DAVID GREENE, Host:

Now, in other countries around the world, including right here in the U.S., there are people who are abandoning Yahoo and Google and turning to other search engines - ones that provide results that meet their religious standards.

Habiba Nosheen reports.

HABIBA NOSHEEN: If you like what the Internet has to offer but are concerned that your Web searches may lead you to content that's offensive to your religious beliefs, there's a solution for that. You can now use one of several search engines that cater to religious users.

Shea Houdmann runs SeekFind.org, the Colorado-based organization says its searches only return results from websites that are consistent with the message of the Bible.

SHEA HOUDMANN: With the purpose of SeekFind being to promote what we believe to be biblical truth, we can't include a site that we believe does not do that.

NOSHEEN: Houdmann says a search on his site wouldn't turn up pornography. If you search gay marriage, you would get results that argue against gay marriage. And if you type in Democratic Party, your first search result is a site on Marxism.

But SeekFind isn't the only search engine carving a niche market among religious Internet users. There's also Jewgle.com for Jews and ImHalal.com, a Muslim search engine that started in the Netherlands.

Husain Benyounis is a 44-year-old Muslim man from New Zealand. He found out about I'mHalal.com about eight months ago, and now he says he's a fan.

HUSAIN BENYOUNIS: I do use it at home and at work and everywhere.

NOSHEEN: Benyounis says the search engine offered him content that he can trust would be appropriate for him as a practicing Muslim. And he is much more comfortable allowing his teenage son to use the Internet. For example, a search for sex on I'mHalal would return results giving the Islamic view on sexuality. But there are glitches. Sometimes it's too restrictive. A search for sexuality returned no results on I'mHalal.

Reza Sardeha says it's a work in progress. The 21-year-old says he got the idea for I'mHalal about a year ago, after finding that for some in the Muslim community, the Internet was effectively off-limits.

REZA SARDEHA: People were avoiding the Internet because they were afraid they or their children would bump into explicit content. It's a shame.

NOSHEEN: Currently, Sardeha says, the biggest number of users come from Pakistan. But surprisingly, he says, the second biggest group comes from the United States. Websites like these are bringing new users to the Web, says Michael Gartenberg, a partner at the Altimeter Group, a technology research firm.

MICHAEL GARTENBERG: You have an emerging generation, an emerging culture that wants to take advantage of technology, that wants to take advantage of search engines and the things that they provide, but at the same point, be true to their heritage as well, and not stray from their belief system.

NOSHEEN: But not everyone has been supportive of the idea. Some people call it censorship. Shea Houdmann of SeekFind disagrees.

HOUDMANN: I would more describe it as selective inclusion.

NOSHEEN: Some who oppose such search engines argue that allowing people to only access material that they already agree with will lead to an intolerant society. But technology analyst Gartenberg says he doesn't see it that way.

GARTENBERG: It's no more censorship than if I find something on television that I find offensive to me and I change the channel.

NOSHEEN: I'mHalal says within the first year since its launch, it's already getting 10 million users a month. And with that kind of traffic, these search engines are likely here to stay.

For NPR News, I'm Habiba Nosheen.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.