Counter-terrorism research reveals network of pro-Islamic bloggers is smaller and less cohesive than anti-jihadist community
The Home Office's counter-terrorism communications unit has named its top 20 most influential "pro-Islamic" political bloggers.
The list forms part of a mapping exercise carried out on behalf of the Home Office to estimate and track the scale and influence of Islamic bloggers in Britain.
The results of the exercise, which was carried out in 2008 but only published today, show that a network of Islamic bloggers who post on British politics does exist but is still relatively small and draws its information overwhelmingly from mainstream media, mainly the Guardian and the BBC.
The research was carried out by the Home Office research, information and communications unit (RICU) to see if there were new ways of ensuring the government's counter-terrorism messages reached people in the Muslim community who did not read or watch mainstream media.
It pinpointed 140 "pro-leaning Islamic" blogs when it was carried out in 2008 by David Stevens of Nottingham University.
"Compared with other political blogging communities this is not terribly high," the study says. "As suspected, any pro-Islamic blogging community is likely to be still in its early stages of development in quantitive terms. However the existence of Islamic blog-feed sites (that list recent posts across Islamic blogs in one place) indicates that the community is reaching something of a critical mass."
The project is primarily concerned with how "radical Islamic messages" are disseminated in Britain, yet it notes that many blogs are not overtly or mainly political in this sense, but contain such messages or references to them.
It says a large anti-jihadist and anti-Islamic blogging community exists which is far larger and more cohesive than the pro-Islamic blogging community.
The top 20 list compiled as a "snapshot" in 2008 includes several based outside Britain but posting on UK politics in English. The top five sites listed are Ali Eteraz, Islam in Europe, the Angry Arab News Service, Indigo Jo Blogs/Blogistan and Daily Terror. Ali Eteraz is the author of Children of Dust – a memoir of Pakistan that was named on the New Statesman 2009 books of the year list – and has been a regular poster on Comment is Free.
The list only covers blogs published in English. Some, such as Angry Arab, which publish news articles in full from various sources draw heavily on the New York Times, al-Akhbar and Ha'aretz. But once these are excluded much UK-related material is drawn from the Guardian, the BBC and the Times. Very little material is drawn fromal-Jazeera, Islam Online or other Islamic-focused media.
A Home Office spokeswoman said that after the research was undertaken it was decided to focus on sending the government's counter-terrorism messages to Muslim communities through national mainstream media, including publications such as the Muslim Weekly and Daily Jang.