Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Freedom House Study

Saba Imtiaz, Express Tribune Pakistan, Freedom House: Study enumerates Islamabad's bids to control cyberspace, 20 Apr 2011 "Attempts to file a lawsuit against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, blocking access to YouTube and Blogspot and surveillance of activists in Pakistan are highlighted in a global study released by Freedom House on Tuesday."

Here's the report which I have yet to read.

Sudan, Sudan's government crushed protests by embracing Internet, 7 Apr 2011 "Instead of simply shutting off access to the Internet or cutting off cellphone texting, as other regimes did, the Sudanese security services embraced those tools. They even declared "cyber-jihad" against anti-regime organizers.

"Pro-government agents infiltrated anti-government sites, spreading misinformation and looking to triangulate the identities of the chief organizers. They'd barrage Facebook pages with pornography, then report the pages to Facebook for violating the rules."

Just picked up on this - it's still relevant

Syria: summary

Here's a brief summary/catch-up of net-issue related coverage re. Syria.

ABC AM, Syria lifts emergency rule, 20 Apr 2011 "The Syrian government has lifted the country's nearly 50-year-old state of emergency as protests against the rule of president Bashar al-Assad continue."

Tara Bahrampour,, In Syria, protesters push to end decades of isolation, 16 Apr 2011 "“I knew well about the arrests in the past years, but I couldn’t go to the streets by myself,” said Bahaa, 25, an art student in the city of As Suwayda who joined protests last week for the first time since they started. After seeing YouTube footage of earlier demonstrations, he and his friends decided it was time to do more than just watch from the sidelines. “I was so happy,” he said, speaking via Skype like others in Syria interviewed for this story, “because for the first time I was demanding my freedom.”"

CNN/live5news, Cyber activist wanted for sharing videos of Syrian protests, 18 Apr 2011 "A man dedicated to putting protest videos from Syria and other North African and Middle Eastern countries on the internet, and the international spotlight, is one of Syria's most wanted cyber activists."

Hugh Macleod,, Syria’s cyber revolution "Known as Malath Omran until his real identity was made public last week by the Syrian secret police, Nakhle is one hub of a growing and impressively organized network of activists using social media to break the bonds of Syria’s police."

Massoud A. Derhally,, Syrian Activists Report Internet, Phone, Power Blackouts Amid Crackdown, 13 Apr 2011 "Syrian activists reported disruptions to phone, Internet and electricity connections in areas where protests have broken out, after authorities vowed to crush what they called a conspiracy against the regime."

Bahrain: analysis

Patrick Cockburn, Independent, Bahrain escapes censure by West as crackdown on protesters intensifies, 19 Apr 2011

"The harshness of the government repression is provoking allegations of hypocrisy against Washington, London and Paris. Their mild response to human rights abuses and the Saudi Arabian armed intervention in Bahrain is in stark contrast to their vocal concern for civilians in Libya."

As always, Patrick Cockburn is well worth reading in this article. opinion

I was interested to see this report from ('the Muslim Brotherhoods official English site') which I place here for information purposes., Arab Youth – Changing Worldwide Perceptions, 16 Apr 2011

"With a background in technology and exposure to the rest of the world, today's Arab youth have managed to form their own modernity taking into account their religious and social values. They want to be a part of the globalized world, rather than just a copy of the West."

Monday, April 18, 2011

'Halal' internet

AKI, Iran: Tehran announces new 'halal' Islamic internet, 15 Apr 2011 ""Iran will soon create an internet that conforms to Islamic principles, to improve its communication and trade links with the world," the head of economic affairs with the Iranian presidency [Ali Aqamohammadi], told state news agency Irna in an interview."

I'd be interested to see the feasibility study on this.

Policing content on social media sites

Jillian C. Yorke, Al Jazeera English, Policing content on social media sites, 18 Apr 2011


I participated in the Faith 2.0 event at RSA last week. This was a well-organised event, drawing on a variety of speakers, all wrestling with their alloted ten minute slots (except for Sister Catherine Wybourne, who had a longer time slot for her fascinating keynote). The event covered a lot of ground, and was video-streamed.

My panel on Religious Authority and the Growth of Online Extremism was dominated by presentations on Islam (that's the way it was set up by the organisers and appeared in the programme), so inevitably there were questions of balance in relation to religious representation - some of which turned up in the post-presentation discussions. The balance issue was compounded by the absence of Sheikh Dr Usama Hasan, whose experiences I'd have liked to have heard.

