Review: Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace by Mohammed el-Nawawy and Sahar Khamis

John Sidel reviews Islam Dot Com, and finds that it provides a careful and critical reading of discussions and debates among Muslim internet users: LSE

Over the past two decades, scholars have begun to examine the transformative effects of ‘new media’ – most obviously the Internet – on the Muslim world. Scholars like Dale Eickelman, James Piscatori, Jon Anderson, and Greg Starrett, for example, have written about the myriad ways in which Islam can be ‘objectified’ and ‘functionalized’ through new forms of communication and representation across the world.

Meanwhile, José Casanova, John Bowen, and others have described the emergence of a ‘transnational Islamic public sphere’, even as Olivier Roy has depicted a ‘globalised Islam’, trends which are obviously embodied in as well as enabled and intensified by Muslim Internet users, whose cyber-peregrinations have been chronicled in two books by Gary Bunt. Meanwhile, of course, a cottage industry of counter-terrorism ‘experts’ has sprung up in recent years which has been closely monitoring the variegated virtual terrain of cyberjihad, even as more serious scholars of Islam have been tracking the ebb and flow of online salafi and sufi discourses and debates. Overall, the past two decades have witnessed a proliferation of efforts to examine the impact of the Internet on Muslim subjectivities, on the imagined community of the Ummah, on politics in the name of Islam, and on the structures of Islamic identity and authority across the Muslim world.

Against this backdrop, Mohammed el-Nawawy and Sahar Khamis’s book Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace represents only the latest in a long series of contributions to an ongoing debate about Islam in the contemporary world.

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