Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

The interactive Koran built to combat terrorism and Islamophobia

“Information without context isn’t knowledge,” says the co-founder and CEO

A project revolving around an interactive version of the Koran hopes to reduce Islamophobia and extremism. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
A project revolving around an interactive version of the Koran hopes to reduce Islamophobia and extremism. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Imagine an digital platform that could end terrorism.

That’s what 26-year-old Londoner Zeena Qureshi hopes to do with Ananas, a new platform which helps users navigate belief systems using a “living Koran”.

Koran apps with different translations is not a new idea, but Ms Qureshi’s upcoming platform provides additional information on each verse. Users will be able to read what different denominations believe, what research on the text is available and the religious text will be searchable by theme or word.

“It will expand and collapse — you’ll be able to dive in with as much depth as you want and see it from different schools of thought and in different translations,” explains Ananas’s chief executive and co-founder Ms Qureshi, in an interview with the London Evening Standard. “You can even see it from a Sufi or non-Muslim perspective. We’re trying to build a platform that provides context to subjective information.”

Ananas, which is also a charitable foundation, hopes the project will work to reduce Islamophobia and to tackle terrorism in the hopes that the living Koran will reflect the true nature of Islam by providing context.

“Information without context isn’t knowledge,” says Ms Qureshi.

“Extremists have so many people marketing for them online. They target vulnerable, isolated individuals. If these people are looking for answers, they need to come to a place where this information is outlined. Things like Charlottesville are happening because people don’t have the information or understanding. Information feeds empathy”, she added.

The website explains: “Our Living Quran project allows people to dig into the core text of Islam. With the help from knowledgeable individuals, religious communities are empowered to reclaim ownership of their holy text, and society is liberated from a dependence on biased sources and emotional volatility.

“We believe this will lead people to make better informed decisions about their own beliefs, by providing contextualized and authoritative information, that prevents distortion and exploitation of ignorance.”

Ananas uses artificial intelligence (AI) to organise the user data and graphs to explore the relationships between different groups’ beliefs. Users are also able to collect the “Anacoin”, a cryptocurrency that works as a reward when users sponsor a verse, moderate or add information. The Anacoin can be traded and if the value of the currency has increased then half the proceeds go to the charity and half to the user.

“People should be rewarded for the good things they do,” believes Ms Qureshi.

The partially Google-funded platform was the idea of Emad Mostaque, co-chief investment officer at a hedge fund and Ms Qureshi’s brother-in-law. The ambitious project has three full-time staff and a number of advisers and volunteers, all of whom come from diverse religious, cultural and professional backgrounds

The Ananas project is looking to expand to include more belief systems, including political ideologies, in the future.

Updated: September 9, 2017 07:05 PM