The world has witnessed a sharp rise in Islamophobia in the last few months and this has perhaps been more evident on social media than anywhere else. As Muslims rail against ignorant sentiments which broadly disparage Islam, Yusuf Hassan, a UK-based Nigerian start-up founder, is hoping to provide a solution: Tutlub, a Muslim-only social network.
Hassan says the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiments on mainstream social media platforms has spurred him to create a social network where Muslims can interact with more freedom. Hassan has been involved in similarly themed projects. Five years ago, he set up NextUmmah, a UK technology company which develops made–by-Muslims-for-Muslims digital products. Asides from Tutlub, Hassan’s company has developed an online marketplace for Muslim fashion and is also developing a Muslim digital radio.
Tutlub allows its users create profiles and interact, with religious affiliation forming the basis of their interaction. Users will also be provided with an avenue to engage in extensive religious conversations which, according to Hassan, might be misconstrued on mainstream platforms.
“Our job is to provide a medium for Muslims who will love to post and engage with Islamic content but are unable to do so because of fear of been labelled as fundamentalist,” Hassan told Quartz.
Hassan also believes that Tutlub can solve a crucial problem: the radicalization of sympathetic moderates by extremist groups such as Boko Haram. The militant sect has led a deadly insurgency during the last six years in Nigeria’s north-east and, over the years, it has increased its ranks by radicalizing young Muslims in the region. Similarly, a recent clash between a Shiite Muslim sect and the Nigerian army has also increased tensions amid fears that, if unchecked, the fall-out from the clash could trigger another insurgency.
“Given the popularity and widespread use of social media sites across the world, terrorist groups have targeted the sites as new grounds for spreading their propaganda and recruiting new members,” he said. “As a solution to this, Tutlub will be connecting users with verified and vetted religious leaders to request for prayers or advice. By so doing we will be helping in our own way to solve the problem of indoctrination through social networks by providing moderate, vetted and verified Muslim leaders for users to ask questions. This will show true modern values of Islam and support Muslim individuals at risk of misinformation by extremist groups.”
Tutlub is hoping to follow the path of similar Muslim-only networks like Muslimface.com which set up shop in the Middle East and South East Asia. Hassan says Tutlub will focus initially on Nigeria, the world’s fifth largest population of Muslims, but will hope to expand to other countries. “We believe our success in Nigeria will help us to penetrate and scale faster in other countries.”