My own presentation focused on online fatwas, with illustrated examples of key online authorities, portals and channels (i.e. IslamOnline, OnIslam, Amr Khaled,, Qur'an sites) and highlighted the diversity of perspectives and forms of religious authority available on the net (including my iMuslims diagram from the book, demonstrating a variety of online activities).

I also includes a subsequent brief series of jihad-linked screenshots from diverse contexts and perspectives. All part of the authority equation and 'extremism', you'd think ...

You can listen to the session podcast and comments/speaker responses via this page. Not sure how well it'll work without the pix.

It would be useful to have a further event where these issues relating to the internet, religious authority and online 'extremism' are unpicked in relation to other religions.

There's a report/opinioni here too from Pete Phillips: Faith 2.0 | A Conference on Religion and the Internet | #faith2point0 | report updated with audio links and some post conference thinking. Also see the Digitalnun

Also see #faith2point0

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Egyptians alarmed over rise in influence of Salafis in post-Mubarak era

Abeer Tayel,, Egyptians alarmed over rise in influence of Salafis in post-Mubarak era, 14 Apr 2011

Mubarak, sons detained for 15 days, Mubarak, sons detained for 15 days, 13 Apr 2011

Nokhba Jihadi Media Releases Jihadist-Produced First Aid Booklet

SITE Intel Group, Nokhba Jihadi Media Releases Jihadist-Produced First Aid Booklet "Nokhba Jihadi Media released a 45-page first aid booklet authored by a member of the jihadist internet community. The booklet, titled “First Aid in the Jihadi Arenas,” was posted on jihadist forums on March 20, 2011." just picked this up

'The World of Holy Warcraft'

Jarret Brachman and Alix Levine, Foreign Policy, The World of Holy Warcraft, 13 Apr 2011

Review: The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy

Annika Kropf. Current Intelligence, The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam book review of Philip N. Howard's book.

Television, Televangelism and Muslims, Khalid Baig, In the Lizard’s Hole: Television, Televangelism and Muslims, 13 Apr 2011 long article, haven't read this yet...

KSA 'Kingdom is safeguarding children from Internet abuse'

Saudi Gazette, Kingdom is safeguarding children from Internet abuse, 14 Apr 2011: "Technology is being misused to spread pornography, particularly involving children, said Dr. Abdullah Al-Ansari, Director General of Legal Affairs and International Cooperation at the Ministry of Interior and the Kingdom’s Representative at the 20th Session of the Committee on Criminal Justice now under way in Austria."

PKS lawmaker quits, ordered to recite Koran over porn incident

The Jakarta Post, PKS lawmaker quits, ordered to recite Koran over porn incident, 12 Apr 2011 "Photographs showing Arifinto looking at pornography on his tablet computer were widely circulated in the media and on the Internet, leading to an outburst of criticism of the party, which has described itself as “clean, caring and professional”."

Islamist propaganda trial throws spotlight on Internet extremists | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 12.04.2011

Deutsche Welle, Islamist propaganda trial throws spotlight on Internet extremists, 12 Apr 2011: "A trial of eight people accused of spreading Islamist propaganda over the Internet opened in Munich on Tuesday. Prosecutors say the defendents used Internet forums and blogs to call for a holy war."

Omar Hammami Releases More Al Qaeda Rap Songs

ABC News, Omar Hammami Releases More Al Qaeda Rap Songs, 12 Apr 2011: "American-born Al Qaeda operative Omar Hammami is not dead yet. If he had really been killed fighting in Somalia six weeks ago, as a government official claimed, he probably couldn't have recorded and released more bad hip hop songs."

Faith 2.0: Religion and the Internet

RSA, Faith 2.0: Religion and the Internet - Afternoon session, 14 Apr 2011 I'm giving a short presentation here at the RSA this afternoon. More info: Twitter: #faith2point0

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Qaradawi: Marriage after meeting over Net permissible

The Peninsula Qatar, Qaradawi: Marriage after meeting over Net permissible, 10 Apr 2011 "Eminent Islamic scholar, Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, has said that it is permissible in Islam for men and women who know each other through the Internet to get married.

"“I know people who came to know each other through the Internet. They met afterwards and got married. Thank God, they are having stable relations and leading a very happy family life,” said Al Qaradawi, a local Arabic daily reported yesterday."

