Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Islam on-line. Adapting to the digital age.

Certain Activist sites highlight the problems that we all face in relation to the freedom of information and the Internet – that is the problem of incitement to hatred. And the hyper linked Internet provides additional problems in the case of sites that link to other sites. To what extent are hate inciting sites being shut down? Or, another way of putting it, to what extent are sites dependent upon ISP's and Government supervision? Many of the most militant sites listed in your book for example are hosted in the States.

A number of sites were hosted beyond the reach of direct governmental control, and were therefore not dependent on their goodwill. These included opposition groups, as well as mainstream religious interests.

In the cases of 'militant' sites I refer to in Islam in the Digital Age, it may have been a lack of governmental, agency and company awareness that led to some of these sites being hosted by U.S. companies. U.S. (and other) governmental agencies have had the tools and resources at their disposal to monitor activities (at least theoretically). I note that it may be in a governmental agency's interest to keep a site open, to observe and log the 'chatter' and also track the visitors' identities. Sites that are taken down have a habit of re-emerging on other servers, some of which may be unsuspecting (for a time). In some cases, hacking has been used to place pages onto servers. Information quickly circulates as to a new location of a site, either through email lists or through other Internet hubs. Chat rooms and free web space have been utilised by pro al-Qaeda supporters – for example – to disseminate their ideological opinions and technical advice to an international audience: this has included tactical operational manuals.

Many governments of Muslim majority countries would have reservations about knowingly hosting such al-Qaeda materials themselves, although in practice a number of 'jihadi' sites have been hosted by ISPs in – for example – the Middle East. Recently, there was a crackdown in jihadi content appearing on a Malaysian server, with several sites being closed (at least temporarily). Pages rarely remain unavailable for long.

Causes such as some Muslim pro-Palestinian organisations have fewer difficulties in being hosted by ISPs operating in Muslim countries, as these are identified as being 'popular' human rights and religious causes, to an extent supported by (some) governments. There is a relative growth in ISPs in many Muslim countries.

What voice have minorities in the Muslim community found on the Internet? Is there a significant presence of women's voices for example? This writer was surprised for example, while researching, to find a gay and lesbian Muslim mailing list.

There are many examples of these 'minorities' having an online presence, although it can be a difficult issue to measure, and generalisations are problematic. Women cannot be classified as a 'minority' in the Muslim worlds, but they can be marginalized in some contexts, and may be a minority online. The issue of Muslim women online is one that requires specialised research, but certainly there are a number of specific sites designed for Muslim women that have appeared online (whether they are written by women can be another issue). There is plenty of evidence of Muslim women using the Internet to discuss specific agendas, and to network between themselves and the wider world, in chat rooms, through blogs, and via e-mail listings. I recently logged Malaysian Muslim women using the web to discuss perspectives on polygamy. A good example of a Muslim blogger (who happens to be female) can be found on Al-Muhajabah's Islamic Blogs ( In a number of contexts, Muslim women have taken advantage of the Internet and a strong presence online, although the access issue can have another dimension, for example in terms of some religious-cultural barriers facing women using Internet cafes.

Other 'marginalized' voices can include gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual Muslims – who have had an active presence online, utilising the web as a campaigning tool with some success (for example, see The Internet has also been applied as a variation of the online dating/matchmaking phenomena, that has been significant generally in some Muslim contexts. Web sites have also been a social hub, and been utilised as educational and activist resources (for example, The Internet has also been a means of entrapment, in countries where homosexual activity is illegal. This whole issue is rife with controversy, where some scholars would state – based on their interpretation of the Qur'an – that homosexuality is 'un-Islamic' and deserving of severe punishment, and therefore it would be impossible to be 'gay' and 'Muslim'. The writings of Irshad Manji, a 'lesbian Muslim', have highlighted this controversy during the past year, and she has maintained a website to discuss her thoughts on the perceived need for a 'reformation' of Islam (

Leave a Reply