Media and Islam Weblog

May 11, 2011

Digitalizing Islam – Internet & www: ii. the Internet & religion

Filed under: Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 6:41 am

Internet & World Wide Web

ii. the Internet and religion
The Internet as we know today can be described as communication medium, a computer system or as a discourse (Agree 1998). Nevertheless, for example Jones puts greater emphasis on the social network edge of the Internet (1998). From the outlook of the religion being online it is clear that Internet is not only great communication tool, it offers great business opportunities but moreover as Campbell paraphrases Wertheim: “[the Internet] can also be conceptualized as reconnecting people with spiritual side of life,” (2004b, 113). Clearly, the Internet beginnings may be linked to the power struggle during the Cold war – the Internet as a proof that USA is as “high-tech developed” as USSR. Moreover, today is the Internet as yet another business space and also powerful tool for business – truly the symbol of consumerism. Campbell writes: “New media technologies offer opportunities for experimentation with methods of interconnection and communication,” (2004b, 108). We know that the creation and development of such new media technologies may have different motivations; according to Campbell such motivations are very often commercial still they can have also spiritual aims (2004b).
The Internet became very much part of our daily lives; at least for those living in the Western world, and without question have its important share in the social evolution. The Internet represents many things. It is a tool for communicating and to some degree source of information but most certainly not just that. The Internet comes with an extra space – a sub-world to the world we live in. It seems that the Internet to some degree reflects the real world. Still we may hope that if we use this high-tech human intelligence proving medium “rightly”, it will help the World society to improve. Such perfection is described differently each time dependent on what one considers to be perfection. This is already puzzling. How can we use the Internet rightly, when each have different opinion what is right depending on his/hers ideologies, and how the Internet can lead us to a societal perfection, when each defines such perfection differently?
Religion is today without question present on the Internet. It is to a degree an absurdum. Religions often represent the traditional – at least speaking about the “classic religions” (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and the Internet is a symbol of modernity. This idea will be further developed when discussing the “re-intellectualization of Islam”, the discussion about traditional interpretation and current believers. But still, religions being presented and functioning on the Internet is truly a trend of the global communication. In fact it is a great example while trying to examine the role of the Internet in individual lives and in the society in general. Did the Internet bring landmark to the societal evolution? To some degree it did, yes. Did the Internet overhaul our lives, our moral standards or our way of thinking? Not really. Does the Internet have a great potential in the ever more multicultural world? Yes it does, to some degree.
Campbell makes link between the Internet and the club culture (2004b). In fact, we may say that this connection is rather successful. Both the Internet and the club culture have certain vibe or aura which is to attract new audiences to the “old themes” such as the meaning of life, the responsibility for you or others, and finding your place within a society. Campbell proposes that the Internet “has become a canvas of personal expression, a place to learn and test new ways of being” and she continues: “this is exemplified by people’s attempts to create new space of social interaction on Web sites, in chat rooms, and through e-mail,” (2004b, 107). Campbell brings us to the idea which introduces both Webmaster and DJ as someone who is able to transform the new media technology into a “creative tool, enabling […] to form new spaces of communication and experience” (2004b, 107). In fact the Internet can be understood as “a personalized public space of individual” (Campbell 2004b, 107).
Hey listen up to your local DJ.
You better hear what he’s got to say-
There’s not a problem that I can’t fix
Cause I can do it in the mix!
(Indeep in Campbell, 2004b)
Without question both the Internet and the club culture creates “new mix”, often by using traditional narratives, in order to brings us to new narratives and social perspective. Campbell believes that the new narratives are highly dependent on your approach to life – this would be according to Campbell one’s motivations and interpretation of life (2004b). In fact, clearly the Internet is not to be considered only informational tool and clubs only places of entertainment but they can be also understood as new spiritual space.
It is obvious that the Internet can easily become place which helps you to practice your religion (Barna Research Group 1998). The Internet is becoming part of our spiritual life.
Moriarty brings to our attention the importance of social networking while looking on the religion online. He had research the Christian network called 5loaves to come to some interesting conclusions (2005). Moriarty claims that “…online Christian community is here to stay. It will likely pay less of a peripheral role and more of central role as technological developments become more integrated part of world culture…,” (2005, 11). From other researchers we can suppose that religion online is not likely to replace the offline practice (Campbell 2003 & Cowan 2004). Moriarty reports that most religion online community seems to connect in order to “share and learn new ideas” moreover he observes that users of 5loaves feel to “grow as Christians” (2005, 11). This confirms the idea that religion being present online facilitates practicing of religion and proposes extra spiritual space for members of such online communities.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project Religion Surfers survey from 2001 shows that 67% of surfers have looked for information about their own religion, 37% gave spiritual advice over the e-mail and 21% sought such spiritual guidance over the e-mail (Larsen 2004). Further, 81% of surfers said their religious faith is very strong and 86% of surfers pray at least once a day (Larsen 2004).
Plantinga, a philosophy professor at Notre Dame, says: “One of the sustaining causes of religious disagreement has been the sense of strangeness, of pure unfamiliarity […] the communication revolution will not wash out the important differences, but will learn to grade our differences in order of importance” (Ramo 1996).