Protecting Arabs Online

VOA, Protecting Arabs Online « Digital Frontiers " ... the nonprofit Access Now – a loose group campaigning for expanded online freedom and access – has released new report designed to protect pro-democracy activists in the Arab world. “Protecting Your Security Online” comes in both Arabic and English versions, and includes many ideas and pointers for anyone wanting to protect their online activities from prying eyes."


KurdishGlobe on Modern communications

KurdishGlobe- Modern communications: The double-edged sword opinion piece "Modern communications technology، although useful and an advantage، especially in creating a common public sphere and stronger civil society، hasn't been used effectively in Kurdistan by the government and leading politicians to counter the negative propaganda and false dreams spread among young Kurds by rogue political movements that do not see the consequences of their actions."

US criticizes Saudi Arabia for internet restrictions

Monsters and Critics, US criticizes Saudi Arabia for internet restrictions

Egypt: Crackdown on Tahrir after “Cleansing Friday”

Asteris Masouras, Global Voices, Egypt: Crackdown on Tahrir after “Cleansing Friday”, 10 Apr 2011

Egypt protesters defy army after deadly crackdown

AFP: Egypt protesters defy army after deadly crackdown, 10 Apr 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011


Memri, Belgian Islamist Abu Imran on April 9 Demonstration in Paris: Plant the Black Flag of 'There is No God but Allah…' Over the Elysee Palace; Carla Bruni Should Divorce Sarkozy and Wear the Niqab, 10 Apr 2011

Islam, Sharia, and Democracy

Gudrun Krämer, - Islam, Sharia, and Democracy: "A new loosely organised movement is earning respect among the proponents of Islamic democracy. Distancing itself from militant Islamism, the movement regards itself as a 'New Centre' and aims to combine the principles of good governance with the preservation of cultural authenticity." (

Having an Online Relationship - Morals & Values - counsels -

Opinion from Sheikh Ahmad Kutty.

Many of those services previously on have now manifested/embedded themselves on Background to these changes has been previously blogged. Also see: The Islam-Online Crisis: A Battle of Wasatiyya vs. Salafi Ideologies? by Mona Abdel-Fadil in CyberOrient, Vol. 5, Iss. 1, 2011

صرير قلم: بالصور: تغطية لمظاهرات الثوار فى جمعة التطهير والمحاكمة

صرير قلم: بالصور: تغطية لمظاهرات الثوار فى جمعة التطهير والمحاكمة

photos from Tahrir Sq (slideshow) 8 Apr 2011


Another #tahrir now photo, local time 16:53 (helicopter still... on Twitpic [via @adamakary]

Banner at #Tahrir Sq on Twitpic [via @SamerAHanna]

#jan25 #tahrir #Egypt

#jan25 #tahrir #Egypt on Twitpic: "#jan25 #tahrir #Egypt  on Twitpic"

'Researching Islam and Muslims Online'

I just gave my presentation on 'Researching Islam and Muslims Online' - part of the 'Beyond Islamic Studies: De-essentializing the Study of Muslim Societies' conference here at Michigan State Uni. I focused on archiving issues, and approaches to the information overload connected with cyber Islamic environments. There was some useful feedback which I'll try to integrate into the book of the conference.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors

Berkman Center, The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011 "The Berkman Center is pleased to share a new report from the OpenNet Initiative (ONI):

"West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011, Authored by Helmi Noman and Jillian C. York, Berkman Center

"The report analyzes the use of American and Canadian-made tools Websense, McAfee SmartFilter, and Netsweeper for the purpose of government-level filtering in the Middle East and North Africa. The investigation found that nine countries in the region utilize Western-made tools."

Available as a pdf

Egypt blogger trial: Maikel Nabil

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Verdict postponed in Egypt blogger trial, 6 Apr 2011 "A verdict in the trial of a blogger accused of insulting Egypt's armed forces has been postponed on Wednesday, a day after Human Rights Watch called for the case to be dropped, the defendant's lawyer has told AFP.

"Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and a lawyer representing Maikel Nabil, told AFP the military tribunal would now hand down the verdict on Sunday."

'Online law curbs Saudi freedom of expression'

Abeer Allam,, Online law curbs Saudi freedom of expression, 6 Apr 2011 "“The law axes the tight margin of freedom of expression we enjoy instead of promoting it,” says Hassan Almustafa, a Saudi writer and blogger. “Frustrated Saudi youth will wonder why they don’t enjoy the same online freedom that their peers in neighbouring countries have.”"

