Islam on the Internet
Three-Part Series Explores Intersection of Faith and Technology
Part I: Building Islamic Communities Online.
Part II: Muslim Women on the Internet.
Part III: The Debate Over Online Muslim Ideology.
Read about the stories in this series.
In the six months that have passed since Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans have had a crash course on global terrorism, Osama bin Laden, and Islam, the world's fastest-growing religion. Bin Laden claimed to have found inspiration for his attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in his interpretation of the Koran and the lessons of Mohammed, the Muslim prophet who founded the religion.
Many turned to the Internet looking for answers or inspiration. What they found was a diverse Muslim world.
A search for the word "Islam" on the Internet yields links to thousands of sites featuring everything from shopping to sermons to "Web-muftis" who provide answers to theological and legal questions. The Web allows almost anyone to air a broad range of views and perspectives -- and much of the resulting discussion and debate can be found in online forums and chat rooms.
Some say the Internet has also altered consensus-building among the jummah, or major Islamic forces. What used to take decades, even centuries to agree on -- interpretations in the Koran, for example -- has been accelerated by the Internet's ability to give instant access to the teachings and thoughts of distant Islamic scholars and original texts. Practices, laws and beliefs once bound by geography are evolving into a mainstream Muslim identity -- on Internet time.
This three-part series examines the impact of the Internet on how non-Muslims view Islamic communities in the United States -- and more importantly, how the Internet provides American Muslims with a whole new way to share ideas about their faith.
Stories in this series:
Part I: Building Islamic Communities Online
March 16, 2002
The Internet has quickly become an important part of the daily lives of many Muslims. Web surfers can download daily prayers from Mecca or Los Angeles, buy an Islamic Barbie doll, even listen to the Webcast of a Muslim game show. Some say Muslims using the Internet have an advantage over other Muslims: They are not restricted to the cultural or ideological views of a particular mosque or country, and benefit from a vibrant exchange of ideas and information. The Web also provides a forum for those who may feel excluded from mainstream Muslim belief.
Part II: Cyber Fatima -- Muslim Women on the Web
March 23, 2002
Muslim women run businesses, advocacy groups and education centers on the Internet -- ranging from sites where online visitors can buy traditional women's Islamic garb to groups that advocate greater rights for Muslim women. Women isolated by geography or custom can download sermons, chat with other Muslim women all over the globe and find Islamic educational sites for their children.
Part III: An Emerging Online Ideology
March 30, 2002
The Internet provides access to an almost unlimited number of sermons, lectures and to a growing number of "Web-muftis" who answer theological and legal questions. There are even Muslims who have taken the shahadah -- the declaration of faith that converts one to Islam -- over the Internet. The Internet reflects the way historical ideologies are changing. While traditional sects like Sunnis, Shias and Sufis can still be found on the Web, "mainstream" Muslims who are willing to put aside the theological differences between sects are becoming the dominant voice of online Islam. But there are dangers: The internet also allows anyone to take up the mantle of authority, and some Muslim leaders worry that the growth of this "cyber community" comes at the expense of local Islamic communities.
Browse more NPR stories on Islam and America.