For some “technology-worshipping-futurists the Internet represents great new “entity” (Ramo 1996). Ramo cities Turkel, a professor of science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who believes that: “People see the Net as new metaphor for God” (1996). Turkel believes that the Internet was maybe created by people but is “growing out of human control (Ramo 1996). This is perhaps exaggeration, but we could agree with the justification that “God created set of conditions from which life would emerge […] the Internet is one of the most dramatic examples of something that is self-organized […] God is the distributed, decentralized system” (Turkel in Ramo 1996).
It seems that the Internet maybe very useful especially for people who wish to follow religion also in their offline lives. Due to multiculturalism and generally due to ways many of us live today one may not have always an option to go to his church or mosque and talk to his priest or Imam. Helland writes: “… if statistical trends continue in Western societies, it appears that popular religion online will become significant aspect of the religious environment of the future, creating a new space where freedom of religious expression rules supreme” (2004, 34).
Ramo writes about the Monastery of Christ which is in the dessert northwest from Mexico (1996). This monastery also not being connected by telephone or being hooked to television is online. The Monastery of Christ is using solar energy and connection through one mobile phone to maintain other’s people websites. Also, Ramo writes: “… the monks have developed a heavily trafficked Benedictine home page” (1996, 52). These monks were also those who were consulted in 1996 by the Vatican for design of Vatican’s web pages (Ramo 1996).
According to Rheingold the first computer based communication linked to religion could be observed on the “bulletin boards” (1993). This was an electronic discussion forum and they were truly interactive as real conversation or maybe at some point more open because its users are to a degree anonymous. The name of the seemingly first religious discussion forum was Origins and was not meant for specifically any religious faith (Rheingold 1993). This discussion forum was an impulse for the quite typical computer based religious communication. Because Origins was not linked to any particular religion the discussion was rather open and without authority (Helland 2000). Helland even claims that part of the discussion was theological experts who wanted to discuss and clear up for them some issues (2000).
The official religious sites using the computer communication started with the creation of the World Wide Web (Helland 2004). Ramo writes about the year 1989 when Pope John Paul II decided to start the new era called “new evangelization” (1996). This was when the computer mediated telecommunication was to be used to pursue the Church ends. The official sites was created in 1995 – (Ramo 1996). This official site quickly crashed under the strain of e-mails directed to the Pope. One year later Vatican created more developed system and also there was no more option to write directly to the Pope.
According to McCormick the official religious sites were necessary otherwise the presence of religious offline authorities would get lost in the sea of unofficial religious groups and affiliates (1998). Helland writes: “…religious and spirituality section of the World Wide Web continue to expand at a very rapid rate. In search engine subsection and categories of classification, the religion and spirituality sections have always been among the largest and most dynamic” (2004, 26). All “classic religions” – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – but also Hindu and Buddhist traditions are officially represented online. Nevertheless, we found also many “unofficial expressions” of these religions (Helland 2004, 27). Today, it is very easy for any individual to create their own website and so many people do so.
Matei and Ball-Rokeach argues “that people who connect to the Internet are more likely to use it for cultivating their social and cultural proclivities” (2001, 551). Therefore, it seems that the Internet creates an environment which mediates to people religion. Zaleski compares religion online to the golf or smoking, which you can live without but after trying you may like so much the experience that you won’t give it up (1998). Obviously, the Internet can help us fulfil our different needs which we are not in many cases able to fulfil differently or it is just easier to perform them online. On the other hand Zaleski observes that with the cyberspace you may feel the need to step back and get the “real” experience: “There’s nothing like a lot of time in cyberspace to make you really love the grit and stench of meatspace.” I would argue that even there are many “new religions” (Dawson and Hennebry1999) the “classical religions” are those we should concentrate on. This “classical religions” are the one which can offer traditionalism and thus gives a real impulse to our lives. These religions are those who are real and not just cyber and thus can have a real impact.
Dawson quotes Durkenheim while defining what is religion: “… unified system of beliefs and practises relative to sacred things…which unite one single moral community … all those who adhere to them” (2004, 75). The notion of community is crucial with all “classical religions” (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). It is the Internet which allows people to get connected and also form communities. In today multicultural world where geographical distances between people of similar mind set can become great, the Internet may help to overcome the distance obstacle. Without question, such links and virtual communities are not the same as we were use to with traditional communities; thus the character of communities changed. Nevertheless, this is a part of the human progression. Hardly, someone wants to argue that it would be better if the humanity stayed same over time being, living in the old orders. Dawson writes: “ The Internet allows individuals to reach out globally to form bonds with people of like mind, overcoming the physical barriers and social distinctions that have held them apart, but at the price of self presented and the social interactions established to text-based and largely asynchronous exchanges between physically isolated individuals” (2004, 77). Dawson follows by counting out that people appointed over the Internet lasting friendships, business partnerships and “provide therapeutic support and even get married” (2004, 78).