Javanese manuscripts digitised

Anett Keller,, Eternal Knowledge: "Precious Javanese manuscripts are being restored and digitised through the combined efforts of a team of German and Indonesian scholars to ensure their preservation for future generations."

Anwar Ibrahim video allegations

James Hookway,, Malaysia Video Raises Questions, and an Outcry, 6 Apr 2011 : "Malaysia's government will consider establishing a royal commission to investigate whether embattled opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is the man featured in a controversial sex video that is further polarizing this politically divided country.

"Parts of the video were leaked on the Internet Monday, triggering a flurry of speculation over whether the senior opposition politician allegedly caught in the film is Mr. Anwar. The opposition leader, who once served as Malaysia's deputy prime minister, has already said he isn't the man shown in the grainy, black-and-white film, and calls it "an evil plot" orchestrated by his political opponents."

Jihad Media Battalion

Robin Yapp, Telegraph, Brazil latest base for Islamic extremists, 3 Apr 2011" ... according to Veja [a weekly news magazine] he [Khaled Hussein Ali] is also in control of an online communications arm of al-Qaeda called Jihad Media Battalion, which has a presence in 17 countries around the world and spreads communications from al-Qaeda leaders as well as publicising attacks"

Muslim Brotherhood

Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, Where is Egypt's Muslim brotherhood headed?, 7 Apr 2011: "The movement's leader, Khairat Al Shater, who was recently released from prison, appealed to members of the movement to make suggestions for reform and to voice their complaints against the leadership. Unsurprisingly, he formulated this call on a special Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood Internet site, aiming his appeal at the Young Brotherhood - the group calling for far-reaching administrative reforms within the movement."

'The sharia panic factory' op-ed

Justin Elliott,, The sharia panic factory, 7 Apr 2011 op-ed

Turkish journalist arest

Jürgen Gottschlich, Spiegel Online, 'The Imam's Army': Arrested Journalist's Book Claims Turkish Police Infiltrated by Islamic Movement, 6 Apr 2011: "Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen is one of the most powerful men in Turkey, even though he lives in exile in the US. The recent arrest of prominent Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik shows what can happen to those who cross his Gülen movement. Sik was about to publish a book alleging that Gülen sympathizers have infiltrated Turkey's police force ...

" ... Reaction to the book has been so overwhelming that public prosecutors had to declare that they would not -- at least initially -- pursue people who had downloaded the book via the Internet."

Beyond Islamic Studies: De-essentializing the Study of Muslim Societies

Muslim Studies Program, Michigan State University, Beyond Islamic Studies: De-essentializing the Study of Muslim Societies, 7-8 Apr 2011 Attending "Beyond Islamic Studies: De-essentializing the Study of Muslim Societies" at Michigan State University, where I'm giving a paper tomorrow on research approaches towards Islam and the net.

Friday, April 01, 2011

'Faith healers doing roaring business on the Internet'

Fatima Sidaya & Hayat al-Ghamdi, Arab News, Faith healers doing roaring business on the Internet, 1 Apr 2011 "Internet forums, especially those for women, are full of names and phone numbers for sheikhs. Only a few members suggested that people should depend on themselves when reading the Qur'an and do not need to look for others’ help. In most forums, visitors exchange and suggest particular names. Interestingly, only two "women sheikhs" were widely promoted. However, they did not pick up their phones when Arab News tried to contact them. As a matter of fact, all the sheikhs the team called had dua — or Islamic supplication — holding tones."

Very interesting article

'Battered lives, generous spirit'

Rasheeda Bhagat, The Hindu Business Line, Battered lives, generous spirit "The non-violent demonstrations at Cairo's Tahrir Square by young and savvy Egyptians who used the Internet — particularly social networking sites such as Facebook — to mobilise public opinion to oust Hosni Mubarak, have electrified the Arab world from North Africa to West Asia. Transiting through Bahrain Airport to Najaf, in Iraq, which houses the shrine of Imam Ali — Shia Muslims' second-most important religious leader after Prophet Mohammed, I saw people riveted to Arabic channels telecasting protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and the Tahrir Square in Baghdad. (Now, of course, both Syria and Jordan have joined that list.) The experience was the same at the restaurants and shops in Karbala and Najaf in Iraq, and Damascus in Syria. In fact, at some shops in Damascus, as the Libyan turmoil in its nascent stage was being telecast with heated Arabic commentary, the shopkeeper just shooed us away without even giving us a look. Apparently dreams and prospects of liberty and freedom from oppression mattered more than hard cash!"

