Anonymous, 18 Nov 2018
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media
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“The Best Damn Representation of Islam:” Muslims, Gender, Social Media, and Islamophobia in the United States

Islamophobia reached new heights during the 2016 United States presidential election. We applied the theory of intersectionality to 15 in-depth focus group interviews conducted in gender-separated groups with 61 Muslim participants (41 women, 20 men) in South East Michigan between October 2016 and April 2017 to understand the role of gender in their responses regarding Islamophobia during the 2016 United States presidential election and Trump’s first hundred days in office as president. Both, Muslim women and Muslim men, labored to educate others about Islam online, but Muslim women emphasized their efforts to act as exemplars online of what it means to be Muslim in America more frequently and more strongly than men. Muslim women and men often used ignoring and contextualization as coping mechanisms as the number of Islamophobic messages online was perceived as overwhelming. The high amount and ubiquity of Islamophobic messages online has lead to a sense of futility and high levels of stress among young Muslims in South East Michigan, particularly for Muslim women.
CyberOrient

Cultural Adoption Through Online Practices Across Social Media Platforms: The Case of Saudi Women

This article reports ongoing qualitative research into Saudi women’s online practices across several social media platforms (SMP). It is based on eight semi-structured interviews conducted between March and September 2015 with four Saudi women from different cities in Saudi Arabia. This work’s findings address the knowledge gap between the accelerating consumption of SMP and the limited existing scholarly literature to understand empirically the relationship between Saudi women's online practices and the changes in Saudi culture in terms of values, norms and traditions, such as veiling and cross-gender communication.
CyberOrient

Echoes of Populism and Terrorism in Libya’s Online News Reporting

This article focuses on news reporting in Libya, assessing both official and citizen journalism. Special attention is paid to online resources, primarily spontaneous posts written in Arabic. Social media shows the emergence of citizen journalism together with so-called User-generated Content. Both have proved capable of creating legitimacy. Political inclinations, including Islamic ideology and its religious claims, are presented, supported, or criticized by ordinary citizens who post their comments and opinions on the web. Official press and news agencies have their social media profiles as well, sharing the same online space with nonprofessionals. Monitoring and analysis of reporting show that there is no relevant difference in journalistic models; nor do concerns between professionals and nonprofessionals vary. Libya appears today to be a mosaic of different interests: one that is interconnected and in conflict at the same time. These interests are vying to establish new supremacies in the country. Journalism in its various typologies faces pressure from the abovementioned interests, so it is negatively affected by rhetoric in both reporting and commentary. These preliminary arguments lead us to the core topics of populism – for which a definition is suggested – and reporting about terrorism in Libya. Against this background, we analyze news flows, sources, and other issues. I conclude with a brief review of the main issues, the characteristics of the Arabic narrative discourse, and the emerging Arabic lexicon.
CyberOrient

American-Muslims’ E-Jihad: Trumping Islamophobia in the Trump Era

Islamophobia, or the irrational, exaggerated fear of Islam and Muslims, has been on the rise lately in the United States, especially after President Trump came to office. Some of the worst Islamophobes launched their campaigns online, using the Internet as a platform to spout hatred and fuel anger and discrimination against immigrants and minorities, in general, and Muslims, in particular. In an effort to counter this dangerous new tide of Islamophobia and to overcome its destructive consequences, American-Muslims launched a number of well-orchestrated online campaigns. This essay examines the double role of the Internet, as a platform through which Islamophobia could be both fostered and resisted, simultaneously. It sheds light on some of the Islamophobic posts online, as well as some of the most popular social media campaigns which American-Muslims launched to combat and resist this complex and multifaceted phenomenon of Islamophobia. It discusses how American-Muslims understand, negotiate, challenge, and respond to Islamophobia, and its varied cultural, social, and political manifestations and implications, through a variety of mediated discourses and ongoing social media campaigns. In doing so, it emphasizes the plurality of American-Muslims’ voices, identities, realities, and strategies, as exemplified in their responses to Islamophobia.
CyberOrient

