Living Islam Today
A Magazine for Muslim Americans
Vol. 1 Issue 1                Spring 1420/ 2000



In the name of Allah, the Compassionate Source of All Mercy

Muslims on the Internet: 
the Good, the Bad...the Ugly

          The era of the technological age is upon us. We communicate in seconds with e-mails and faxes. Information of every type is accessible to anyone with a modem from what was originally intended to be a government network for research projects, now called the Internet. 
         The average person is able to create, advertise and publish easily for an audience of millions on the World Wide Web. Thoughts and ideas are exchanged, discussed and argued across thousands of chat channels, muds and newsgroups for every possible topic ever imagined

by Huma Ahmad

          Businesses, educators and fortune hunters all stumble over each other to see who can best exploit the new opportunities. The global electronic village is open for business and the garish neon 24 hour sign seems to keep blinking an urgent message: "New Frontier: Danger Ahead."
          The philosophy of the Internet comes from its originators: laid back computer programmers, information and technology addicts. They wanted to create something special. Something no one business, government or group could control. A true democracy circumventing normal channels and reaching to the deepest grass roots. A frontier where anyone could go out and make it, where those with common interests could connect with each other and ignore the normal barriers of race, nationality, and tradition. An ideology of community, working together exchanging ideas, and making the world a better place was their vision.
          Noble beginnings, and this too was in the minds of the Muslims when we first joined the rush. Many were even part of the original builders, software engineers, and programmers, due to many Muslims themselves being in the Computer Science Information fields. We began mailing lists, newsgroups, chat lines, and web pages about Islam. Here was one place where we could actually get the true message of Islam to the outside world. 
          Through the net, we could influence those who never would have encountered Islam or only received their information from the media, orientalists or anti-Islam propagandists. We could reach others and share and discuss ideas to help bring the Ummah closer. Muslims separated and spread out all over could feel the intimacy of being an e-mail or modem's dial away from each other. It would open new heights in our ability to organize and plan events, to share knowledge, articles, experiences.
          What we forgot though, was to read the sign.
    Excellent Islamic homepages sprung up, but so too did the Ahmadiyya, Nation of Islam, and every other deviant sect.  To the point where doing a search on Islam, may indeed give you 72 links to different views, along with a host of anti-Islam sites giving blatantly false information and arguments by missionaries.
          Newsgroups to discuss Islam are inundated with non-Muslims whose jobs seem to be to attack and divide Muslims at every turn, instead of discussing Islam. Bitter fights among the Muslims involving everything from Aqeedah to prayer to censorship have continued for years. Control of the newsgroup: soc.religion.islam is a prime example. At one point, during the election of moderators, accusations of voting fraud and hacking were reported to school and police authorities. 
       The job of co-moderating, effectively controlling all content and discussion in the newsgroup was then given to a non-Muslim regular.

          MSA-net and other mailing lists, too, have had their share of contending with special interests threatening to destroy it. Faced with lawsuits against the university that hosted the listserv, by a Sufi group complaining about the Shurah council banning them due to their violation of the rules, the list was then moved to an all Muslim owned site. Groups, not individuals, dominate the e-mail list much of the time. Sufis, Hizb-ut-tahrir, Salafees, Shia, Islamic organizations, etc. all post their own agendas.
          Muslim chat rooms and MUDs such as Isnet are especially the hang outs for high school and college age Muslims. They are places for them to talk to other Muslims like themselves from all over the United States and elsewhere. For many, it may have the benefit of being an alternative to other non-Islamic activities, but it is also highly addictive and highly unregulated. Flirting and private on-line relationships are pervasive. Also, among some of the Internet chat channels such as channel Islam is a very anti-Kuffar sentiment, with scripts such as "Muslim pulls out a baseball bat, Muslim smashes Jew over the head, Muslim wipes off the blood." The few who control the Islam channel kick and ban arbitrarily whomever disagrees with their opinion or definition of Islam. Where the potential for Dawah is at its greatest, the reputation of being narrow-minded and hypocritical has increased clashes and hacking between even the different Muslim channels, such as Islam versus Pakistan versus Bangladesh.
          No scholars or Sheikhs are present on any of these mediums. There are no authorities or any kind of collaborative effort on the part of Muslims. 
          Advice and Fatwas to non-Muslims and Muslims are given out by basically anyone, dangerously lacking in references or scholarly wisdom and knowledge