May 10, 2011

Digitalizing Islam – Internet & www: i. history & the original idea behind creation

Filed under: Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 6:40 am

Internet & World Wide Web

i. history & the original idea behind creation

In the 1960s the possibility of sharing information without geographic and time limitations became real. The 1960s is when the technological revolution brings us to the event of the Internet. According to Warf and Grimes the Internet was the outcome of the “vast expansion of telecommunications” and “largely unintended outcome of the microelectronic revolution” (1997, 259). Also Rheingold writes: …the most important parts of the Net piggybacked on technologies that were created for very different purposes,” (1993, Chapter 3).
Internet is by Warf and Grimes labeled as “the world’s largest electronic network” (1997, 259). In September 2009 there were counted near to 1, 774 million users of the Internet world wide (Internet Worlds Stats 2009). Hafner and Lyon place the beginnings of the Internet to the year 1969 – the creation of Arpanet (1996) and Briggs and Burke in the turn of the year 1968 and 1969 (2005).
The Internet origins are directly linked to the power of a nation – state. The Internet started as the state founded network. It was the ARPA, the United States Department of Defense’s Advanced Project Administration, which have been founded to stand out as response to the USSR activities and high-tech development represented by Sputnik. The first network leading to the Internet we know today was part of the struggle between the two nuclear forces – the USA and USSR – during the Cold war. Rheingold also sees the crucial development after the year 1957 when Soviet launched the first artificial satellite called Sputnik (1993). According to Rheingold this “shifted some funding paradigms in Washington, D.C.; two direct side effects of that shift were personal computer revolution and computer-mediated communications,” (1993, Chapter3). The introduction of the Internet can be without question attributed to the struggle to keep “the pace of technical development” (Rheingold 1993, Chapter 3).
The inter-computer communication was designed firstly to cater military needs and later evolved to cater also needs of academics and the industry (Helland 2004). At the beginnings it was truly only several people who were part of this new communication tool (Helland 2004). Arpanet was connection designed to link several computers within the United States and this was done through telecommunication lines (Helland 2004).
The Rheingold’s description of the Internet beginnings sounds quite poetic:
While driving to work one day in 1950, Douglas Engelbart started to thinking about how complicated civilization had become […] Engelbart asked himself what kinds of tools we use to help us think. ‘Symbols’ was the answer that came to him, the answer he had been taught as an engineer. Could we use machines to help us deal with symbols? Why not computers? Could computers automate symbol-handling task, and thus help people think faster, better, about more complex problems?
(1993, Chapter 3)
In fact Rheingold labels the beginnings of the Internet as “accidental” (1993). It seems that Rheingold believes that the Internet is in fact an outcome of “snapshots” projected in front of the eyes of Engelbart, man who was during the World War II radar operator (1993).
A big step in the Internet advancement was the development of an e-mail. Firstly, there were add-ons – the possibility to attach a personal note to the data you were sending. By 1970’s the e-mails were the most popular function of the computer mediated communication (Helland 2004). Sterling writes about the e-mails as about creation of the “most expansive post office in history” (1993). E-mails also stands behind the transformation of the computer mediated communication to social network. The computer mediated communication was right from the start very interactive medium.
Also Rheingold in his description of this truly turning technological advancement underlines the interactivity (1993). Rheingold writes about the ARPA funded “small group of unorthodox computer programmers and electronic engineers” who “felt their virtuosity required the kinds of computers that a good mind could play like musical instrument, in real time,” (1993, Chapter 3). Rheingold continues: “They called their crusade ‘interactive computing’ and still speaks in terms of the ‘conversion experience’,” (1993, Chapter 3; italics mine). It is very clear that from beginning the computers great advantage could be and should be in their function as communication device.
The network of the Arpanet was designed so it could have parts – communication units represented by each computer – absent and still the network would function. By Pentagon this was viewed as the solution for the nuclear destruction but for the universities using Arpanet it represented the “free access to academic and research users” because they were the interactive communicators (Briggs and Burke 2005, 244). Briggs and Burke write about the “architecture of the system” which was so much different from the telephone network (2005, 245). It is the system of “message blocks” – breaking information to smaller parts which are again reconstructed within the receiver. This system is called “packet switching” (Rheingold 1993). Rheingold quotes Baran from the Research and Development global non-profit think tank partly funded by US government: “the threat of the unreliability of any communications network under nuclear combat conditions could be dealt with by decentralizing authority for keeping communications flowing,” (1993, Chapter 3).
The decentralization within the “architecture of the system” has also symbolic value to it. This is what is and could be the very big advantage while considering the Internet. The decentralization is in fact also an important element in the Western multicultural environment and can be crucial for creation sub-cultures. Such sub-cultures could be within the virtual world but also sub-cultures within and growing outside the nation-state.
In the 1990s the computer mediated communication became even more interactive due to the creation of the World Wide Web. This development opened doors to those who wanted to be even more active while communicating through computers. Anyone could post what they wished on the Net and anyone could learn about it by searching the World Wide Web (Helland 2004). According to Helland the hardware also became cheaper and software more easy to use and therefore more accessible to larger population (2004). Although, we have to admit that this was mainly concerning the Western audience.
