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Can Egypt's newest search engine root out extremism?

Egypt's Islamic authority Dar al-Ifta has launched a search engine to track extremist content in the fight against terrorism and Islamophobia, but critics believe much more is needed.

Dar al-Ifta, Egypt's Islamic authority with the power to issue fatwas (religious edicts), recently launched a search engine to track fatwas from terrorist groups and extremists and to help Al-Azhar scholars tackle Islamophobia. The data collected will enable clerics to develop indicators to help decision-makers better understand terrorist networks and guide policymakers in formulating effective counterterrorism strategies. Monitoring online hate speech targeting Muslims will also allow Al-Azhar scholars to respond appropriately to bigotry and abuse.

The search engine uses a web crawler program to systematically browse the web to look for keywords, such as "fatwa" and "halal" (permissible in Islam), to track extremist sites and detect Islamophobes. The data collected from news sites, social media and chat rooms are then classified according to topic, source and geographic location before being archived in a database for scholars, who can analyze the content to generate indicators to help policymakers decide how best to respond to threats.

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