From Twittering Quranic verses and religious injunctions to using smartphone apps like iPray and iQuran to find the nearest mosque or halal restaurants, the emergence of Muslim social networking is an interesting phenomenon that can perhaps be attributed to the need to create a more conservative forum for discussion with stricter regulations. Islamic social network sites aim to connect the world’s Muslim communities to each other and to the wider world through shared online experiences, but none of these sites even comes close to the 800 million active users of Facebook – until now.
A new social networking tool for Muslims will be launched in 2012 and Muslims worldwide – including Greek Muslims – will be able to discuss cooking skills, relationship problems, political views, economic concerns, and even meet their long-lost high school crush. A group of Muslim businessmen have unveiled plans in Turkey for a Facebook-style social networking site that respects Islamic values and offers a healthy atmosphere for a young, Islamic audience to interact within. SalamWorld.com, which will make its Internet debut in 2012, “will seek to unify the youth in a common vision and the healthy values of Islam while attempting to not diffuse any unhealthy information,” says Akhmed Azimov, the initiative’s vice-president.
The new Muslim site hopes to attract 50 million users within three years, as Azimov stated to about 150 journalists from Muslim countries at the company’s luxurious Istanbul offices. Based in Istanbul, the new site will have offices in Moscow and Cairo and coordinators in 30 countries.
Greek Muslims and Social Networking
Connecting through virtual communities has become the norm of social life for young Muslims across Greece. From acquiring cooking skills to dealing with relationship problems and from expressing political views to cribbing about economic incentives at the workplace, Facebook has emerged as a platform to discuss anything and everything between Muslim youngsters. Regarding the question of whether Greek Muslims will also use Facebook’s Muslim version, Fatemeh, a twenty four year old Law student from Thessaloniki says, “If it’s similar to Facebook I will definitely use it. I know that there are many Muslim social networking sites that try to imitate Facebook but they are a bit biased and the information you can exchange is limited which I find a bit boring… There also are many blogs, websites and social media that claim to function as an introspective voice of issues regarding the Muslim world but none of them are as big as Facebook. I prefer being part of a more open and less monitored social network such as Facebook, even if at times I get offended by some of the content”.
Officially, Greece’s Mufti seems to encourage Greek Muslims to use social networking sites, but with caution: “We have not been informed about the site officially. The Internet is a place where Greek Muslims can find limitless information. It’s all about using these ideas constructively and freely. Nobody can impose their views and beliefs on someone else grudgingly. Technological inventions can be used to bring peace and intellectual serenity for all people, including Muslims, If used wisely and with caution”.
Muslim Social Networking-A Tricky Business
There are certain constraints in terms of content moderation in most Muslim “local” social networks. In some cases concerning sensitive areas, moderators monitor traffic coming from a “dangerous” region. If they check pages from people outside the region, the website will display a warning notification to warn users that they may be exposed to content potentially deemed offensive for local standards. Despite their claims and wishes to the contrary, these social networks are both regional and religiously limited in their scope. Most of them are dominated by Arab membership. “Up until now the social network sites that targeted Muslims had a “clean” social networking. For instance MuslimBook mainly has members from within its local South African market… There is no such thing as a Muslim Facebook right now-a social networking site that can connect Muslims from all around the world, but if there was I would use it for sure” says Fetimeh.