In 1996 Kraut writes: “The dramatic changes now occurring in household computing have potential to transform the lives of average citizens as much as telephone did in the early part of the 20th century and the television did in the 1950s and 1960s” (35). Kraut adds that in 1994 33% of US households had a personal computer (1996) which is directly linked with the growth of the computer based telecommunication.
Agre claims: “In the mid-1990s, the Internet moved from experimental status and became a full-blown public network” (2002, 149). Agre believes that the Internet was “cultural and economic phenomenon” (2002, 149) and eight years later we could just agree. Agre carry on in his paper by describing the 1990’s enthusiasm. This was linked specifically to the cyberspace – a world separated from the “real” or the offline world. Also, Agre seems to have some distain for such an idea we could observe on our own that an extra space for discussion, information dissolution or also from economical point of view emerged. Maybe it is not a world in its full but the cyberspace could be to certain degree considered as an extra addendum to the world offline.
The point about the cyberspace or the cyberworld seems to be that it should not be separated from the offline space or world. Already the name “cyberspace” comes from the science fiction novel – Gibson’s Neuromancer (Agre, 2002) In the Gibson’s 1984 novel the word “cyberspace” meant “consensual hallucination” (Zaleski 1998). As Agre describes the notion of cyberspace was by ideologists often understood as a place to escape (2002). Agre writes: “The concept of cyberspace offered an escape, with all of the positive and negative connotations that the idea of escape suggest: from limits, from oppression, from institutions, from responsibility, from reality” (2002, 149). We may not fully agree with such an idea. It is space to be used by people and thus it is a question of time when people create rules and authorities or limitations, such which are based on present outnumbered forceful ideologies. Further, for example religion online has the same fundamentals as religion in the offline mode. This is at least applicable while discussing the three “classic religions” (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) whereas with the “new religions” created just as the cyberspace religions we could have doubts. “Classic religions” have limits, “classic religions” are real and “classic religions” are about responsibility.
Warf and Grimes see the Internet as a support to the antiestablishment rules: “We see cyberactivism as a necessary, but not sufficient, complement to real-world struggles on behalf of the disempowered” (1997, 259). Warf and Grimes describe the use of the Internet to admit that most of it is centred on entertainment or personal communication. Here we just have to come and touch to ideas linked to for example Appadurai and these are the homogenization tendencies, when the bigger orders are absorbing the smaller orders (1990). Such homogenization seems to be in general linked to the political or economical rules. Warf and Grimes writes: “Hegemonic uses of the Net include commercial applications, particularly advertising and shopping but also purchasing and marketing, in addition to uses by public agencies that legitimate and sustain existing ideologies and politics as ’normal’, ‘necessary’, or ‘natural” (1997, 160). Nevertheless, it is exactly the Internet which has counter-hegemonic potentials. It is a tool or an environment which from its characteristics offers an extra discussion and gives a voice to the marginalised. Also, this can be observed while examining the Generation X and Y whom are the typical users of the Internet but are also more and more linked to religion (Helland 2004). Perhaps it is the Internet which offers the useful alternative or at least stand behind the arousal of interest? Campbell writes: “New Media technologies offer an opportunity for experimentation with methods for interconnection and communication. While many of these explorations have been fuelled by commercial motivations, some innovations have at their heart very different social even spiritual aims” (2004b, 108)
Yet not all are as optimistic about the Internet. Dahlberg on one hand sees the Internet as possible extension to the public sphere but on the other hand he offers some quite pessimistic scenarios (2005 and 2007). Dahlberg bases his thoughts on the Frankfurt School – the “ever-increasing corporate control of media systems through the global convergence of media industries and technologies” (2005, 93). In fact, Dahlberg describes two aspects which could be debilitating for the “extension of public sphere” and “power relations to be contested” potentials of the Internet (2005, 93). Firstly, it is the “attention economy” or the large media corporations’ successful use of their “massive resources” by drawing attention to their “mega portals” (Dahlberg 2005, 94). This includes also intentional situating of critical voices as marginalized (Dahlberg 2005, 94). Secondly, it is the “increasing private ownership and control of the Internet content, software, bandwidth, and management” (Dahlberg 2005, 94).
Rheingold definition of online community says that these are “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on […] public discussion long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace,” (1993, Chapter 3). In fact Rheingold is the one to first describe such a community. He writes about his experiences on one of the first virtual communities called WELL – Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link. Cowan enumerates six elements of such online communities: interactivity, stability of membership, stability of identity, netizenship and social control, personal concern, and occurrence in a public space (2004).
Moriarty specifically argues that Christian circles online are very much same as any other online community (2005). We can suppose that any online community is based on the principle that people incline to those with similar interests, understanding of life and similar or same values. Moriarty writes: “This online coming together is interesting because it is influenced by larger societal trends that affect Christian community online and offline,” (2005, 2).

