Sunday, February 25, 2024

Islamist Website Halts Commenting on Telegram Channel After FWI Inquiry

NewsIslamist Website Halts Commenting on Telegram Channel After FWI Inquiry
One of the posts that prompted 5Pillars to shut down commenting on its Telegram channel after an inquiry from FWI.

A prominent Islamist website in the United Kingdom has disabled the commenting function on its public Telegram channel after Focus on Western Islamism, (FWI) asked about numerous hateful rants posted on the channel. The website’s editorial slant remains hostile to Israel and to Western democracies, but the decision to delete and suspend reader comments on Telegram by the editors of 5Pillars indicates that pushback against expressions of Islamist hatred toward non-Muslims can still get some traction, at least in the United Kingdom.

The comments that prompted 5Pillars to deny its readers the ability to post on its Telegram channel included the assertions that Arab leaders are “crypto-Jews,” Israelis are modern-day Nazis, that Jews are “Apes and Swines,” and that Hamas is an “Israeli-run” organization.

One comment directed racial abuse toward a British politician who condemned the Hamas atrocities, declaring, “What a good house n*****.” This racist comment was posted in response to a video of shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who is of Guyanese heritage, discussing attacks on Israeli civilians. The comment appears to be an allusion to a pejorative often used with the intent comparing a black person to docile and privileged slaves who worked in the houses of slave owners prior to the abolition of slavery in America. The term has previously been employed by Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda.

When challenged about the presence of these and other hateful comments on its Telegram channel, 5Pillars suggested the comments were posted not by the publication’s loyal readers, but by people intent on discrediting the publication.

One commenter on asserted that Hamas is an Israeli-run organization.

“It seems we have bad faith actors targeting our Telegram most likely in an attempt to get us sanctioned,” an official from the website declared in response to an FWI inquiry. “We of course reject any antisemitic and racist content and will be deleting those comments.” The same official reported the comments weren’t removed sooner because of a staffing shortage at the site — which operates under the editorship of Roshan Salih, who works as a documentary maker for the Iranian website PressTV. Catering to Islamists in the Anglosphere, 5 Pillars boasts of 700,000 visitors a month, and has become clearinghouse for extremist rhetoric in the West.

The editorial slant of the publication appears to be decidedly on the side of Islamist aggression. Two days after Hamas’s October 7 massacre of 1,400 Jews in Israel, 5Pillars published an open letter signed by almost 50 Islamist activists expressing unequivocal support for “Palestinian resistance” against what the signatories termed “Israel’s illegal occupation and violence.” The list of signatories reads like a Who’s Who of influential Islamists in the UK, including pro-Hamas publicist Azzam Tamimi and Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who, according to the Wall Street Journal, has admitted to having spent time at three Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and “that he was armed and prepared to fight for the Taliban and al Qaeda against the U.S.”

Another signatory, Suliman Gani, previously organized a boycott of London businesses owned by members of the Ahmadiyya, a minority Muslim sect. He described Ahmadis as “routinely deceptive” and referred to the community as “Qadianis,” a derogatory term for the community, often used in Pakistan where Ahmadi Muslims are officially persecuted by the state and have been subjected to mob violence.

A few days later, 5Pillars published another open letter, this one written by Islamist writer Fahad Ansari. In addition to portraying well-documented acts of murder, rape, and kidnapping as legitimate resistance, Ansari accused the nations of the world of gathering to “execute nothing less than genocide on the Palestinians of Gaza.” The letter, which seemed geared toward driving a wedge between England’s Muslims and the rest of the country’s population, condemned Muslim politicians and celebrities for failing to take Hamas’s side in the war it started, declaring, “Now is not the time for cowardice.”

Hamas’s attack on Israel has brought some of the worst anti-Israel anti-Western groups and individuals to the fore.

Bill Roggio

The hostility present in these articles was tame compared to the racist and antisemitic messages that have appeared on the social media accounts associated with the publication. In particular, Twitter accounts associated with the publication’s staffers are rife with anti-Western and anti-Israel rhetoric. Two days after the October 7 attack, the site’s editor, Roshan Salih, declared on Twitter that Israel was planning to commit a “Holocaust” against Gaza with the help of the U.S., the UK, and the EU.

The site’s deputy editor, Dilly Hussain, has spread various claims online, including a theory that there was no massacre of Israeli babies, stating that the bodies were actually Muslims and that “everybody knows this.”

In a now-deleted tweet, Hussain claimed that “The Palestine-Israel conflict is in essence a religious war between the largely indigenous Arab Muslim people versus the “Zionist Judeo-Christian world.”

Regarding the attack on the Supernova music festival where more than 200 young people were murdered, Dilley also claimed Israeli forces could be behind casualties, declaring: “There’s more evidence that the Israelis could have killed most of them in a crossfire with Hamas,” adding that “there’s even now reports coming out this could have been done on purpose.”

The publication also promoted a major anti-Israel rally that took place on October 14 in London. Ahead of the demonstration, 5Pillars encouraged its readers to chant “Zionism is racism,” but at the same time warned its followers that “attacking Jews or Judaism, celebrating the Holocaust, expressing support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda, ISIS or any other banned organization” was not “legally acceptable.”

These warnings did not restrain the crowd, which at one point chanted “Khaybar, Khaybar Ya Yahud.” This Arabic chant, which has long been a feature of anti-Zionist rallies in the West, roughly translates to “Watch Out Jews, Remember Khaybar,” a 7th century battle, detailed in the Quran, in which a Muslim army led by Muhammad defeated a Jewish army in northwestern Arabia. Along these lines, protesters at the rally threatened to behead British-Iranian human rights activist, Vahid Beheshti.

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank based in Washington, D.C., told FWI that “Hamas’s attack on Israel has brought some of the worst anti-Israel, anti-Western groups and individuals to the fore. In their hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West, they actively promote antisemitism, conspiracy theories and disinformation to fan the flames.”

Staffers at 5Pillars seem unmoved by the incitement, telling FWI “Of course we stand firmly against the racist, apartheid, warmongering, land-stealing, ethnic-cleansing, occupying, murdering Israeli state and with the Palestinian victims.”

Incitement has been an ongoing problem at the publication. In 2021, 5Pillars was asked to pay back an emergency government grant after publishing a video in which the editor said gay people were a “gross crime against Allah.”

Georgia Leigha Gilholy is a writer in the UK who specializes in counterterrorism, culture and politics. Her writings have appeared in The Spectator and First Things. Twitter: @llggeorgia

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