Friday, January 26, 2018

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Banned: How Facebook harms free speech in Egypt"

"Dania Akkad, Middle East Eye, Banned: How Facebook harms free speech in Egypt, 25 Jan 2018 Analysis and opinion. "The social media platform was lauded as a critical factor behind the uprisings – or "The Facebook Revolution" – which began on 25 January 2011 and drew tens of thousands of Egyptians onto the streets, changing their country’s trajectory.
"But Egyptian opposition activists of all political shades and stripes told MEE that during the past year, the company has repeatedly banned their pages and shut down their livestreams after trolls repeatedly reported their posts."

May at Davos

ITV News, Theresa May to demand more from Facebook and Google to fight online terror - but has she identified real enemy?, 24 Jan 2018 "Governments are more likely to see them as ‘publishers’ or ‘broadcasters’, just like ITV, which should be entirely accountable for the content it hosts." Also see BBC News, Davos: Theresa May to warn tech firms over terror content, 25 Jan 2018

Isis steps up online propaganda war after defeat in Raqqa warning, 'We are in your home'

Independent, Isis steps up online propaganda war after defeat in Raqqa warning, 'We are in your home', 23 Jan 2018 "Jihadist posts picture of himself outside New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art just before New Year's Eve on terrorist web channels as ominous reminder of threat group still pose." Draws on material from SITE

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"The Islamic State Is the God That Failed in the Middle East"

Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, "The Islamic State Is the God That Failed in the Middle East", 21 Jan 2018 "Not only did the jihadis lose in their grand confrontation with local regimes and the international system — a confrontation that they repeatedly promised that God would not let them lose — their brief attempt at implementing their ideal society was stained by an unforgettable litany of crimes and disasters. Rather than inaugurating a new Golden Age of strength and security, the idea of a “caliphate” today looks like just another modern radical movement that promised a new paradise on earth, before violently destroying itself and its adherents." Analysis

Monday, January 22, 2018

Qatar profile

An excellent long read on Qatar, including reference to social media issues: Declan Walsh, NYT, Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It "The Qataris appear to have returned fire on the hacking front. For months American news media outlets have received stolen emails intended to embarrass Mr. Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador. The emails appear to come from Russia, but Saudi media reports say Qatar was behind them.
"Qatar denied any involvement in the hacking. “Qatar, as a matter of policy and principle, does not engage in cyber crimes or traffic in ‘fake news,’” the government said in a statement to The Times on Sunday."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Malaysia: Cryptocurrency

Mohd Noor Omar, Star Online, Resolving cryptocurrency conflicts, 16 Jan 2018 "Ikim will be conducting a roundtable discussion next month on the issue and will gather experts to present their views on cryptocurrency, with discussions on the syariah compatibility, compliance and governance."


Renad Mansour, Hisham al-Hashimi, Foreign Policy, ISIS, Inc. 16 Jan 2018 "Despite its defeat on the battlefield, the Islamic State is using Iraq’s black market to stockpile millions of dollars to fuel its coming insurgency."

Palestinian blogger rejects beauty industry award over Gal Gadot sponsorship

Middle East Eye, Palestinian blogger rejects beauty industry award over Gal Gadot sponsorship " founder Amani al-Khatahtbeh turned down Revlon's Changemaker award due to Israeli actor's 'ambassador' role at company."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

'Flaming, Trolls and Memes: Digital Dimensions of Coexistence in Cyberspace'

Here's a link to my presentation 'Flaming, Trolls and Memes: Digital Dimensions of Coexistence in Cyberspace' from the #Coexistence Conference held in Cardiff @MuslimWales which has just been released.

House of Saud - 2

BBC, House of Saud "This episode tells the inside story of how some of the most prominent and richest Saudi royals were caught up in the purge. The detentions opened the door on a highly secret world of kickbacks and bribes on a monumental scale, which have also embroiled many foreign governments and some of the world's leading companies."

The Dawn of British Jihad

BBC Radio 4, The Dawn of British Jihad have yet to hear this. "In this programme, Mobeen Azhar sheds light on the people and organisations involved in this early wave of British involvement in Jihad - the youth organisations which helped send hundreds of young Brits to fight overseas."

Forthcoming book: Imams in Western Europe

Imams in Western EuropeMohammed Hashas, Jan Jaap de Ruiter, Niels Valdemar Vinding (editors), Imams in Western Europe (Amsterdam University Press)

This book is coming out in April 2018 - although appears quite expensive at €129. Here's the description:

"As European Muslims and Muslims in the Middle East diverge, imams in Europe have emerged as major agents of religious authority who shape Islam’s presence in Western societies. This volume examines the theoretical and practical questions concerning the evolving role of imams in Europe. To what extent do imams act as intermediaries between European states and Muslim communities? Do states subsidise imam training? How does institutionalisation of Islam differ between European states?"

