Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Islam on-line. Adapting to the digital age.

Is there a digital divide – i.e a large gap – between the percentage of Muslims who have Internet access and those who do not?

Reports from the United Nations, governments, and independent reports have highlighted the digital divide, between countries and also within them. If technology becomes cheaper and more accessible (and available in local languages) then this gap may gradually reduce. One interesting issue here is the application of Open Source software – such as Linux – in the Arabic speaking world as a way to develop tools and create programs which are cheaper, and specific to the markets. This could follow the models established in South America and elsewhere. A statistical analysis of 'Muslim' usage is problematic, especially as growth is substantial at present, and in some countries one cannot distinguish 'Muslim' from other religious affiliations in terms of Internet use. Also, are we just talking about computer use, or other forms of IT use and interfaces (i.e. mobile phones)? Madar Research have produced an index of IT use, in relation to the Middle East, which offers some insight into regional access issues (see This issue goes beyond the Middle East and Arabic-speaking world, however.

Jihad, and furthermore e-Jihad, are terms that are becoming widely accepted in the English language. To what extent is e-Jihad a useful term, and to what extent is it compatible with traditional Islamic concepts of Jihad?

The term 'e-jihad' really came into prominence during so-called 'cyber-wars' between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli interests, and including such activities as network disruption, hacking and cracking. The term seems to have been adopted to describe many other online campaigns, even some that have no direct connection to Islam or Muslims.

In my book, I applied the term 'e-jihad' to incorporate different forms of online activism in the name of Islam or Muslim interests, and explored more traditional understandings of 'jihad' – ranging from 'spiritual striving' and contemplation through to militaristic interpretations of the term. Traditional Islamic sources go into considerable detail as to how the term is applied, but these are frequently ignored (on all sides). The popular usage of 'jihad' in contemporary contexts often makes a lot of assumptions – particularly in the popular media – and associates the term with 'holy war'. This is one component of a wider and more nuanced application of the term: thus, we can have a 'jihad for peace' or a 'jihad for prayer' – and if we adopt a wider interpretation these can also form part of 'e-jihad'. I see it as an umbrella term, encompassing many different forms of activism in the name of Islam and Muslim causes.

What do you think of the ‘blog’ concept? Are you studying blogs, in particular in relation to events in Iraq?

Blogs are important as an extension of the circulation of personal opinions in Muslim contexts. In Iran, in particular, the blogging concept has really taken off. One reason for this was the development of Farsi blogging software, which makes it easy for a blog to be put online. The development of an Arabic equivalent would be a significant step in opening up the net in some Muslim contexts – especially for those lacking the technical ability or tools to put up a conventional website. Some online forums have been able to partially fill this gap. I have seen Islamic blogs (or blogs by Muslim authors) in a number of languages. I have listed some of the English blogs on my own blog ( Some of these have emerged from Iraq: the whole 'Salam Pax' phenomena was an interesting and significant development, particularly in the ways in which it was picked up by western media – and has become a book, with a film in preparation. However, in relation to Iraq, blogging and net access in general is still in the hands of a relative minority.

What are the key challenges to research in this area?

The key challenge at present is information overload. I'm aware of this as I start work on a new book on Islam and the net. New developments are taking place on a daily basis: clearly, it's not possible to record every element of cyber Islamic expression online. Sites, locations and content changes rapidly. I focus on providing analysis and discussion on particular themes relating to my academic interests in Islam and the internet (with new chapters in press on the digital Qur'an, and Muslims in Britain online). Even with other researchers working in the field, I'm aware that there is a lot of material online that is lost to study, as it is not formally archived or preserved. Research in this area needs more funding, so that we can develop new perspectives and understandings on Islam and the net, and preserve online content for future study.

VirtuallyIslamic.Com – Site focussing on the Research of Dr. Gary R.Bunt

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