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Experiments with an Islamic Netroots

All across the Muslim world, blogging is on fire. Malaysia and Iran are leading states where the political structures are constantly challenged by bloggers. Egypt often has to arrest and jail its dissident bloggers. Other Arab nations are slowly coming … Read More

By / September 13, 2007

All across the Muslim world, blogging is on fire. Malaysia and Iran are leading states where the political structures are constantly challenged by bloggers. Egypt often has to arrest and jail its dissident bloggers. Other Arab nations are slowly coming to grips with blogging as a check on state power.

Among the Muslims in the the Western world, blogging has an altogether different dynamic. Blogging has mostly been a way for Muslims to congregate, befriend, and challenge one another. Political blogging – challenging or questioning the state – among Muslims is sorely lacking (except when it comes to foreign policy). Identity blogging seem to rule the day. The Islamsphere (as Aziz Poonawalla, one of the founders of Western Muslim blogging calls it) is a strange mix of house-wives (and husbands), recent college graduates, and professionals browsing from work. They are then broken down in their various groups. One of the major distinctions seems to be along the Traditionalist/Salafi/Sufi divide, with independents, reformists, progressives, punks, hippies, poets, quranists, all fitting in wherever they are accepted.

When I started blogging in early 2006, I found myself at the Sufi-Progressive side of things, but had good relationships at a couple of traditional and salafi blogs and was able to make my mark in the Islamsphere (even as I was largely critical of the traditionalist and salafi positions) very quickly. I flirted with turning into a progressive for some time but found the space too limited – and the political acumen too apathetic – and stayed independent.

By this time, in October, my personal blog was humming along quite nicely, making its way through all kinds of mainstream left and right wing blogs. In that time I had also gotten my hits-whoredom out of the way, and had started to focus on real world issues, most particularly, stonings in Iran, the Women’s Protection Bill in Pakistan, and the prevalence of Wahhabi literature among American Muslims. Looking at the Daily Kos method of dealing with things i.e. turning into a virtual community, I made an offer to a few of the traditionalist-salafist-moderate bloggers to join forces and come together at a place called States of Islam where the pre-eminent goal would be to make real world challenges against injustices committed in the name of Islam while also creating a positive narrative which would demonstrate that liberal and conservative Muslims could work together to improve the religion. We made it a closed community, put it on the Scoop system, and soon were being referred to as “the Daily Kos of the Islamsphere.” Just like Kos, it had a place for reader diaries and frontpagers.

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