Behind the Screen: the Syrian Virtual Resistance

Six years have gone by since the political upheaval that swept through many Middle East and North African (MENA) countries begun. Syria was caught in the grip of this revolutionary moment, one that drove the country from a peaceful popular mobilisation to a deadly fratricide civil war with no apparent way out. This paper provides an alternative approach to the study of the root causes of the Syrian uprising by examining the impact that the development of new media had in reconstructing forms of collective action and social mobilisation in pre-revolutionary Syria. By providing evidence of a number of significant initiatives, campaigns and acts of contentious politics that occurred between 2000 and 2011, this paper shows how, prior to 2011, scholarly work on Syria has not given sufficient theoretical and empirical consideration to the development of expressions of dissent and resilience of its cyberspace and to the informal and hybrid civic engagement they produced.
CyberOrient

Big Data in the MENA Region: The Next Path towards Socio-economic and Cultural Development

As elsewhere, big data is perceived as central to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nations’ socio-economic and cultural development. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, by virtue of its advanced information technology infrastructure, relevant knowledge economy policies and flexible free government and market orientations, stands at the forefront of MENA’s big data integration. This article discusses selected sectors in the GCC region that leverage the power of big data including the media business industries and the oil and gas industry. The authors argue that in addition to bolstering big data applications in the aforementioned sectors, MENA countries also need to ensure that those applications embrace other sectors like education, government services and cultural development. Yet, to be able to achieve those goals, the region needs to address numerous challenges pertaining to knowledge infrastructure, human capital, technology mindset and regulation.
CyberOrient

Transnational Religious Practices on Facebook

Access to cyberspace by Yezidi populations has given this group a platform for rebuilding their religious identity, which, in turn, has enabled them to challenge existing geographic, political and cultural constraints in Iraq. The Yezidi in Iraq have to live with the threat of discrimination and even violence. On the Internet, self-identification as Yezidi is done much more freely. The rise of the Yezidi in Iraqi media and in foreign media (via the diaspora) is closely interconnected. Experiences of persecution and of persistent libel and prejudice by the Muslim majority has forced the Yezidi to adopt distinctive religious practices due to forced migration to foreign countries. This article is an exploration of whether notions of sacred spaces and perceptions and practices of religious rituals are transformed in digital media, i.e. when moving from physical to virtual spaces. I will do this by applying visualization through visual imagery and virtual ethnography. This paper represents a theory on the Internet and religion: asking what implications the Internet holds for spiritual identities, worship and sense of ethno-religious community.
CyberOrient

Middle Eastern Women’s ‘Glocal’: Journeying between the Online and Public Spheres

Despite the fact that the Arab Spring did not necessarily materialize with the political effects anticipated by some of its activists, it has brought into the spotlight the significance of the role of women in direct connection to the online space. In this respect, the article addresses the online world as Middle Eastern women subcultural capital in their traversal to the public sphere, which is otherwise rigorously enforced particularly on women. The hybridity of the private and the public exemplified in the online world in effect plays a pivotal role in rendering the visibility of Middle Eastern women in the political public sphere possible, where new media provides an effective vehicle for those women to establish social and political networks and organizations. Though the goals for those women activists might vary based on the nature of their countries, they have shown to have aptly journeyed between the online and public spheres in order to voice their glocal experiences.
CyberOrient

Saudi Women and Socio-Digital Technologies: Reconfiguring Identities

Drawing on research conducted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this paper explores the specific uses of digital technologies by Saudi women. It shows how these women – whose gender identity is strongly constrained by a host of social and religious norms characterizing Saudi society – make use of digital technologies, and particularly mobile telephones. The various applications available for mobile telephony open up to them a whole range of choices on how to communicate and use photography, thus enabling them to circumvent their assigned gender identity, at least at the margin.
CyberOrient

Science and Islam Videos: Creating a Methodology to Find “All” Unique Internet Videos

This methodology article explores the process through which we sought to catalogue videos addressing natural science and Islam on the Internet comprehensively. This data was then used to select videos for inclusion in the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies’ Science and Islam Video Portal (www.scienceandislamvideos.com), which evaluates the videos based on their representations of science, Islam and history. As a growing body of research is demonstrating, Internet videos provide a window into the lives of both celebrity and ordinary Muslims and their critics worldwide. The article describes the methodological decisions of what to include and exclude from the study, framing them in a discussion of some of the key terms. We then step through the process of searching for videos and cleaning the data, providing flow charts with details. In the last section of the article, we discuss the results and their ramifications on our continuing research.
CyberOrient
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