Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Syria's Cyber Operations

Jadaliyya, Syria's Cyber Operations
"Each major security branch in Syria operates a 24/7 information room where young information technology (IT) students serve. These students either volunteer to become security officers, or are allocated there to complete an eighteen-month obligatory army service. As the state security apparatus jails new opponents, confiscates their computers, and tortures them to give up information from their online accounts, the IT students’ task is to scan these accounts and recover deleted information from confiscated personal computers."

Sahar Khamis interview, Interview by Amir Ahmad with Sahar Khamis, co-author of Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace.

Amnesty report on Iran

Amnesty International, Iran: ‘We are ordered to crush you’: Expanding repression of dissent in Iran links to PDF "The net of repression is widening in Iran. The authorities are arresting filmmakers, bloggers, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, lawyers, students, journalists, political activists, religious and ethnic minorities – simply for speaking out against the government or expressing views with which the authorities do not agree. This report shows the lengths to which the Iranian authorities are prepared to go to isolate people in Iran from the rest of the world, and to try to hide information on human rights violations."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Zachary Chesser - report from Senate

Washington Times, Report: Internet radicalizes U.S. Muslims quickly 27 Feb 2012, "Zachary Chesser, a 22-year-old Virginia man now serving 25 years for terrorism crimes, took less than two years to transform “from an average American kid to a hardened supporter of terrorist organizations,” according to a study of his case by staff from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee."

Global March for Syria

Chomsky interview

Egypt Independent, Q&A Noam Chomsky: Dictatorships, US relations & state propaganda "A darling of the left, Noam Chomsky is well-known for his articulate criticisms of US foreign policy. The American intellectual takes special interest in how the US coddles authoritarian regimes under threat, in particular when political and economic interests are involved." Chomsky interview

Citizen journalism

Bikya Masr, How the Arab Spring has transformed journalism "When what was expected to be a small protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square became massive and nationwide, journalists inside and outside Egypt were unprepared." Talk by former director general of the Al Jazeera news network Wadah Khanfar at MIT.

Ibn Battuta on Google

"On 25 February Google celebrated the 707th birthday of one of the most famous explorers in history, the Moroccan Ibn Battuta. The search engine's "Google Doodle" displays scenes from the "prince of traveler's" adventures in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and China."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stratfor: Inside the World of a Private CIA, Stratfor: Inside the World of a Private CIA, 26 Feb 2012“The leak of over five million emails from the US-based intelligence firm Stratfor, including information about credit card details, passwords, and the identities of sources, sheds new light on the rapidly changing world of intelligence gathering and exposes those behind it. Al-Akhbar gained access to the data obtained and published by WikiLeaks, including sensitive material pertaining to the Middle East.” Widely publicised. For info on Stratfor, see their website

Net buzzes as 'A Separation' scores Oscar

'A Separation' scores Oscar - I look forward to seeing this soon. No sign of it at my local multiplex, however ... AFP,, Iranians overjoyed at first Oscar win, 26 Feb 2012 "Iranians took to the Internet and mobile phones on Monday to proclaim their pride and joy at their country’s first win at the Oscars – and at the speech by triumphant director Asghar Farhadi putting culture above politics. 

"Messages filled SMS servers and social networks moments after the movie, A Separation was awarded the best foreign language Oscar at the US Academy Awards."

IMDb has the background on the film

The trailer is here:

Malaysia: 'False hadiths through internet'

Bernama, Use fo False Hadis through Internet Wrong in Islam, 27 Feb 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

'Syria’s Electronic Warriors Hit Al Jazeera', Syria’s Electronic Warriors Hit Al Jazeera, 24 Feb 2012 "Earlier in the week, the network’s server had been hacked by the self-styled Syrian Electronic Army, and some of its secrets were released to the media."

Report: 'Jihadism on the web'

Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), Jihadism on the web, a breeding ground for jihad in the modern age links to a pdf report and summary. I haven't read this yet. The report is 32 pages in length, and includes screenshots.

Rami al-Sayed

BBC News - Obituary: Syrian citizen journalist Rami al-Sayed, 22 Feb 2012 "Rami al-Sayed was a key provider of online videos showing the Syrian government's bombardment of the central city of Homs until his death on Tuesday."

