Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Unveiling the Islamic train

The amazingly polylingual Iggy at Blogalization offers a work in progress translation of an Al Jazeera text which, says Iggy, "reads something like an Islamic Cluetrain Manifesto."

The original text, entitled The Islamic Internet: Where are its flaws?, by Khatib al-Mu'tazz, can be found here with Iggy's translation.

A few snips:
Different standards apply in this virtual world than in its real counterpart, which was once ruled by intimate ties of human consanguinity. This virtual mathematical realm puts each individual into contact with the entire world, granting him access to the ideas of every philosophical and religious tendency. It is this that dissolves established social and educational roles, detracts from the exercise of moral guardianship, and undermines thought founded upon one authoritative source.

Indeed there is a fundamental social symptom that we can attribute directly to the Internet: the tendency toward "uncovering and unveiling." On the Internet, the naked face of every person is on open display, together with their similarities and their subtle differences.

...although the Internet is considered a product of modernity and of the Western intellectual tradition, we discover that Islamist (and especially Salafi) discourse continues to view the present from the point of view of an imminent end of the world in its evaluation of the world, so that the Internet becomes equivalent in their eyes to what they call the mere "wisdom of the moment," a mere "gathering at the marketplaces", an "ephemeral coming together," the "circulation of trade," the "dissemination of immorality," the "rise of usury" and the "cornucopeia of lies."

If the world has indeed contracted into the tiny, intimate "global village" which modern thought regards as one of the great accomplishments of globalization, then that change itself is viewed by the Salafi as "a clear sign that we are living at the end of time,"...

The piece goes on to explore other views, in which, instead of shrinking the world (which has "monstrous" implications for the cultural view described by al-Mu'tazz), the Internet is described as a new world that has opened new territories. From this perspective, al-Mu'tazz offers a memorable description of "the old school," which, he memorably says, "tends to approach the Internet like a man screaming in a canyon."

The piece moves toward sketching a vision of a more complex view of the Net and how Islam can approach it. It's a good read.

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