Anonymous, 23 Jan 2020
Research on Middle East, Islam and digital media
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Online and Offline Continuities, Community and Agency on the Internet

How the Internet spawns community and gets its features into offline life is a recurring problem met in searches for “impacts” of its successive iterations in the Middle East and arises particularly in assessing equivocal findings most recently about social media in the Arab Spring uprisings. But the problem is more methodological than ontological: it lies in viewing the Internet through a media lens on communication as message-passing and “influence” as the outcome to be identified. The Internet and its current embodiment for new users as social media have a richer – and, I argue, normal – sociology in a more extended habitus explored here through comparison of longer-term, intermediate-term, and immediate processes highlighted by recent research that give better pictures of the Internet as networking and as cultural performance, and of appropriate methodologies that will retrieve their features.

The Earth Is Your Mosque (and Everyone Else’s Too): Online Muslim Environmentalism and Interfaith Collaboration in UK and Singapore

The environmentalist group Wisdom in Nature (WIN) and the online network Project ME: Muslims and the Environment have been chosen for analysis, from the UK and Singapore respectively, to illustrate examples of Muslim environmentalists who use the Internet, as a complement to community-based activism, to raise awareness of environmental concerns among both Muslims and non-Muslims. I will explore how WIN and Project ME seek to promote an interpretation of Islamic practice that is both environmentally responsible and open to close collaboration with non-Muslims as a consequence of being holistically protective of all in existence, both human and otherwise. In so doing, I hope to demonstrate how the Internet is used to facilitate the introduction of interested Muslims and non-Muslims into practical, off-line environmentalism, seen as an emotional community (Hetherington 1998), by minimizing the differences in culture, communication styles or religious belief that could otherwise pose difficulties.

Digital Images and Visions of Jihad: Virtual Orientalism and the Distorted Lens of Technology

Since the aftermath of September 11, Western media have repeatedly lampooned and echoed the term "jihad" as a principle of the Islamic faith, arguing that this term inspires Muslims to wage wars against the west and modernity. The studies of jihad as a core belief of radical Islamic groups are numerous; the term is not a new phenomenon; it is mentioned in the Quran at least 164 times in various meanings and contexts. This piece analyzes how contemporary technology specifically search engines such as Google Images, pervades, distorts and reinvents Orientalist images of the term jihad from a western worldview. In these visual representations of jihad, we find abundant images of violence, mystery, terror, and even mockery and satire of Islam. The study focuses on the effects of these digital images to the consumers and how technology reinforces and reproduces “visual knowledge” in a transfixed level that neglects the multiple and ambiguous meanings of jihad in the Islamic context. This piece is not arguing for an authentic visual representation of the notion of jihad but is suggesting that the role of contemporary technology can be complicit in distorting and reconfiguring the meanings of sacred texts and ideas of Islam in the West.

Review: Arabités numériques. Le printemps du Web arabe

The book under review examines the phenomenon of the Arab Spring in greater depth, which step by step takes into consideration all relevant political, social, cultural and technical aspects of the complex nature of the Arab e-revolutions. They were revolutions (the term is favoured by the Arabs) without leaders, their role being played by modern media. The ideas of anti-establishment protest were conceived and discussed mainly via Facebook, coordinated and translated into concise practical instructions via Twitter. The ensuing events were visualized via YouTube, which brought the news to the world.

Review: Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age. The 2009 Presidential Election Uprising in Iran

In the light of the recent presidential elections in Iran, a collection of academic essays - Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age - edited by Professor Yahya Kamalipour provides us with a unique retrospection. It allows us to follow the dramatic and controversial 2009 elections in Iran, while exploring some more universal topics such as the interplay of media, power and politics, or the role and impact of modern communication technologies.

Review: iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

The book has an overwhelming scope, ranging from methodological and theoretical issues related to the research of Islam in cyberspace to detailed analysis of particular and diverse segments of the cyber Islamic environments such as the Islamic blogosphere or the use of the Internet by jihadi movements. The author clearly demonstrates his command of the subject by the vast number of examples, mainly websites, blogs and videos cited and analyzed in the course of his argumentation. The exhaustive list of primary sources the author used for his research is unparalleled and itself could serve as an authoritative point of reference.

Telling the Truth about Islam? Apostasy Narratives and Representations of Islam on

This article analyses six apostasy narratives published on and examines how Islam is represented and understood in them. The narratives contain self-referential and autobiographical components, and the truth-claims made in them are often based on the narrator’s own experiences as a former Muslim. From the six testimonies it is clear that Islam is presented in a negative and biased way, as summed up in the following three points: (1) Islam is an irrational, illogical way of thought; the beliefs that Islam holds to be true are false; (2) Islam is not about peace, high standards and God; Islam is an evil, self-centered and morally corrupt religion, and Muslims are hypocrites; (3) Islam is an oppressive, misogynist and violent religion, and is negative for its followers, especially women. These views on Islam, expressed in the apostasy narratives, articulate several themes found in islamophobic discourses and the so called New Atheist movement.

Videogame Development in the Middle East: Iran, the Arab World, and Beyond

Videogame producers in the Middle East face many challenges, which make local game development more difficult than in the US or Europe. This chapter discusses these challenges and identifies the particular production strategies and design features local game developers use in order to adapt to them. In other words, it analyzes the broader cultural, social and political aspects that shape videogame design and production in the Middle East, focusing particularly on the Arab world and Iran. By doing so, it aims to transcend the fragmented character of existing research and propose a theoretical framework for the contextualization of videogame development in the Middle East.

Cyberactivists Paving the Way for the Arab Spring: Voices from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya

The wave of Arab revolutions and uprisings that has been shaking all corners of the Arab Middle East since 2011 and that has come to be known as the Arab Spring owed a major portion of its success to online activism. The spark that ignited these revolutions in the offline world was ignited by the Arab cyberactivists’ well-coordinated campaigns, calling for the toppling of corrupt regimes in their home countries. These campaigns were launched through various forms of social media, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Flicker with the goal of introducing drastic political changes and allowing for a higher margin of freedom in a region that has often been associated with autocracy and dictatorship. Three Arab countries in particular – Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – have witnessed sweeping transformations, leading to the ousting and court trials of members of their old regimes and the holding of democratic presidential and parliamentary elections. This study utilizes qualitative, on-the-field interviews with cyberactivists in these three countries to provide a unique perspective into how they have paved the way for a new era of openness and democratic reform in their respective countries.

Mythical Roots, Phantasmic Realities and Transnational Migrants: Yemenis Across the Gulf of Aden

This article analyzes the relationship between transnational migration, state-based religious cosmologies and new electronic media. It illustrates the way mythical realities and a Christian cosmology have structured the existence of the Yemeni diaspora. In analyzing the way mythical realities have been deployed, I seek to understand how old ways of creating boundaries have been redeployed in electronic landscapes. Much has been written regarding the interface between religion and media. Yet little attention has been paid to the phantasmic element that exists in digital-based transnational discourses. Drawing on the Lacanian concept of jouissance in this article, I pinpoint how mythical realities, important for creating boundaries, also operate at the phantasmic level. In doing so, I ultimately aim to show how transnational migration across borders operates within a field that is dotted with religious mythology and phantasmic realities that are increasingly expressed in the electronic landscape. I also show how the changing relationship between Muslims and Christians should be explained by taking more factors into account than concrete human reality. Explanations should also be sought in the distant past and in the domain of fantasy, which has so far proved to be uncomfortable ground for most scholars studying religious dynamics in the Horn of Africa.
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