Riyadh forum highlights role of social media, Riyadh forum highlights role of social media, 24 Feb 2012 "The impact of the social media on the Saudi family, both in terms of its positives and negatives, was the theme of the first session of the First Riyadh Social Forum held Tuesday."

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Somali issues

Much of this coverage contains an internet-related element

Guardian, Somali community in Britain begins to find its voice

"Britain's Somalis have talks with David Cameron about problems of jobs, poverty, stress and image ..."

"Intelligence agencies say young extremists are travelling to training camps in Somalia as they once did in Afghanistan"

"Al-Qaida linked rebels have surrendered Somalia's third largest city, Baidoa, without a fight, fleeing in the face of a joint offensive by pro-government forces and Ethiopian troops."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Marie Colvin's last report

"Journalist Marie Colvin in one of her last reports from Syria. She was a great journalist and an amazing person. Killed while covering the plight of the people of Homs Syria."

Marie Colvin and photographer killed

  “Marie Colvin, a Sunday Times journalist, and a French photographer have been killed in the besieged Syrian city of Homs after the house where they were staying was shelled.”

Malaysia and net use

New Straits Times, Jakim must draw up guidelines for net users, says ex-Mufti, 19 Feb 2012 “It is high time proper guidelines were put in place as many people have chosen to use the cyberspace to express their views and feelings openly.” [Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin]

'Porn storm reveals cleft in Egypt attitudes'

Daily Star, Porn storm reveals cleft in Egypt attitudes, 22 Feb 2012 “After calling for a blanket ban on pornography in Egypt, Mekhioun triggered a tidal wave of comment from his fellow countrymen and women – much of it supportive, but some of it coming from those who were amused, angered and utterly incensed.”

Top Ten Egyptian Blogs

Egypt Today: Top Ten Egyptian Blogs, 20 Feb 2012 “If anything was over-discussed pertaining to the January 25 Revolution, it would definitely be digital media.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

@mujtahidd, Mujtahidd: A Tweeting Thorn in the Side of Al Saud, 20 Feb 2012 "A controversial campaign by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to discredit Twitter has failed to silence @mujtahidd, a rising tweeting star exposing the corruption of the royal family. In an exclusive interview with Al-Akhbar, @mujtahidd spoke about his motives and vision for change in the Saudi kingdom." tip: Sharquaouia

Grand Mufti calls for internet dialogue

The National, Grand Mufti calls for internet dialogue, 20 Feb 2012 

"Sheikh Ali referred to the difficulties young people face in dealing with what sometimes seems like an overwhelming amount of information, by quoting from an old Arabic poem: “It is like throwing someone all tied up into the waters and demanding of them to remain dry."

Salamworld's ambitions

Hurriyet Daily News, First Islamic Facebook aims to create ‘halal’ field for Muslims “The first global Islamic social network, called ‘Salamworld,’ aims to prevent the ‘haram’ content of Western social sites and has a target of 50 million users in five years. The network held its first global summit in Istanbul”

'NYPD Monitored Muslim Students'

IBTImes, NYPD Monitored Muslim Students, Collected Minor Details Including How Many Times They Prayed, 20 Feb 2012   “The New York Police Department (NYPD) has defended monitoring Muslim college students beyond the city limits to collect details including how many times they prayed.”

'Islam and democracy can co-exist, says Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter'

Telegraph, Islam and democracy can co-exist, says Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter, 19 Feb 2012 "Islam and democracy can co-exist, says Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of freed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, says the Arab Spring has shown that Islam and democracy can co-exist and propel the opposition into power in Malaysia at elections later this year."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Iranian Activists, Journalists Receive Threatening E-mails'

RFE/RL, Iranian Activists, Journalists Receive Threatening E-mails, 14 Feb 2012 "The e-mails, which have been sent since February 13, warned activists of their “illegal activities” and said they will be dealt with according to Iranian Islamic laws. The e-mails claim that a list has been created including names and e-mail addresses of individuals accused of working for the goals of “foreigners“ and “seditionists,” which are terms used by Iranian officials to refer to the members of the opposition Green Movement."

