Article

Islam and the Internet

Göran Larsson

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online June 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0116
Islam and the Internet

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The development of the global system of interconnected computer networks that we generally call the Internet has revolutionized the world of communications and transformed the society, economy, and private lives of billions of individuals. Even though the Internet still remains largely a Western phenomenon that depends on its users’ financial situation (for example, that they can afford to have a computer with a modem), language (most communication is still in English), and technological skills, the Internet and related technologies (especially cell phones) have rapidly spread to all parts of the world. Internet cafés that provide their customers with access to the Internet are a common future and a meeting place for an expanding number of users all over the world. People who do not have access to the Internet are also indirectly affected by the rise of the “network society,” to use a term coined by the sociologist Manuel Castells. With the development of Web 2.0, which among many things facilitates information sharing and places the user in a more influential position as a producer of information, the Internet has become more interactive, and its users can communicate to a greater extent with a growing number of users all over the world by taking part in online discussions or by setting up their own web pages or blogs (e.g., Facebook, Twitter). On the one hand, Web 2.0 has been presented as an opportunity and as supporting democracy and critical discussions in the third world, but on the other hand, it is evident that the technology also is a problem for those in power, since it can be used to question authority and the established order of society. Censure and conflicts over media use are still common topics in, for example, the Middle East and other countries located in the so-called third world, and even though a growing number of religious authorities have started to use the Internet and satellite television to promote their ideas, the new media are still viewed as a double-edged sword that can provide sorrow as well as prosperity. For example, it has become more difficult for political regimes to control public media, and thus alternative views on politics, religion, and so-called alternative lifestyles (for example, sexuality) have become more difficult for those in power to control and block out. However, if the users stick to the sites supported, promoted, and suggested by the religious and political elite, the Internet can be a tool that upholds the prevailing system.

Article.  5657 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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