Good Reads in Digital Islam

My recent research deals with the impact of information and communication technology and new media on the production of Islamic knowledge and the construction of Muslim identities in Muslim communities, particularly in the Arab world and Western Europe. By doing so, it focuses on two separate, yet simultaneously entangled, phenomena:

First, the article Cyber Counsellors: Online fatwas, arbitration tribunals and the construction of Muslim identity in the UK (Information, Communication & Society, Vol. 14, Iss. 8, 2011, pp. 1136-1159) explores four distinct websites providing normative content for Muslim minorities in the UK. It focuses on the connections between these Islamic websites and global and local Islamic institutions, the interactions between online and offline Muslim communities and the ways in which the normative content online shapes offline religious manifestations and practices. By doing so, it aims to locate the sources of authority associated with these websites and to explore how Muslim identities are built, negotiated and performed in new discursive spaces.

Second, the book chapter Playing Muslim Hero: Construction of Identity in Video Games (in Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds, Ed. Heidi A. Campbell, Routledge, 2012, pp. 136-146) analyzes three contemporary Muslim games and explores the ways in which the hero’s identity is constructed and communicated to the players. The key research question of this study is how identity can be construed on the level of game play – that is through the interactive transactions between the player and the game as enabled by the game’s rule system. In doing so, this study compares the different concepts of identity of three Muslim games while simultaneously analyzing how these concepts are embedded in their game play.

On an overarching level, my research deals with the production of Islamic knowledge and construction of Muslim identity in the increasingly networked and interconnected communities; the emerging potential of new digital media for dissemination of moral and religious values; and the ways public authorities operate within the religion-technology interaction.

For those interested in understanding the relationships between Islam and digital media, the following are my recommended resources:

a) Eickeman, D., Anderson, J. W. (eds.) (2003). New media in the Muslim world: the emerging public sphere. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. New media in the Muslim world is the pioneering research on the topic and an essential reading to start with.

b) Bunt, Gary R. (2009). iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. iMuslims has an overwhelming scope, ranging from methodological and theoretical issues related to the research of Islam in cyberspace to detailed analysis of particular and diverse segments of the cyber Islamic environments such as the Islamic blogosphere or the use of the Internet by jihadi movements.

c) El-Nawawy, Mohammed - Khamis, Sahar. (2009). Islam dot com: contemporary Islamic discourses in cyberspace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Islam dot com deals with the virtual Muslim public sphere and the contestation and deliberation over religious authority and Muslim identity online. It analyzes the discourses and deliberations in the discussion forums of three of the most visited Islamic websites and explores the potential impact of the Islamic public sphere on the reconfiguration of the virtual Islamic community.

d) Howard, Phillip N. (2010). The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. With unique data on patterns of media ownership and technology use, The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy analyzes the role of information technologies in political transformation in the Muslim world.

e) CyberOrient: Online Journal of the Virtual Middle East. CyberOrient provides unique platform for research and theoretical considerations on the representation of Islam and the Middle East in cyberspace, as well as the impact of the Internet and new media in Muslim and Middle Eastern contexts.