Anonymous, 15 Dec 2017
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media
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Video Games, Video Clips, and Islam: New Media and the Communication of Values

This chapter analyzes video games and video clips with an Islamic emphasis and the various levels at which they convey ethical and moral values. Both video games and video clips have been neglected and marginalized by the academy, albeit to varying degrees. Given their pervasiveness, especially among Middle Eastern youth, we are in crucial need today of critical understanding of the different ways these media articulate Islam and communicate it to consumers. This chapter in particular discusses the appropriation of games by various private Islamic companies, operating in the broader religious and cultural context of the Islamic revival and piety movement, for educational purposes. Finally, this chapter discusses how Islamic game production and, more generally, the public discourse of the Islamic piety movement are shaping mainstream video game production targeted at Muslim audiences and the marketing strategies of game production companies.

Palestine in Pixels: The Holy Land, Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Reality Construction in Video Games

This article explores the ways in which Palestine is envisioned, and its representation constructed, in contemporary video games. At the same time, capitalizing on Bogost’s notion of “procedurality”, this article discusses the potential and limitations of various game genres for modeling complex historical, social, and political realities. It focuses particularly on the ways in which the Arab-Israeli conflict is mediated and its perception and evaluation subsequently shaped by these games. By doing so, this article analyzes how the (re)constructions of reality as provided by the video games’ graphical, textual, and procedural logic, serve parallel – albeit contradictory – political and ideological interpretations of real-world events. On a more general level, this article aims to further develop the game genres’ critique by focusing on two contrasting, but equally signifi cant and simultaneous, aspects of video games – the persuasive power of procedurality and the inherent limitations thereof.

European Courts’ Authority Contested? The Case of Marriage and Divorce Fatwas On-line

This article explores Islamic websites providing normative content for European Muslim minorities. It focuses on four distinct Sunni websites and analyzes their fatwas, i.e. legal and religious recommendations issued in matters related to family law. Drawing from a broader research of more than 450 fatwas, this article presents the various ways, in which Muslim authorities associated with these sites deal with the conflicting areas between Islamic law and European legal systems. Essentially, it argues that the Internet and information and communication technology create new public spheres where different, and oftentimes conflicting, concepts of coexistence between Islam and the State are negotiated. Moreover this article demonstrates how these concepts are later incorporated into existing legal frameworks through the institutions of arbitration and marriage contracts. At the same time it explores the underlying rationale behind the fatwa-issuing websites, which emphasize the role of the individual and promote voluntarily adherence to Islamic law. On a more general level, this article aims to provide case studies on how technology redefines the politics of religious authority.

The Politics of Virtual Fatwa Counseling in the 21st Century

A multitude of fatwa services sprung up on the Internet during the last few years and has grown since. One finds askimam.org, islamicity.com, islamonline.net, and islamqa.com among them. Yet it is not only these private Muslim jurisconsults who maintain websites, but also government-affiliated muftis and agencies have increasingly established an online presence. At the same time the private online muftis are not a monolithic group themselves. Therefore this paper sheds some light on the different actors and their competition. Who are they? And, more importantly still, which norms do they set? This paper argues that there is a competition between these fatwa services for the conclusive authority of Islamic legal interpretations and their creators over the minds of Muslims situated in non-Muslim political discourse spheres. Within the context of the norm-setting processes these online fatwas have the potential to influence and shape Muslims’ opinions especially in predominantly non-Muslim societies. So how do the norms presented relate to existing norms there? Examples of where the Muslim authorities position themselves when it comes to contested or topical issues like migration and integration into the states of Western Europe will be provided. The research is initially based on a quantitative content analysis regarding these questions. Nonetheless it shall be supported by a theoretical framework including the notion of Peter Mandaville’s (2001) “modes of translocality”.

