Islam in the Digital Age: E-Jihad, Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments

Book Review

Bunt, G. A. (2003). Islam in the Digital Age: E-Jihad, Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments. London: Pluto Press. 237 pages.

Image courtesy of catalogue.library.manchester.ac.uk

Islam is usually seen as a community left behind in the matter of technology. The majority of Muslim community does not live in developed countries. Therefore, this conclusion makes sense. Only those who live in an advanced country will be benefit from by the technology, while the Muslim majority had not had this privilege. However, this perception nowadays is relatively incorrect because of the technology penetration, especially communication technology such as the Internet since it is becoming global. This trend makes the Muslim community in each part of the world now have the same access to the Internet as the rest.

More than just recognizing the fact that the Muslim world today has gained the Internet literacy, it is rather significant to explore what will the Muslim world do with the Internet. While there are numerous research and literature about the Muslim world and the mass media, there are still low studies which have identified the relationship between the Muslim world and the Internet practices. This deficit is worsened by the stereotype that has been given to Islam and the technology like the conclusion that the Muslim community has left behind. However, this perception is getting more critiques especially because there is a change happening in the Muslim world in this digital era. Gary Bunt tries to offer a closer observation of this brand new phenomenon with a more narrative language and also wants to offer explanation on how the Muslim communities interact with and within the virtual world like the Internet.

In general, this book develops three major issues which are covered in several chapters. His discussion started with his attempt to define the concept of Cyber Islamic Environment. His idea about this concept is based on the simple definition that Cyber Islamic Environment is anything that a Muslim does related to the Internet activities with the emphasis on his/her religiousness and identity expressions. Although this concept is relatively general, Bunt’s definition helps to describe how a Muslim as an individual, as a community or an institution interacts with and within the Internet in reference to their religious faith as a Muslim. For instance, it helps us to understand how the Muslims’ daily basic practices in using email, mailing lists, chat-rooms, social media, web based forum discussions are mentioned as the examples of the concept of Cyber Islamic Environment.

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