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A New Form of Activism: Message Bombardment in Web Forums

ImageThe integration of the Islamic way of thinking and living with modern communication and the Internet has created a new aspect to the socialization process for Muslims and a new form of communication for people from different religions and cultures. Mail groups and online forums established by the participation of hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of people, Muslim and non-Muslim, find an opportunity to debate the issues that are important, leading to the production of alternative and new solutions to problems that could not be resolved in the past. The conclusions that can be drawn from such online Islamic activities is that the primary ends of certain mail groups and forums are (1) to conduct da'wa or missionary work; (2) to use the vast Islamic network that connects like-minded believers and to serve as forums for Islamic activists; (3) to use online discussion in support of jihad; (4) to conduct electronic jihad, which entails online attacks of Israeli sites or sites assaulting Islam or the prophet, whether conducted by individuals or groups and (5) the use and proliferation of online fatwas. (1)

As for the point of departure of these online activities in terms of da'wa, the Sunnah and hadith are given as the justification. For example, the saying of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), "Convey knowledge from me even if only a single Qur'anic verse" is considered to be the sum of this perception. (2) This process of international and virtual socialization reflects in some way the awareness that the Internet plays vital role in transforming passive viewers into active participants, even if only by allowing them to participate in a discussion that socially normalizes, therefore legitimizing, other activities. This online activity takes diverse forms, including campaigns that shape public opinion by pressuring government or domestic institutions, as well as the international campaign to protest the ban of the hijab in French public schools or the attacks in Gaza. (3)

The general picture, when we look at the numbers, is quite interesting. On Yahoo, the number of communication platforms, including mail groups and forums under the keyword "Islam" is more than 40 thousand, whereas this number is 10 thousand when we use the keyword "Muslim." When we use the keywords "Prophet Muhammad", again we encounter hundreds of various groups. This introduction to a discussion in one of the most popular forums among the Muslim youth, http://www.mashada.com/, gives us a clue about how this system operates:

"What we are going to do here in this debate is scrutinize Muhammad and his Koran. We will go into depths of every issue at hand. All Muslims and Christians are invited. While indulging in this debate we will seal all the avenues for insults, avoid childish inputs from both sides as we do not want to reduce this debate into a battle of religions. We will also stick to the Koran and avoid attacking Christianity. Any deviating lines (i.e. Attack on Christianity) will be treated as vague and will not be responded to." (4)


1. Abdallah EL-TAHAWY, Internet is the New Mosque: Islam and Fatwa at the Click of the Mouse, http://www.arabinsight.com/

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. http://www.mashada.com/forums/religion-philosophy/92996-lets-talk-about-muhammad.html

 

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