Hajj app

Economist, The smart way to Mecca, 13 Feb 2012 "The app, currently available only for iPhone, though an Android version is in the works, is called Amir, which means “guide” in Arabic (among other things). It offers a check-list to ensure the pilgrim is fully prepared before setting off to Saudi Arabia. It also includes interactive tutorials, for instance on what to do while walking seven times counter-clockwise around the Kabah, the Black Stone, or how properly to stone the Devil. Once they arrive, pilgrims can use Amir to check where they are and to locate their tent. On top of that, the app has a built-in emergency button so people in need can easily be located by an ambulance or the police." Tip:(dbreunig

Details: iTunes, AMIR Personal Hajj Assistant for Men

Here's a related article I wrote some time back on apps. I am writing more about apps for a forthcoming chapter (work in progress):

Gary R. Bunt, Surfing the App Souq: Islamic Applications for Mobile Devices, CyberOrient, Vol. 4, Iss. 1, 2010

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Critical Muslim: 'Top Ten Towering Fatwas'

hurstblog, Critical Muslim: Top Ten Towering Fatwas Opinion: “A spectre is haunting Muslims—the spectre of fatwas. All the powers of old Islam have entered into a holy alliance: to issue more and more fatwas, each as ridiculous as the other, and thus drown the Islamic earth in a pestiferous flood of fatwas.” Refers to online pronouncements.

e-Jihad, Muslim Clerics: Cyber Warfare against Israel Is a Form of Jihad extracts from fatwa opinions, edited by MEMRI.

Iran net disruption

The H, Reports: Iran disrupts secure internet connections - Update, 13 Feb 2012 "According to reports, encrypted internet connections have been systematically disrupted in Iran since last Thursday. As a result, numerous services including some email and online banking sites no longer function, at least not if a server is located outside of the Islamic republic, though existing reports disagree on some of the details."

AFP, Iran chokes Internet at politically sensitive time, 13 Feb 2012 "Attempts to get on Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo and foreign news pages were either met with an Iranian page saying in Farsi that "Access to this page is a violation of computer crime laws" or the connection was slowed to such an extent to make it nearly impossible.", U.S. Helps Iranians Bypass Internet Block to Organize Protests, 13 Feb 2012 "A U.S.-based project is helping Iranians skirt government Web restrictions, aiding protest efforts by allowing citizens to coordinate online."

'Malaysia defends deporting Saudi journalist for tweet'

BBC News, Malaysia defends deporting Saudi journalist for tweet, 13 Feb 2012 "Malaysia defends its deportation of a Saudi journalist accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a tweet, saying it cannot be seen as a safe haven."

Friday, February 10, 2012

'Somalia’s militants group al-Shabab joins al-Qaida'

AP, Somalia’s militants group al-Shabab joins al-Qaida, 9 Feb 2012, Qaida leader says in video “… the new al-Zawahri video — which was posted on an Islamic Internet forum on Thursday — is the first formal welcoming of al-Shabab by the new al-Qaida leader. The new video also featured al-Shabab chairman Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, pledging allegiance to al-Zawahri.”

ArtsBeat: Man Pleads Guilty to Making Online Threats Against South Park Creators, 9 Feb 2012 "Jesse Curtis Morton went by the name Younus Abdullah Mohammad when he and another man, Zachary A. Chesser, wrote on a radical Muslim Web site that an episode of “South Park” had insulted the Prophet Muhammad."

Trial outcome

AFP, Nine Islamists jailed for plotting terror attacks, 9 Feb 2012 “[Judge] Wilkie said they were “fundamentalist Islamists who have turned to violent terrorism in direct response to material, both propagandist and instructive, issued on the Internet by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”“

KSA tweet controversy, Saudi Hamza Kashgari faces death calls after prophet tweets, 10 Feb 2012 “A young Saudi journalist is facing calls for his execution after tweeting about the Prophet Mohammed, and the kingdom’s top clerics are demanding his trial after denouncing him as an “apostate”.”

Thursday, February 09, 2012

ihya blog, Mosireen, "Mosireen is a non-profit media centre in Downtown Cairo born out of the explosion of citizen journalism and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution. Armed with mobile phones and cameras, thousands upon thousands of citizens kept the balance of truth in their country by recording events as they happened in front of them, wrong-footing censorship and empowering the voice of a street-level perspective. "Mosireen, in just three months of production, has become the most viewed non-profit YouTube channel in Egypt of all time, and is the most viewed non-profit channel in the whole world for this month."