“Gaining Knowledge”: Salafi Activism in German and Dutch Online Forums

Recent years have witnessed an expansion of Salafi activism into computer-mediated environments like online discussion forums. Forum activities are part of the activists' endeavor to access the religious sources (Quran and Sunnah) and, through these sources, the lives of the prophet Muhammad and the first generations of Muslims. The prophet and the first generations embody the perfect model of a (Muslim) life which Salafi activists strive to emulate. This article analyses the knowledge practices of Salafi activists in Dutch and German discussion forums revolving around the religious sources. Knowledge practices are understood as meaning-making activities that tell people how to behave and how to “be in the world”. Four aspects are central to Salafi knowledge practices in Dutch and German forums: (1) Fragmentation and re-alignment form the basic ways of dealing with digitized corpus of Islamic knowledge and (2) open the way for Salafi activists to engage in “Islamic argumentation” in the course of which they “excavate” behavioral rules in form of a “script” from Quran and Sunnah. (3) These practices are set within the cognitive collaboration of forum members and part of a broader decentralizing tendency within Islam. (4) And finally, narratives and sensual environments circulating in forums help activists to overcome contradictions and ambiguities while trying to put the script, which tells them what to do in which situation, into practice.

Making the Internet Kosher: Orthodox (Haredi) Jews and their approach to the World Wide Web

This article surveys the approach of Orthodox Judaism – especially the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Judaism – to the Internet. In the introduction we compare the approach of the Abrahamic religions to the Internet. Then we focus on the Haredi community (especially in the contemporary State of Israel) and their specific approach to the Internet. This article argues that the use of the Internet, although officially banned by many Haredi Rabbis, is in fact tolerated on a pragmatic basis. We also survey which kind of “protection against secular threads” the Haredim use (filtering software, Holy Shabbat protection). In the last part of this article the role of the Internet in Israeli religious politics, and by its uses by fundamentalist and radical Jewish groups, is surveyed.

Video Games in the Arab World and beyond - Interview with Vit Sisler

Video games are at the core of a renewed focus of interest and have given birth to what are now known as game studies. Games have to be considered as a fully legitimate field of study for both anthropologists and political scientists, as they are shaping worldviews, social networks and identities and they engage phenomenona of cultural domination/ resistance. They eventually crystallise new forms of collective mobilisation and action and have to be considered as cultural artefacts. Vit Sisler, a researcher in game studies, tells us more about the religious and other challenges that games are posing in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Convergence, Next Phase of the Information Revolution

Excitement over the revolutionary potentials of new media and information technologies in the Middle East that accompanied the advent of the Internet, satellite television and mobile phones in the 1990s focused on them as alternatives. New technologies, alternative channels, and indications of alternative political and other discourses breaking into the public suggested transformation of a public sphere, in the main organized institutionally, not only with new voices but also new people. The boundary-busting potentials of NMIT were seen first in terms of alternatives by those who welcomed them and by those with reservations. Indeed, reservations – moral, cultural, political anxieties over new information and communications technologies and new media – seemed to confirm their status primarily as alternatives.

Blogging, Networked Publics and the Politics of Communication: Another Free-Speech Panacea for the Middle East?

On December 10, the White House announced that President Bush would “commemorate the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights by meeting with activists who use Internet blogs and new-media technologies to promote freedom in countries with restricted media environments.” Two were from Iran and Egypt. Before celebration of blogging as free speech and ‘citizen journalism’ disappoints, like the Web in the 1990s or television in the 1950s, I want to consider how we might place a sounder social anthropology under media-minded constructions. And, lest yet another analysis of the Middle East fall into exceptionalism, how might such activities be grounded in what research shows about networked communication generally and specifically with globalizing media? As interest in global media turns to blogging, my concerns here are two.

Globalization, Democracy, the Internet and Arabia

In the 1990s, the notion of globalization as the macroscopic conception of contemporary change arrived with a primarily economic emphasis popularized through books like The Twilight of Sovereignty by Walter Wriston, retired CEO of Citicorp, and a penumbra of celebrations from the management world. Through think tanks, it became the doctrine de jour for theorizing the end of the Cold War that updated belief in superiority of markets over planned economies to a more contemporary justification for expansion of open markets beyond bond-trading, where Wriston found it. Globalization seemed to predict what neoliberalism preached; so it is not surprising that searches for globalization moved into additional realms that liberalism had long privileged as drivers of socio-political change in addition to the political-economic.
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