I understand from Facebook that Claudia Carvalho has a chapter in it on "‘i-Imams studying female Islamic authority online’"

'Mecca Journeys'

Murat Cem Menguc, Hyperallergic, Documenting Experiences of Mecca Both Sacred and Irreverent "Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys at the Brooklyn Museum is an exhibition that examines the confrontation between the authentic and imagined Mecca, and of pilgrims with the tourism industry." Exhibition detail here: Brooklyn Museum, Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys

Religion, Media, and Materiality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religious Authority

This looks like an interesting programme. CERES, Religion, Media, and Materiality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Religious Authority, 17-19 Jan 2018 "Religious practice necessarily involves the use of media to bridge the gap between immanence and transcendence. Scholarship has been increasingly interested in the relationship between religion and media and how material and immaterial objects become entangled in religious belief-systems and practices. In this respect, the issue of authority emerges as paramount."

De-centring Shiʿi Islam

Morgan Clarke & Mirjam Künkler, De-centring Shiʿi Islam, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 45, Iss. 1, 2018 part of an issue on Shiʿi Islam

Are Shia Militias Jihadist?

Daniel Gerlach, Zenith, Are Shia Militias Jihadist?, 20 Dec 2017 "The ideology of resistance is a distinct feature of powerful armed groups in the Middle East. It is time to introduce a new concept and, probably, a new term." Maybe this should be framed as a question? It's an interesting article.

The Others: Foreign Fighters in Libya

Aaron Zelin, Washington Institute, The Others: Foreign Fighters in Libya " In this richly detailed Policy Note, Aaron Zelin breaks down the components of the Libyan jihad, including country-by-country statistics on fighters. He also meticulously traces the routes taken by jihad aspirants from various African points of origin to Libya. In thus offering a deeper understanding of the foreign-fighter phenomenon, its evolution, and its potential trajectories, this study provides invaluable insights for mitigating related problems in Africa and Europe in the years ahead." PDF available

Facial recognition

Arwa Mahdawi, Guardian, Finding your museum doppelganger is fun – but the science behind it is scary not available in the UK yet: "Facial recognition technology allows Google to find the artwork you most resemble – but it also supports the rise of the surveillance state."

Monday, January 15, 2018

A New American Leader Rises in ISIS

Atlantic, A New American Leader Rises in ISIS "A two-year investigation identifies one of the very few Americans in the Islamic State’s upper ranks—and sheds light on the dynamics of radicalization."

Alt-right net

Amerlia Tait, New Statesman, “Let’s colonise MySpace!”: inside the alt-right’s internet " Gab is a social media platform just like Facebook or Twitter – except in the crucial ways it is not. Founded to take on “the left-leaning Big Social monopoly”, Gab prides itself on its dedication to free speech. As a result, much of the far-right is attracted to the site, with many migrating there after Twitter banned neo-Nazis from its platform in December."

Sticking a Pin into the Inflated Castle of Knowledge about Islam

Here's an interesting article by Mona Abdel-Fadil which (among several themes) refers to studies of ijtihad: Religion Going Public, Sticking a Pin into the Inflated Castle of Knowledge about Islam

Financial Desperation Leads ISIS to Sell Its Own Coins Online, Financial Desperation Leads ISIS to Sell Its Own Coins Online, 14 Jan 2018 "Facing financial setbacks, the Islamic State (ISIS) is turning to more unorthodox methods for raising money: selling its own currency on the web. A new Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Terrorism Center report cites an ISIS publication from last month, touting the terrorist group’s minted coins." Note: this article was written by Steven Emerson, and draws on information from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center At the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Iranian regime's 'halal' internet stifling protest

Alexander J Martin, Sky News, Iranian regime's 'halal' internet stifling protest, 11 Jan 2018 "When Iranians protested in the streets to express their frustrations with the country's clerical regime, the first casualty of the demonstrations was their ability to freely receive and transmit information."

