UK to Offer SEO Training for Moderate Islamic Groups

The Register published an article yesterday announcing plans by the British government to offer search engine optimization (SEO) training to pro-Western, moderate Islamic groups. The hope, of course, is that the moderate groups' web sites will "flood the Internet" with "positive" interpretations of Islam which will rank high in online searches, while extremist sites will lack SEO prowess and therefore lag pages behind.

For those uninitiated into the world of SEO, Search Engine Optimization is a skill just about any writer can learn. It involves tailoring articles in such a way that they stand out amongst countless other pieces of writing on the same topic, thereby showing up higher in search results. The higher up on the results, the more likely a web user is to click on a link for further reading.

While I'm sure the UK thinks it's on to something big in terms of controlling extremism, it's questionable whether SEO skills implemented by a handful of sites could effectively relegate the "extremist" point of view to the bottom of the slush pile.

For Muslims, the real issue at stake is what the government defines as "extreme." Lots of so-called "moderate" material is already out there, and it consistently shows up high in Internet searches. Not surprisingly, also ranking high alongside the moderate viewpoint are articles and fatwas which are unapologetic about Islam and would probably be considered "extremist" by UK authorities. I'm not talking about such controversial subjects as suicide bombings, beheadings, and the like– just niche topics such as veiling, modesty, polygamy, shariah, hadd punishment, Muslim women's rights, and any number of other things a person might be searching in relation to Islam.

I'm curious to see which groups sign on to this SEO training. Moderate Islamic groups alrready speak out against terrorism and extremism, and those with a web presence find their real competiton comes from anti-Islam sites, not extremist points of view. The UK is likely already aware of this. Makes you wonder if by offering SEO training,. the government isn't hoping to be in a position to make editorial suggestions as well. High Google ranking, reputable Islamic group, and controlled content – what more could they hope for in their online fight against extremism?

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About Christine Benlafquih

Christine (Amina) Benlafquih is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, opinion pieces, personal essays and occasional fiction and poetry. A former publications and public relations director, she earned a B.A. in Journalism from Duquesne University in 1987. Originally from Rochester, NY, she has also lived in Pittsburgh, PA, the Washington, DC area, and now resides in Casablanca, Morocco. Her experiences as an American convert to Islam, both in the United States and in Morocco, serve as inspiration to much of her work. She is particularly concerned about the biased portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the media, and about the division and labeling that occurs among Muslims themselves. Christine is a member of the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA) and the Muslim American Journalists Association (MAJA). She is married and the mother of six children.

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