Anonymous, 11 Dec 2018
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media
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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.

iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam - Interview with Gary R. Bunt

The Internet has profoundly shaped how Muslims perceive Islam, and how Islamic societies and networks are evolving and shifting within the twenty-first century. While these electronic interfaces appear new and innovative in terms of how the media is applied, much of their content has a basis in classical Islamic concepts, with an historical resonance that can be traced back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.iMuslims explores how these transformations and influences play out in diverse cyber Islamic environments, and how they are responding to shifts in technology and society.

Unsolicited Religious E-mail: Researching New Context of Religious Communication

Most of the unsolicited e-mail is usually of business character and thus interpreted as something what teases and intrudes the privacy of mailboxes. However, specific number of the e-mails, labeled as spam, is represented by the messages with religious content. This paper deals with the descriptive typology of religious spam mail, distinguishing especially the missionary e-mails, chain letters and hoaxes in the new context of religious communication and the Internet. The study also tries to analyze the scheme of production and distribution of religious spam, including the impact to the recipients.

Propagating Islamic Creationism on the Internet

Although negative reactions accompanied the reception of Darwinism in the Islamic World from the beginning, a full fledged Islamic creationist movement did not appear before the 1970s. From the late 1990s onwards the subject became popular among Muslims in the diaspora. This was due to the efforts of Adnan Oktar alias Harun Yahya, a hitherto marginal figure in Turkey, to propagate his ideas via the Internet. The Internet allows him to adapt his propaganda constantly to new issues and creationist and anti-creationist publications and to recruit volunteers willing to translate his books. Thanks to the combination of a neglected subject with the innovative use of new media Oktar gained the opinion leadership in this field.
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