Bassem Youssef

Bassem Youssef: The wild story of ‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart’

IS 'Virtual Caliphate'

ChannelNewsAsia/AFP, Islamic State retreats online to 'virtual caliphate' "On the brink of defeat in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group has been taking refuge in its "virtual caliphate" - but even online, experts say it is in decline." opinion

Salafi satorial choices

Moses E. Ochonu, Mail & Guardian/The Conversation, Why the sartorial choices of Salafi clerics sparked a debate on morality in Nigeria, 11 Jan 2018 " The debate about modernity, Islam, and morality has migrated to online platforms because the internet is relatively anonymous. This has given both sides greater freedom to express their views. The debate encapsulates the ongoing ideological struggle in northern Nigerian Islam between those who live and defend a modern lifestyle, and those suspicious of Western modernity and the unmediated influence of Western education and culture."

House of Saud: A Family at War

Initial reaction to House of Saud: A Family at War, broadcast on BBC2 this week (and available on iPlayer).

This relates to episode one. I haven't viewed it all yet, but was interested to see its coverage of Bosnia. See the reviews here: Telegraph, House of Saud: A Family at War, review: an eye-opening documentary that lifted the lid on Saudi Arabia and terrorism and Independent, TV Review (second section).

I'm looking forward to seeing the remainder of the series, and to reading further comments on the programme from regional experts.

Mental health issues

Yonat Shimron, RNS, How US mosques are dealing with Muslims’ mental health issues, 9 Jan 2018 "A year ago, a group of mental health experts who are also mosque members agreed to volunteer their time to provide the service. Members can now go online and pick from among six mental health experts — including a family therapist, chaplain and a substance abuse counselor — for a free and confidential session."

Pakistan: #JusticeForZainab

aljazeera, Parents of raped and murdered girl, 7, seek justice 

Background on the awful circumstances linked to #JusticeForZainab.

The JusticeForZainab hashtag is trending.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Yemeni Bride

La sposa yemenitaal-Monitor, Graphic novel brings human side of Yemen to life
"Battaglia’s account is based not just on personal impressions, but also thorough research and interviews. Each story is depicted in a color indicating its theme: There is red for daily life events, blue for on-the-ground reporting on complex issues, and yellow for spirituality and the comparing of Eastern and Western values." Details of the Italian version are here

Malaysian election

Asia Times, In election mode, Najib bids to shine online, 10 Jan 2018, "The coalition’s move is belated recognition of the power of online and social media in swaying public opinion and capturing votes after recent poor showings at the polls, including a loss of the popular vote in 2013."

(screenshot left)

Cyber Vigilantes & Hacktivists - opinion and analysis

The Cipher Brief, Cyber Vigilantes & Hacktivists: Double-Edged Sword Against ISIS - opinion/analysis "Cyber vigilantes and “hacktivists” increasingly fill the void left by governments in combating terrorist activity online. While such politically motivated non-state hackers are relatively effective at removing the presence of terrorist content, their continued operations could damage overall counterterrorism efforts by undermining intelligence operations – say by taking down a website that the CIA or NSA is monitoring. By letting these groups run loose – if even for a noble cause – the U.S. risks undermining international norms of cyber operations among states by legitimizing the phenomenon of “patriotic hackers” used as proxies by governments engaging in deniable operations."

Massachusetts - radicalisation case

Everett Independent, Everett Man Sentenced for Supporting ISIS and Conspiring to Behead U.S. Citizens, 10 Jan 2018 "Beginning in at least February 2015, Wright [David Daoud Wright] began discussing ISIS’ call to kill non-believers in the United States with his uncle, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, and co-defendant Nicholas Alexander Rovinski. Specifically, Wright created a “martyrdom” operation cell in Massachusetts. In April 2015, he created a Twitter page for the “Lions of America” and published a document entitled, Internal Conquest, on the internet in which Wright called on the “Lions of Allah” to kill Americans. Wright also plotted with Rahim and Rovinski to behead U.S. citizens at the direction of ISIS, and identified a New York woman as the first beheading target."

Significance of online materials in radicalisation

Dominic Casciani, BBC News, Derby terror plot: The online Casanova and his lover, 8 Jan 2018 This is a significant case, in relation to the significance of online materials in the radicalisation processes. "A couple who met online have been convicted of preparing for terrorism in a plot that could have attacked Derby or poisoned supermarket food."

Monday, January 08, 2018

About this blog

I've just realised the Virtually Islamic blog is entering its fifteenth year (in current format!). Despite duplicating some of the information on Twitter @garybunt, I find it helpful to have a chronicle of online activities in this way (with other listings of related links going back to the 1990s). I've been using it as I edit my book as well, although some of the older links have evaporated. I'm planning a revamp of my web activities this year when I launch the new book - but will continue to integrate the blog into things in some manner. I hope some of you find it useful.

