Exploring the increasing impact of the Internet on Muslims around the world, this book sheds new light on the nature of contemporary Islamic discourse, identity, and community.
The Internet has profoundly shaped how both Muslims and non-Muslims perceive Islam and how Islamic societies and networks are evolving and shifting in the twenty-first century, says Gary Bunt. While Islamic society has deep historical patterns of global exchange, the Internet has transformed how many Muslims practice the duties and rituals of Islam. A place of religious instruction may exist solely in the virtual world, for example, or a community may gather only online. Drawing on more than a decade of online research, Bunt shows how social-networking sites, blogs, and other "cyber-Islamic environments" have exposed Muslims to new influences outside the traditional spheres of Islamic knowledge and authority. Furthermore, the Internet has dramatically influenced forms of Islamic activism and radicalization, including jihad-oriented campaigns by networks such as al-Qaeda.
By surveying the broad spectrum of approaches used to present dimensions of Islamic social, spiritual, and political life on the Internet, iMuslims encourages diverse understandings of online Islam and of Islam generally.
University of Wales lecturer Bunt is an authority on Islam on the Internet, having exhaustively researched the presence and practice of the faith on the Internet for two other books besides this one, the latest in the UNC Press's Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks series. Bunt states from the outset that a practice of Islam, distinct from Islam lived in real life, has already emerged online, with Muslims sometimes identifying more with a Web site than a particular mosque or formal sect. Those who espouse their Muslim values online, the "iMuslims" of the title, are not just jihadis sharing bomb-making instructions but also hajjis (pilgrims) and other bloggers. Blogs allow these iMuslims to delve deeply into theological and societal issues not otherwise addressed. Bunt further theorizes that Muslims have an "open-source" educational legacy. This open-source nature of Islamic theology inclines Muslims, possible more than other faith adherents, towards an online "rewiring" of their faith. Though stopping short of analyzing the theological implications of such developments as Muslim dating Web sites, iMuslims is a near-encyclopedia of Islam online.