Digitalizing Islam – Introduction

Filed under: Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 6:38 am

In the name of Allah the One and Only;
Allah, the eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.
(Tajweed Qur’an. 2001, Sura Ikhlas, or Purity of Faith)

Allaho a’alam bis sawab – truth is known to Allah.
(Engineer 1990 in Kurzman. 2002, 133)

In the past few years, characterized by transnationalization of media, we could witness creation of certain “sphericules” that have been vested to allow communication among certain communities. “Sphericules” are to be understood as kind of public spheres (Gitlin. 1998).
One of these, in fact major sphericule, can be observed among Muslim community.
What is the Role of Computer Mediated Communication on Muslims living in Western countries and what Influence does it have on Traditional Muslim Values?

Widely people seem to cerebrate in the same manner; the ability to puzzle our common sense of conception may be extremely contributive. As of today people living in the Western countries became aware of the trend often called Globalization. The post-modern world seemingly brings us all together as living in one shared globe. On the other hand it became perceptible that Globalization in the West but as well in general means also Americanization and unification of societal values. Without question in different parts of the world we may observe different sorts of homogenization tendencies, as described by Appadurai (1990), but it is without question that the bigger orders aim at absorbing of the smaller orders. Unfortunately, it seems that behind the newly adopted values which lead to the homogenization is not morality, whatever one imagines behind this term, but rather interests of selective and in Western sense powerful packs.
Living in the “globalised world” largely influenced by the TNMCs we may follow the trend of struggle to build and secure identities much distant from the values on which TNCs in general are built. One example of such identity is the ummah, the traditional model of Islamic world community. World Wide Web, originally the link between intellectuals, plays crucial role in creating the “updated” version of the ummah and actually creating the crevices to the “globalised” world and to the way of life it represents.

We may invigilate what is presented as modernity in the post-modern world. But still when modernity jousts with traditionalism we may see that traditionalism is what offers much stronger base for existence. The ummah, the traditional model of Islamic world community, is seemingly great challenge for the purpose of Americanized society. As Appadurai writes homogenization can be also employed within nation-state and minorities of such a nation-state (1990). This can have further implications. Such a homogenization is easier to catch out than the overall homogenization; it touches specifically practical everyday lives of individuals, and therefore is often dealt with quite instantly. Such a reaction to the small scale homogenization is useful source of inspiration and as an impulse for large scale response to large scale homogenization. As an example we may imagine different moving groups such as immigrants or refuges and the sort of environment they start to create in a nation-state.
Islam is a great example of a traditionalist society dealing with its self-identity within global borders or within nation-state. The struggle seems to be extremely successful and to homogenization threatening. A traditionalist society can be creating great question marks within so called modern societies. The centrifugal tendencies of globalization can be debilitated by the resurgence of different sphericules within the global. Example of creation of such sphericule is the Islam community within the Western civilization.
The cyberworld and World Wide Web create the possibility to fulfill ones dreams and fantasies when they are not apt to happen in the offline mode. Internet has important social implications. One of them is the fractionalization of world audience but in another sense than is the nation – state fragmentation and in a complete opposition to globetrotting. With the implication that our virtual selves can transform our offline selves or at least lead to discussion about raise of offline sphericules.
This research paper aims to see how the globalization from bellow – the virtual ummah – comes to its erection.
Further, we should examine the de-homogenization effects of the new authorities within Western Islam community. This is important in order to understand how the traditional values can have challenging effect on West identity and modernization idea as is presented by Western authorities. Such traditional values can in some cases also create crevices to the current rooted mediascape. Overall, what is interesting is how the traditionalism and the non-materialistic, represented by Islam, employ the symbol of modernity to reach their means. The re-intellectualization of Islam proves that traditional is nothing against modern.
Further we have to ask what the effects of the cyber on the Islam are. Bearing in mind that Islam was in fact the first known idea about globalization it may be crucial to actually see how and if the moral – represented by Islam – can deal with the profitable – represented by homogenized. It is possible that such ideas which are functioning based on deterritoralization may advance the discussion of the importance of the form of the media and form of the message.
To understand better we need to examine how such sphericules function in the computer mediated communication, what effect they have on the values on which they are based on and what effect they can have on the inner balance of communication within the globe.
This research paper is not to do any definitive and absolutist conclusions or statements. This would be exactly in opposition to the idea behind – we need to reread, rethink, re-evaluate and discuss. Rather, this research paper aims for a refreshing outlook on some facts and observation made in the ‘modernized’ world of 21st century. The objective is to arouse some questions which could be a good source for reflection for any one.