Virtual Caliphate Rebooted

Charlie Winter, Jade Parker,, Virtual Caliphate Rebooted: The Islamic State’s Evolving Online Strategy, 7 Jan 2018 "The Islamic State’s territorial expansion and burgeoning online presence seemed to rise together. As the group lost territory, however, its online presence evolved. Jade Parker and Charlie Winter, two leading analysts of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine, describe how the group’s propaganda production has changed in the post-Caliphate era and how we can prepare for the next round."

Fire & Fury & Jihad

On Twitter, @Jihadoscope noted 'Fire & Fury' is being linked to on some IS-oriented forums: "Release of #FireAndFury perks interest of jihadis online as pro-ISIS Telegram channels share multiple download links of a pirated eBook version touting "scandals of infidel Trump and apostate Arabs".

The anatomy of terrorist financing

Mobile payments discussed here in: Manila Times, The anatomy of terrorist financing "Experts say the threat of mobile payment systems being used by terrorist groups within the Philippines is rooted in the absence of a national ID system. Currently, all telecom companies accept any one valid ID for registration purposes."

Singapore + Net

Today, Giving platform to radical foreign preachers not in Singapore’s national interest: Shanmugam", 8 Jan 2018 Responding to Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad’s question on the effectiveness of banning such preachers given that their teachings could be accessed through the Internet, Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that there are “limits” to which the Government can prevent access."

Friday, January 05, 2018

LGBT radio goes online in Tunisia despite threats

Daily Nation, LGBT radio goes online in Tunisia despite threats, 19 Dec 2017 "An online radio station catering for the LGBT community, believed to be the first of its kind in the Arab world, started broadcasting in Tunisia on Monday." Just picked up this from last month.

Indonesia Launches Cyber Agency to Tackle Extremism, Fake News

News 18. Indonesia Launches Cyber Agency to Tackle Extremism, Fake News "One of the most high-profile cases in recent times was a false claim circulating on social media in December that Beijing was seeking to wage biological warfare against Indonesia."

Iran cyber issues

The Slate/Future Tense, Netizen Report: Iranian Authorities Blocking International Web Traffic, Messaging Platforms

In related news:

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Iran’s Cyber Threat: Espionage, Sabotage, and Revenge "Incidents involving Iran have been among the most sophisticated, costly, and consequential attacks in the history of the internet. The four-decade-long U.S.-Iran cold war has increasingly moved into cyberspace, and Tehran has been among the leading targets of uniquely invasive and destructive cyber operations by the United States and its allies. At the same time, Tehran has become increasingly adept at conducting cyber espionage and disruptive attacks against opponents at home and abroad, ranging from Iranian civil society organizations to governmental and commercial institutions in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States."

New report by Collin Anderson and Karim Sadjadpour, available to download as a pdf here (English) and here: فارسی

Also see:

Sheera Frenkel, NYT, Iranian Hackers: Sophisticated, Frustrated and a Rising Global Threat

Thursday, January 04, 2018

'An incredible transformation': how rehab, not prison, worked for a US Isis convert

Guardian, 'An incredible transformation': how rehab, not prison, worked for a US Isis convert

Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments, 30 Dec 2017 "What makes this censorship particularly consequential is that “96 percent of Palestinians said their primary use of Facebook was for following news.” That means that Israeli officials have virtually unfettered control over a key communications forum of Palestinians." Important article from Gleen Greenwald.

Ahed Tamimi

Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, CiF, Palestinian 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi is the latest child victim of Israel’s occupation

Black Music in Europe

Slight digression here, but this programme/series was a radio highlight for me over the holiday period. Two episodes so far - and Peters makes an engaging narrator. It's based on the substantial Bear Family Records' "Black Europe" boxset:  BBC Radio 4, Black Music in Europe: A Hidden History

Madeha Al Ajroush

BBC Radio 4, Her Story Made History: Madeha Al Ajroush "Lyse Doucet travels to Saudi Arabia to meet Madeha Al Ajroush, who battled for 30 years to get women the right to drive. It's a battle she's now won, as women in the kingdom will legally be allowed to drive later this year. As a Saudi woman, she says, "you'll always be treated like a child and never like an adult. And that was a problem, and it continued till this day - but things are opening up now."" Excellent programme.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Iranian Authorities Block Access to Social Media Tools

NYT, Iranian Authorities Block Access to Social Media Tools "As protests in Iran stretched into their sixth day on Tuesday, the Iranian authorities continued to restrict access to social media tools that have become key sources of information to antigovernment demonstrators."