
Readers appreciate the readability of our articles, the variety of opinion and analysis pieces, and the fact that we aren’t afraid of challenging our audience instead of just reinforcing their stereotypes.
Not bad for a voluntary organisation with virtually no budget!
When the website launched in April 2013, the British Muslim community was divided and under siege to an unprecedented extent. Unfortunately, this remains the case today, although there are signs that prominent Muslim activists are putting their sectarian and political differences aside in a combined effort to fight Islamophobia.
So with these tensions in mind, our guiding principles during the past few years have been the following:
We know that one of the main reasons people read and trust us is because they know we aren’t saying what we’re saying because the money-men are telling us to say it.
We are emphatically NOT in the pocket of any sectarian or political group or state. We are genuinely free to write what we wish.
And anybody that donates money to us does so because they believe in the value of our project, but they will never have the power to make any editorial demands.
We are a platform for all Islamic sects and political opinion, and staunchly stand against the sectarianism which is poisoning and destroying the Ummah, and rendering us powerless against our foes.
Inclusive, grassroots approach
We have a broad-based approach to the Muslim community in the UK and will provide a platform to all groups irrespective of sect or political viewpoint.
This means that we will publish articles that we ourselves vehemently disagree with and we will not push one group’s views over another.
We are also keen to give grassroots activists a platform rather than the “establishment stars” that we often see on the media.
When it comes to opinion pieces we strive to give you “informed opinion” rather than “any old opinion.”
We want people who are familiar with events and issues to do the talking rather than armchair experts.
Although due to lack of resources we have failed to deliver on this promise several times in the past, we do intend to “up our game” in the future.
All of what I’ve written above must be understood within the context of our “red lines.”
We stand squarely against the British government’s toxic Prevent counter-terrorism strategy at home, as well as against Western imperialism and Zionist terrorism abroad.
So whatever you see – and don’t see – on this website will reflect those red lines.
Although we are happy with our editorial achievements so far we are not complacent.
We know that our readers want us to post more stories; they feel that some of our articles fall below our usual standards; they want the website to be more mobile friendly; and they want to see the comments on our forums better moderated.
From time to time we are also heavily criticised from all sides.
We have been called a “Shia front”, “Sunni extremists”, “Islamists”, “apologists for ISIS”, “moderates”, “extremists” etc. Others are annoyed that we sometimes do not take clear sides or positions on the complex politics of the Middle East.
Clearly, we cannot be all of those things at the same time and we cannot please everyone all the time, so we will just keep on doing what we do in the knowledge that the majority understand and appreciate what we are doing.
Financially, we have also not met our goals so far. We are attracting around £550-650 a month in advertising and donations, and this is just about enough to cover our costs but not enough to spend any money on journalism.
It’s clear that our readers appreciate what we are doing but that doesn’t mean that they’ll dig deep and support us financially. Many expect online news to be totally free and are not willing to fork out money for it.
So we clearly have to come up with a strategy to generate more money, otherwise ultimately, we will never be able to grow the site. But in the meantime, please do donate to us if you possibly can:
Nevertheless, two years on our cup is definitely half-full and not half-empty. We are now a permanent fixture on the British Muslim landscape and our future priorities are to keep growing editorially and financially.
Finally, I’d like to say some “thank yous” to all those who’ve supported us these past two years.
The biggest “thank you” goes to all of those who’ve committed their time, energy and expertise in contributing articles and videos to this site. Without their voluntary content we would be nowhere.
They are too numerous to list but they know who they are.
Secondly, a “thank you” to those who’ve supported us through their financial donations without ever asking for anything in return.
And a special mention must go to those of you who’ve commented on and shared our articles.
Last but not least, I should give a “shout out” to 5Pillars’ resident troll Jane Grover who seems to have the time and energy to comment negatively on practically every article we write.
We still have our suspicions about who you really are Jane, but it’s okay because you’re like family now…
You can follow Roshan on Twitter @RMSalih