The paper is structured as follows. Firstly, we need to have a closer look at the event of the Internet which is crucial for our story. Is religion present online? And how it has happen, why? In the chapter discussing the Internet we will as last investigate into possible roles of the Internet. Secondly, we need to analyze how and in same importance why the Islam got to be represented online and to what effect. Lastly, we will link the Islam with the globalization and actually see the reasons why Islam is to certain degree resurging, how just divers can Islam be and what is currently happening within the traditional Islamic community ummah.
Still, we should mention the numerous scholars whose works were a great inspiration and on whose thoughts this research paper stands. It is crucial to pay attention to all the authors listed in the Bibliography and I hope I may at least to some mediate the way to their valuable thoughts.

Digitalizing Islam – ABSTRACT

Filed under: Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 6:36 am

Within the world society we can observe the resurgence of different sphericules which are posing the challenge to the so called modernized world. This research paper is discussing the major sphericule created among Muslim community worldwide. We are brought to the idea of the Muslim world community ummah. Islamic community is as an example of traditionalist society interacting with the model of modern as is understood by the West.
The Islam is discussed as the one which can bring fulfillment to one’s life and positive evolution within the globalized and currently multicultural world. Nevertheless, the effects of the new media and mainly the Internet are considered as the stir behind the Islamic resurgence. We come to the conclusion that both the new media and also the debate and rereading within Islam may be the much needed challenge to the current political fabric.

January 16, 2008

Blogs of my colleagues

Filed under: recom web pages,Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 9:46 am

As follows I would like to recommend blogs of my colleagues, which were also working on Media Literacy Project.

This blog talks about the danger of violence in media. The author is concerned about the desensitization which it may cause to our children.

She mentioned the broadcasting of Saddam Hussein’s execution and Virginia shooting.

This blog’s author has big concern about the effects of video games and horror movies.

This blog discusses the educational potential of media. In fact it seems that lately this potential is forgotten. Media are here to less and less educate or inform but mainly to “set agendas”.

The author further discusses the Virginia Tech Massacre and shooting on Jokela high school in Finland.

This blog is some way connected to what is discussed in my blog. The author writes about September 11 and its picture in media. Interesting are comments about “agenda setting” and the theory of “spiral of silence”.

I also believe freedom of speech and media are both necessary for democracy, but I am also concerned about the ownership of mainstream media by large cooperations.

This blog underlines the danger media can have on our self image. The author discuses the connection between images offered to us by media and the problem of eating disorders. I believe that it is very important to keep talking about this subject and keep our selves reminded that models shown in media are in general unhealthy individuals.

This blog writes about computer games. The author mentions that he used to be fan of computer games. He is looking for the positive effects that computer games can have. It is good to remind us of them, because we should look for positives on everything and try to enforce them.


January 9, 2008

Woman and Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 6:25 pm

    Recently I opened Czech magazine for women “Žena a Život” (“Woman and Life”). In the section about travelling there was an article which should be an inspiration for visiting Israel. They informed us about what to visit on a short trip to Israel, in which hotel to stay and which airlines to choose.            

    As all of the articles in this magazine this article is accompanied by large number of pictures. It is perhaps the pictures which should catch our attention and attract our attention to the article. I was alarmed when I read the depiction under one picture. This picture clearly shows Muslim women – they are wearing hijab — shopping in fruit market. The depiction says: “Even on land of Israel Arab women must follow the traditional rule. They must limit themselves only on family and taking care about their family.” (Vápeníková 99) I was already imagining the reaction of a Czech reader, who does not have much knowledge about Islam.

    Firstly, certainly not all Arab women are Muslims and therefore not all of them wear hijab. Even not all Muslim women wear hijab. Opposing numerous believes it is the choice of each Muslim woman, whether wear hijab or not. For example in the Czech community of Muslim women there are some which chose not to wear hijab. Secondly, yes, marriage is an important part of Islam. According to Islam, getting married really means fulfilling half of your faith (Al-Qadarawi). Taking care of your family is a common sense of every human being. Still I must ask why would someone write: “Arab women […] must limit them selves only on family”.

    I believe that each journalist has to write each word with enormous care and thus forego misunderstanding and building baseless stereotypes. Women magazines should not be any exception.  

Works citied 

Al-Qadarawi, Yusuf. “The Philosophy of Marriage in Islam.” Islam Online. 10 Jul. 2007.24 Nov. 2007. <…>.

 Vápeníková, Jana. Izraelská Rychlovka. Žena a Život.  26 (2007): 96-99.                

Media 4 Islam

Filed under: Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 6:03 pm

            There is no question that media these days are full of stereotypes. We live in a society which is highly influenced by media. The negative and inaccurate portrayal of Islam by western media may be the cause for hostility towards Muslim people. This is not helpful for harmonious and peaceful society. Each journalist should realize the power of words. Media have moral responsibility to inform without bias and help understanding among different nations and religions. Media should be for people and help understanding between them. Therefore media should be also “4 Islam”.

    Nevertheless, western media seem to be full of mis-portrayal about Islam, causing great miscomprehension. People are starting to be aware of this fact. There are organized conferences on this subject and some people analyse this problem and write about the effects of mis-portrayal of Islam by western media. We need to develop this effort farther and help the society in which we live. The ignorance is not only morally wrong but it may also backfire in the form of extremism.

