Anonymous, 27 Jun 2019
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Divergent identities in the virtual Islamic public sphere: A case study of the English discussion forum ‘Islamonline’

Divergent identities in the virtual Islamic public sphere: A case study of the English discussion forum ‘Islamonline’

This study utilizes a textual analysis of selected threads from the English discussion forum of one of the most popular Islamic websites, Islamonline (www.Islamonline.net), to explore the potential impact of the new Islamic virtual public sphere and the re-configuration of the ‘virtual umma’ on the creation of divergent identities online. The study also assesses whether the discourses and deliberations taking place in the English discussion forum of Islamonline.net exemplify an ideal Habermasian public sphere. The findings of this study indicate that there is a gap between the ‘self’ and the ‘Other’ in most of the analyzed threads. Participants in most threads did not show much willingness to engage in what Habermas calls ‘communicative action’ by failing to explain their points of view in a rational way. Rather, most participants engaged in what Habermas described as ‘strategic action’ by manoeuvring their way in the argument and trying to forcefully change the positions or the beliefs of the other side. However, despite the fact that the majority of the analyzed threads reflect a highly polemic discourse which drifts away from the ideal Habermasian public sphere, the article does not nullify the value of Habermas’s model as a viable theoretical framework. Rather, it engages in a critical discussion of why and how it may or may not be applicable in certain situations and proposes other possible theoretical alternatives.

article
18 p.
ISSN: 1751942X
eng