Islam in the Digital Age E-Jihad, Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments by Gary R. Bunt (London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press, 2003. 237 pages.)

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Karim H. Karim

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Abstract

This is Gary Bunt’s second monograph on the Muslims’ use of the Internet,
the first being Virtually Islamic (Cardiff, UK: The University of Wales Press:
2000). It is a good contribution to the growing literature, and will appeal to
students of contemporary Muslim societies and the sociocultural and religious
influence of new communication technologies. The book provides a
useful list of websites containing information on Islam and Muslims.
Bunt suggests that a substantial number of Muslims use the Internet as
a propagation and networking tool, to dialogue with each other, and to conduct
research. For some, it is an important way to bypass state censorship
and access other media, and it acts as a means of local and global contact.
The Internet is used to disseminate and obtain decisions and points of interpretation
on current events, and, for some individuals who are relatively
unknown or treated as pariahs locally, to achieve fame in the larger ummah.
Since September 2001, Muslims’ activities and activism on the Internet
have proliferated; meanwhile, those in power have increased attempts to
restrict them. There has been an increase in websites, chat rooms, and e-mail
lists. The author justifies linking Muslims’ uses of the Internet with jihad and
fatwas by stating that these two areas have seen the most significant integration
of electronic activity with religion. However, he shuns alarmism about
the Internet and Islam by presenting a rational analysis and discussion.
Bunt admits that a small, albeit growing, minority in Muslim-majority
countries uses information and communication technologies. Muslim online
discourses are part of the contemporary discussion about Islamic identities.
The Internet “has not superseded traditional forms of political expression, but
is a means through which conventional boundaries and barriers can be transcended”
(p. 11).

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