    Firstly, we should understand that western media often talk about Islam in terms with negative tone. It was shown that journalists often do not know much about Islam but still report on it (Katayon Kasmai; Quraishi “Short Introduction to Islam”). Every journalist should be first well informed and research his/her subject. As Nasir Khan suggests, media do not “enlighten and inform” but they rather “misrepresent, distort and mislead” (Khan). The West often sees in Islam threats to their way of living. Islam may be challenging to the nihilism of the western society, but is in no way threatening. There is no real reason for the “War on Terror” – to be understand “War against Islam”.

    Secondly, we should understand that fundamentalism, which according to my belief may be just a step to extremism, may be found in any religion. There are Islam fundamentalists but as well for example Jewish or Christian fundamentalists. The same applies to extremism. As Bashi Quraishi’s survey in Danish media has shown, the mostly mentioned religion in media is Islam (75%). Around 60% of these stories about Islam were negative (Quraishi “Islam in the Western Media”). Why? Further we may ask: What effect it can have on our society?

    Thirdly, the freedom of speech should be unquestionably pursued. Nevertheless, media should be respectful of another cultures and religions. What is acceptable in some cultures may be hurting feelings of others (Khan). The trend of separation of “us” and “them” is unacceptable. Islam is not a nation and being Muslim does not mean we can not be a full member of western society. Being Muslim should not be a reason for exclusion in real life or exclusion by media. As the UNESCO debate on “Islam, media and public opinion” made clear there is no clash between Islam and its practicing and the west  but there is rather a problem of western perception of Islam (“Debate on ‘Islam, Media and Public Opinion’ Held at UNESCO”).

    Fourthly, as Khan suggests the “anti-Islamic tradition in the Christendom has a long historical pedigree” (Khan). This has been a problem in the history. Quraishi writes: “one should learn from history that neither the crusades not the religious wars between 15th and 17th centuries yield decisive results” (Quraishi “Fundamentalism and Secularism”). We should not take part in this trend of “anti-Islamism”. We should not allow nor accept the distortion of portrayal of Islam by western media. The false portrayal of Islam is the source of problems in relationships between religions and nations but is also the cause for exclusion of Muslims living in western societies.  

    In conclusion, let me say that it may be comfortable to follow the trend of anti-Islamism and just listen to what is told to us by media. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that this is unmoral. I suggest that we all search for ourselves and see for ourselves. The contact with Muslims living with us is essential. There are some 1,154,302,000 of Muslims in the world (Quraishi “Short Introduction to Islam). Islam is a religion of peace. We should accept these facts and do not let media to negatively influence us. It is the responsibility of each of us to speak up. Hiding our ideas would just help the ones who are intentionally or un-intentionally trying to manipulate us.  We have to ask for “justice and equality in media” which is needed for peace (Katayon Kasmai). 

Works citied 

“Debate on ‘Islam, Media and Public Opinion’ held at UNESCO.” UNESCO. 28 Dec 2008. <>.

Katayon Kasmai, Seyede. “Western Media’s Coverage of Islam: A Help or Hindrance for Peace?” World Media Association. 6 Dec. 2007. <>.

Khan, Nasir. “Islam in Western Mirror.” Counter Currents. 5 Jan 2008 <>.

Quraishi, Bashy. “Islam in the Western Media.” The Multicultural SkyscraperNewsletter. 6 Dec. 2007. < bashy.htm>.

        —. “Short Introduction to Islam.” Human Rights. 4 Jan. 2008.      <>.

       —. “Their Mosques are Full, but their Hears are Empty.” Human Rights. 3 Dec. 2008. <>.

Jeff Cohen’s video

Filed under: Uncategorized,videos — by media4islam @ 5:47 pm

Getting Deeper

Filed under: recom web pages,Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 5:37 pm

    To this day we may find numerous web-pages in some way connected to Islam. Furthermore, we can observe that there is great number of people who are concerned about portrayal of Islam by western media and its effect on our society. It is clear that media are in general full of miscomprehensions. We should almost never take literally what we read or see in media. These days it is important to form your own opinion. 

    Earlier I wrote about an article by Bashy Quraishy and I mentioned his web-page – I would definitely recommend his site not only as interesting work of someone clearly thinking, but also as a source of information for someone who does not know much about Islam. In “Short Introduction to Islam” we are informed in “non-fanatic” and brief way about Islam. Quraishy’s web-page is also a good source for reflection about a recent trend in Islam – growing fundamentalism. This extremely sensitive topic is discussed in three interesting articles (“Cultural Pluralism-a Lesson from History”, “Fundamentalism and Secularism” and “Their Mosques are Full but their Hearts are Empty”). Although Quraishy does not discuss only the mis-portrayal of Islam by Western media, it is clear that the mentioned “Informational Revolution” is one of the aspects important to consider. Quraishy makes an important point, which seems to in some way be part of all his work, and that is: “words have to be used with utmost care” (Bashy).           