'Radical U.S. Muslims pose little threat, study says'

NYT, Radical U.S. Muslims pose little threat, study says, 7 Feb 2012 “A feared wave of homegrown terrorism by radicalized Muslim Americans has not materialized, with plots and arrests dropping sharply over the two years since an unusual peak in 2009, according to a new study by a North Carolina research group.”, Q&A: Gloria Steinem on ending rape in war "It doesn’t matter where you look; sexualized violence is intrinsic to conflict. Gaddafi’s soldiers committed rape in the last days of Libya’s regime. The Egyptian military has been sexually violating female journalists and protesters in that revolution. Across the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands of women are suffering the fallout of the sexualized violence that has torn apart their bodies, their families, and their communities."

Syria update

BBC News, 'Despair and hysteria in Homs', 8 Feb 2012 “Residents of the Syrian city of Homs, which has been under bombardment from government forces for five days, are despairing of their situation, the BBC’s correspondent there says.”

'Battle for Syria rages across the internet', Battle for Syria rages across the internet, 7 Feb 2012 “As a live, online video-stream broadcast the terrifying sounds of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces pounding opposition strongholds in Homs yesterday, another battle was raging on an instant-messaging forum.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Boko Haram, Boko Haram: A Militant Leadership Monitor Special Report "In this “Special Report on Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Movement” we examine the rise of Boko Haram’s elusive leader Abu Shekau, and the policies of the group’s charismatic leader – Mohammed Yusuf – the former leader whose death in 2009 led to Abu Shekau’s rise as well as increased international focus on the group's activities in recent years." Publication available to purchase via this link I haven't seen this, but it sounds interesting.

A Brief Introduction to the Female Voices in Arab Hip Hop

The Political Notebook: A Brief Introduction to the Female Voices in Arab Hip Hop

Google and Facebook block content in India

Guardian, Google and Facebook block content in India, 6 Feb 2012

“A New Delhi lower court hearing one of the cases, a civil suit brought by an Islamic scholar, told the companies on Monday to put in writing the steps they had taken to block offensive content, and submit reports within 15 days.

“"Microsoft has filed an application for rejection of the suit on the grounds that it disclosed no cause of action against Microsoft,” a spokesperson for the company said. “The matter is sub judice and no further comments can be given.”

“That suit was brought by a scholar, Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasm, who runs a website called, which gives answers to moral questions.”

Iran: Innovations in Cyber Dictatorship

Fred Petrossian,, Iran: Innovations in Cyber Dictatorship, 7 Feb 2012 “The Iranian regime not only represses bloggers and filters websites and blogs, but has many times used the internet creatively as a tool to increase pressure or spread fear.”

Monday, February 06, 2012

Shafia murders: Fatwa issued against honour killings, domestic violence, hatred of women

The Star, Shafia murders: Fatwa issued against honour killings, domestic violence, hatred of women, 4 Feb 2012 "Muslim clerics in Canada issued a fatwa on Saturday against honour killings, domestic violence and hatred of women." Includes online thread to this story (relating to online reactions)

Report: Roots of violent radicalisation

Home Affairs Committee - Nineteenth Report. Roots of violent radicalisation, 31 Jan 2012

Commons Select Committee, MPs urge internet providers to tackle on-line extremism  "The Committee concludes that the internet is one of the most significant vehicles for promoting violent radicalism - more so than prisons, universities or places of worship, although direct, personal contact with radicals is in many cases also a significant factor. Witnesses told the Committee that the internet played a part in most, if not all, cases of violent radicalisation.", UK lawmakers: Most radicalism linked to Internet, 6 Feb 2012

Syria: updates

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre - Facebook page

Googlemaps - Syrian 2011 Uprising Centre is providing an updated map on current events:

View Syria - Sunday 05/02/2012 in a larger map

Andy Carvin's Twitter feed - Essential source on Egypt, Syria + +

Ahmed Al Omran is another important source on current issues in Syria, Egypt, etc. I write about Ahmed Al Omran in 'iMuslims' and elsewhere. This links to his twitter feed: @ahmed

There are so many videos coming out of Syria at the moment - here's one very graphic example:

tech2, Syria under attack, social media floods, 4 Feb 2012. Useful article and collection of links.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Commercial controversy, Iran considers partial ban on Samsung after Israeli ad shows bombing of nuke facilities, 3 Feb 2012 “A commercial in Israel featuring Mossad agents disguised as Iranian veiled women who end up blowing up an Iranian nuclear plant using a Samsung tablet has earned the wrath of the Islamic republic."