"Goodbye Osama?" opinion piece

Nader Alsarras, [trans. John Bergeron] Deutsche Welle,, Arab Popular Uprisings and al-Qaida: Goodbye Osama?

"Despite the inability of al-Qaida to come to grips with modern social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the terrorist network has not remained completely at a loss for words after the events in Egypt. In a Youtube video, Ayman Al-Sawahiri attempts to reinterpret the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt according to his world view."

Pakistan analysis

Economist, Pakistan: A great deal of ruin in a nation, 31 Mar 2011 I haven't read this article yet.

Iran holds its own blogging competition

Cyrus Farivar, Deutsche-Welle, Iran holds its own blogging competition, 1 Apr 2011 "A new pro-government Iranian blogging competition recently came to a close. Many Iran watchers see this new promotion of blogging as an example of a double standard set by the Iranian government."

'Jihad via Bluetooth'

Both of these articles are well-worth looking at:

Nico Prucha, Jihadica, Entering a new dimension – Jihad via Bluetooth (Part 1)

"In October 2009 the Arabic “al-Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum” offered a special data-package designed for mobile phones. Published by a newly created “Mobile Detachment“ the contents are aimed at sympathizers and adherents of jihadist principles. Provided with a special software the mobile users can access the documents or watch videos on their portable device while being able to send out these highly indoctrinating and radicalizing sources via Bluetooth to other, unwary, Bluetooth enabled devices. The data offered in these conveniently administrated packages provides nearly everything of the grand-genre of jihadist materials."

Nico Prucha, Jihadica, Entering a new dimension – Jihad via Bluetooth (Part 2)

"In the first part we examined the structure of the data provided by the “Mobile Detachment” (Fariq jawwal al-ansar, FJA) media department of the Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum. As stated, in the second part we will take a closer look at the ‘mission statement‘ to understand the ambition of (re-) publishing indoctrinating jihadist materials with the intention of users being able to consume and disseminate this content by the means of one’s personal smart phone. One intention perhaps is the fact that your smart/mobile phone certainly is a highly personal gadget, which is rarely shared – unlike family household computers. The content on your mobile phone has a more private nature and allows you to quickly navigate and read through the jihadist materials without anyone noticing. The downside for jihadis, however, is an upside for the police, as the sympathizers are inspired to store incriminating content on their personal phones. That is probably the reason for including encryption software in the first data-package."

'Inspire' V

Inspire issue 5 is now out. I haven't read my copy yet, so here are some pointers:

ABC News, Al Qaeda Tries To Grab A Piece of Arab Revolutions, 30 May 2011 "Al Qaeda, which some U.S. officials had called irrelevant to the revolts sweeping the Arab world, has made a slick bid to claim the revolutions with the newest issue of its English-language magazine.", Former Charlotte man publishes 5th edition of Al-Qaeda online magazine, 1 Apr 2011 [leads to brief video report, apologies for the pre-clip advertising!]

Steven Stalinsky, Issue V of 'Inspire,' the English-Language Magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – A General Review "On March 29, 2011, Al-Malahem, the media wing of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released the fifth issue of the English-language jihadist magazine Inspire.

"The cover of the 70-page issue, which is dated Spring 1431/2011, depicts a globe rotated to show the U.S. sinking into a body of water. The cover story is by Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki, and is titled "The Tsunami of Change.""

Peter Bergen, CNN, Al Qaeda responds to CNN, 31 Mar 2011 "In the fifth issue of Inspire magazine, a slick Web-based publication, heavy on photographs and graphics that, unusually for a jihadist organ, is written in colloquial English, Awlaki hit back at CNN on Tuesday."

Overview: Arab Revolution and social networking sites

Lokesh Vishwakarma, Daily Times, Arab Revolution and social networking sites, 1 Apr 2011 "From Morocco to Yemen, the Arab world is burning, and fuelling this fire of change is the 21st century panacea, i.e. ‘the social networks’. These agents of change helped the Arab civilisation achieve what they could not for decades in just a few days or weeks. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Google or the blogosphere, they have found themselves central to the action in an unprecedented way. Let us take a look at how some of these new found tools have spurred the actions on the ground."