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The Use of the Mobile Phone for Religious Mobilization in Niger Republic

TitleThe Use of the Mobile Phone for Religious Mobilization in Niger Republic
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsAlzouma, G
JournalElectronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries
KeywordsMobile phone, Niger Republic, religious mobilization

While many scholars have studied the ways in which the Internet and online social networks are shaping contemporary religious practices and how new information and communication technologies are supporting networked forms of religious activism, only a few have analyzed the relationships between religion and the use of the mobile phone in African countries. However, in Africa as elsewhere, mobile phones are influencing the everyday practices of religion in multiple ways that are not simply anecdotal but affect beliefs and behaviors and raise ethical concerns among believers. In some cases (e.g., divorce, Qur'an verses, ringtones, prayer disruption), religious authorities have been obliged to draw up rules and provide guidance to the faithful. This article seeks to identify the opportunities offered and the challenges posed to religion by the introduction of mobile phones in Niamey, the capital‐city of Niger Republic. It specifically examines how believers are using this device to mobilize co‐religionists, to maintain religious ties and religious faith, as well as how they are coping with the challenges and seeking to resolve related issues. The article argues that the mobile phone is helping mediate in new ways and in a new context the religious norms and behaviors that have always guided Muslim communities. In other words, the advent of the mobile phone offers new opportunities but also poses new challenges to believers who strive to cope with this new phenomenon by inventing new ways to integrate the device into everyday practices. The article is based on semi‐structured interviews carried out in June, July, and August 2009 in Niger's capital city, Niamey, with ordinary Nigerien Muslims. It combines qualitative data obtained through interviews and observation with demographic statistics and survey results to describe the role the mobile phone plays in the current evolution of Islam in Niger.