‘Kyai’ Twitter: When clerics go online, ‘Kyai’ Twitter: When clerics go online, 3 Feb 2012 “Rest assured, the presence of moderate clerics on the Internet has given new optimism for disseminating moderate teachings to Indonesian Muslims. In addition, preaching through social media might serve as an effective tool for deradicalization.”

Women and the Arab uprisings: 8 'agents of change' to follow

CNN, Women and the Arab uprisings: 8 'agents of change' to follow, 3 Feb 2012 “Recently, hundreds of women from across the Middle East attended a conference in Egypt to discuss how technology and the Internet, namely social media, can be used to protect and advance women’s goals in the region. The Egyptian-American pundit Mona Eltahaway moderated the conference, taking the stage with both arms in casts. In November, she was sexually assaulted and beaten by soldiers near Tahrir Square. The plaster didn’t preclude her from articulating her message: “The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is share her experience as if it matters.”“

The article has links to twitter feeds of activists

Thursday, February 02, 2012


AFP/Dawn, Welcome to Indonesia – the ‘Fesbuk’ country, 2 Feb 2012 "With even cheap cell phones in Indonesia sold already bundled with Facebook applications, for many, “Fesbuk” – as it is written in the national Bahasa language – simply is the internet."

Halal food controversy in Australia, What a whopper: spat rages over halal burger claims, 2 Feb 2012 "The social media campaign against Hungry Jack's stems from claims that the chain's Tullamarine store was issued with a halal certificate by the Islamic Coordinating Council of Victoria in December that sanctioned a number of its chicken and beef burgers as halal."

'Israeli commercial ridicules veil', Israeli commercial ridicules veil, angers Muslims, 2 Feb 2012 "The commercial, which was produced by Israelis, spread rapidly on the social networking website Facebook and the video sharing website YouTube. It depicts four male Mossad agents disguised as women wearing headscarves."

Football tragedy

AP/Emirates247, 74 killed, 1,000 injured in Egypt's 'worst-ever' football riot, 2 Feb 2012 "Al Masri fans flooded the pitch, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al Ahly supporters, sparking chaos and panic as Al Ahly players and fans ran in all directions trying to flee, witnesses said.

"Photos of bleeding players circulated on the Internet."

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Virtually Islamic blog

Just set up a new (parallel) version of the Virtually Islamic blog on Tumblr Posts will be similar to this one, so you can pick which flavour of blog works for you. Early days yet - I'm still experimenting with format, etc. - feedback welcome. I'm planning a major re-boot of the main site later in the year.

Four men admit London Stock Exchange bomb plot

BBC News, Four men admit London Stock Exchange bomb plot, 1 Feb 2012 "Four men inspired by al-Qaeda have admitted planning to detonate a bomb at the London Stock Exchange." There are several references to internet materials in this case.

Abu Musab al-Suri

Daily Star, Rumors swirl that Syria freed Al-Qaeda No. 4 from prison, 1 Feb 2012 refers to speculation on 'freeing' of Mustafa Setmariam Nasr, (Abu Musab al-Suri)

'Saudi Arabia: a Kingdom on the move'

ABC, Saudi Arabia: a Kingdom on the move, 31 Jan 2012 "The internet in Saudi Arabia has simultaneously functioned as a catalyst for social liberalisation and change, as well as a reinforcer and radicaliser of conservative ideological identities, as it exposes a previously sheltered population to a kaleidoscopic array of external influences, ideas and discourse. Previous religious edicts, also known as Fatwas, against radio and television, the wearing of baseball caps and the drinking of the Israeli-linked Coca Cola (Pepsi was fine, however) have failed to stymie their encroachment into Saudi society."

'Intelligence Report Lists Iran and Cyberattacks as Leading Concerns'

NYT, Intelligence Report Lists Iran and Cyberattacks as Leading Concerns, 31 Jan 2012 "Flanked by senior intelligence officials from throughout the government, Mr. Clapper also noted the rising volatility in the Middle East and North Africa after the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring, increasing threats of cyberattacks against government and private business computer systems, continued tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program and rising drug-fueled violence in Mexico and Central America that threatens to spill over the border."