    It may be hard to follow every media to find a reference of Islam. Nevertheless, it may be enormously useful to follow different media so we can make our own opinion about the portrayal of Islam by media. For this we may use web-page which links us directly to each media mentioning Islam. Firstly, it is interesting to visit blog –, which is apparently a web-page of “Muslim Activists” (“About”). Here we can find several entries each informing us about what was written or said about Islam in media. I found extremely interesting their link to a video on “youtube” presenting Jeff Cohen and his “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Cooperate Media”. You can also watch this video on my blog. Another web-page linking us further to different media is This page provides us with often alarming media comments. Numerous of them are about Islam.  You can just search words such as Islam or Muslim and you will get a great amount of examples of Western media mis-portrayal of Islam.           

    While “getting deeper” we may visit some web-pages written by Muslims and see about their views of different events. For this, I would recommend quite moderate Illume magazine, which has also an electronic format. In the latest issue we may read about the “American Muslim paradox” (Kira). It is a trend already mentioned by Quraishi — some people seem to confuse Islam with nationality. This trend may be blamed for the non-hostility of West towards Islam partly caused by media. 

    Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to blog of Nasir Khan – He writes: “I oppose war and I am a firm believer in peaceful co-existence of all nations and people” and he continues:  “in my academic work I have tried to espouse the cause of the weak and the oppressed in a world dominated by power-politics, misleading propaganda and violation of basic human rights”(Khan). I believe that he offers very insightful analysis of world events without usual media anti-Islam bias.           

    The Internet is a source of lots of information and also mis-information. It is good to go and look for different sources to get our own opinion. In the case of Islam and its mis-portrayal by Western media the internet may be a useful tool. We may find pages criticising the approach of western media, events seen through the eyes of Muslims and we may get good information about all aspects of Muslim life. We have to always stay selective and critical. 

Works citied 

“About.” Media and Islam. 2 Jan 2008. <>.

Kira, Hazem. “Un wholly American.” Illumedia. 5 Dec 2008.<>.

Khan, Nasir. Nasir Khan Blog. 2 Jan 2008. <>.

Quraishi, Bashy. “Their Mosques are Full, but their Hearts are Hearts are Empty.”Human Rights. 3 Jan 2008. <>.


Coverage of Islam by Western Media and Peace

Filed under: recom articles,Uncategorized — by media4islam @ 4:56 pm

             On 25thOctober 2006 Seyede Katayon Kasmai delivered speech discussing the connections between the coverage of Islam by Western media and peace. Her speech was a part of the World Media Association Forum called “Western Media’s Coverage of Islam: A Help or Hindrance for Peace?” held in Washington, D.C.  Katayon Kasmai is a public relations director of Islamic Information Center in Washington, D.C. Her speech can be found on the web-page of the World Media Association.            

    Katayon Kasmai calls for “justice and equality in media” which is needed for peace. Katayon Kasmai is concerned about “questionable media coverage on topics which the western societies are less aware of”. She believes this is the case of Islam and Muslims. Katayon Kasmai was brought up in the US. As she writes, she was also a victim of media bias. Today she wears hijab but says that she believed hijab to have an “oppressive nature”. She knows from her own experience that media mislead her and only by contact with other Muslims and through reading Qur’an she was able to better understand.             

    In Katayon Kasmai’s speech we may read about various media. Nevertheless, Katayon Kasmai implies that the “corporate-owned media versus non-profit media” are the main sources of “misperceptions on key subjects such as Iraq”. Katayon Kasmai talks about bias of media to suggest it is influenced by the “Israeli Lobby”. As an example she  presents the coverage of Israeli invasion of Lebanon           

    Katayon Kasmai as well as Bashy Quraishi ( seems to believe that “media has truly dehumanized Islam and Muslims and has created a social problem. Katayon Kasmai writes about cases where Islam or Muslims were claimed to be the problem but in fact it was not the case. For example she speaks about the riots in France. Katayon Kasmai writes: “it was riot based on unemployment, which is a rampant problem in France” and it was in no way problem connected to someone being Muslim or not.           

    Further, we read about the trend in Western media. This is the trend of inviting to debate instead of real authorities on Islam some “Middle Eastern journalist”. As Katayon Kasmai suggests also in Islam as in other religions there is a “process in becoming a religious leader and scholar”. She underlines that only such person should speak for other Muslims or be able to represent Islam. Katayon Kasmai and the Islamic Information Center offer help in “identifying qualified scholars for the media to consult”.            

    Katayon Kasmai speaks generally from the US prospective. She believes, as Quraishi, that accurate coverage of Islam and Muslims by western media is much needed. She believes it is a requirement for “sustainable peace”. Again we read about the lack of knowledge and effort by media, which causes “misperception among media viewers”. 

Works citied

Katayon Kasmai, Seyede. “Western Media’s Coverage of Islam: A Help or Hindrance for Peace?”World Media Association. 6 Dec. 2007. <>.

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