Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Islam and the Internet

In week seven we will be discussing Islamic use and perception of the Internet. Back in 2002 NPR did an interesting series where it explored the interspection between Islam, Faith and Technology and this provides a good introduction to how Islam has been presented online as well as how Muslim have enaged with internet technolgy.

As we have previously discussed, the internet has the potential to transform perceptions of religious authority online. This is especially true in relation to precept ions of who are the official interpreters of Islam in an age when the internet form the backbone of much popular religious discourse. This is an issue we will discuss in light of Anderson's article “The Internet and Islam’s New Interpreters”. We will also look at examples of how Islam has imported various religious rituals and practices online through Bunt's chapter "Rip, Burn & Pray: Islamic Expression Online". For more examples of the presence of Islam online check out Bunt's blog Virtually Islamic. While you read these article try to reflect on how the response to the Internet is similar and/or different to their response to other forms of media discussed in the class. What unique challenges and possibilities does the internet pose? How might the internet influence global perceptions of Islam?


William said...

Bunt's article "Rip. Burn. Pray." explores the extent to which the Islamic faith has and is being expressed via the internet and the impact of that extent on both Muslims and and non-Muslims using the web. There have been a myriad of different methods used to express Islam, and with it the Qur'an online, ranging from tools for memorizing the sacred book to texts used to support a political agenda to lessons for non-practicing Muslims. It is entirely possible to observe prayer via the internet with specialized programs as well as to view and discuss sermons. In addition, Muslims today are literally able to "rip" readings of the Qur'an from the internet, "burn" them onto cds, and then use them to "pray".
However, with the convenience of modernity comes the inevitable clash of religion and tradition. For example, a site that offered Qur'anic readings as background noise was called into question as being in violation of the mandate to listen carefully without distraction when the Qur'an is being read or recited. Additionally, though online forums add diversity of perspectives on Islam, it follows that disagreements ensue as well.
Sunni, Shi'a, and Sufi websites vary in message by definition, but also provide many points of common ground that can serve to bring different facets of Islam together, especially in the eyes of an outside viewer. Sites of universal interest to all Muslims achieve this end as well.
Finally, it must be noted that the emergence of Islam on the internet has also led to the growing expression of both more liberal and more Western views of the faith. The easily-accessible online network may serve as a launchpad for non-conventional and alternative views of Islam, both for Muslims and others. Only time will tell whether these forums will clash with traditional Islam or be embraced as a popular mindset.

1) How do you think that new, more liberal Islamic sites are generally received or perceived by the religious leaders? Would these fall under the category of sites to avoid? Why or why not?

2) Do you think that the internet serves more to bring different Muslims together or to drive them further apart? Why or why not?

3) Is the internet seen as a supplement for religious life or as a substitute? What do you think it will end up being? Why?

Kristina said...

Jon Anderson's article "The Internet and Islam's New Interpreters" points out a major new trend in the islamic religion where individual online bloggers are interpreting the religion for themselves and posting these opinons all over the web. The Internet creates a perfect environment for people to speak up about their opinions, especially negative opinions that the average Islamic citizen would be previously too afraid to voice. These new interpretations of Islam are creating serious problems for the Islamic fundamentalist leaders who cannot control this discourse.
Most islamic sites range from news services, sermons, scanned texts of the Quran and advice and self help information. These sites usually are met with intense debate however, especially becuase many people do not believe that you can mix the islamic religion with new media. The Internet is also commonly used to connect islamic people living in different regions all over the globe. This has created a "creolization" of the islamic culture by fusing together people who share common beliefs and morals, and this new culture looks to the new enternet interpreters for guidance, rather than the traditional Islamic organizations.
These offical voices of Islam are now trying to join in on the enternet resource, knowing that if they continued to ignore its power they would simply be replaced by a rapidly modernizing population. They have each started to write and create their own sites in order to compete with these new interent islamic interpreters, and try to cut down on discussion questioning the islamic faith.

1)Why would official Islamic authorities be resistant to using enternet at first?

2)Why are they more willing to participate now?

3)The enternet allows for the spread of new interpretations of Islam, why is this especially threatening to the Islamic fundamentalists?

4)Define 'creolization' and what people define this new islamic class?

Kristina Thompson