Sharjah |Doaa Zeitoun |
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With over 2 million
first-time visitors every month from more than 80 countries
around the world, the IslamiCity website has been gaining vast
popularity among Internet users of all religious backgrounds.
It is today claimed to be the most popular site of its
kind in the world.
Launched in 1995 by a U.S.-based
organisation, the site claims to be in the forefront of a
myriad of Islamic sites that have emerged lately with the aim
of promoting better understanding of Islam and projecting it
as a way of life, not just a creed.
Dr Dany Doueiri,
co-founder of the IslamiCity site and Professor of Islamic
history, told Gulf News while on a brief visit to the UAE that
the site promotes mainstream and objective Islamic
"It has no partisan or political
affiliations, as it was designed to be a community site," he
explained. "That holds the rising voice of moderate Muslims
Predictably, it was September 11 that was
instrumental in vastly increasing the site's
"Following the events of September 11,
people in the West became thirsty to learn about Islam, and
all the websites combined could not keep up with the growing
demand. It is beyond imagination," he
Visitors to the site have quadrupled since
then. In that year, the current messages and inquiries have
jumped from 6,500 to 15,000, he pointed out. Visitors of other
faiths also increased notably.
With 60 million hits
since inception, the site offers a comprehensive insight into
the world of Islam, he said. "Translations of the Holy Quran
have been provided in 17 different languages, and efforts are
under way to add more," he added.
Although most of the
information comes in English or Arabic, one can also find
articles in French and Spanish, Doueiri said.
links to 15,000 other websites including educational and
technology, and have more than 23,000 websites linked to us
around the world."
The mild, tolerant tone of the site
has attracted to it people of other faiths. "It has even
received e-mails from priests, pastors and rabbis, who share
their views with Muslims on various topical issues," Dr
He said that new converts to Islam
make up a handsome number of the site's visitors. "We get
callers who ask to embrace Islam and take their (Shahadah)
online," he said.
The number of people who converted to
Islam through IslamiCity was 10 times higher after September
11, he added.
"We now receive an average of three
people calling up daily and asking to take the Shahadah," Dr
Doueiri said. In this way the site has proved to be an
effective means for Da'wa (promoting knowledge about
One of the most visited sections is The Haj
Information Centre, which guides Muslims through the
pilgrimage rituals step by step and contains rare pictures of
Makkah, Madinah and Haj sites. Visitors can also log on to the
Haj rituals transmitted live from Makkah.
section has been in demand by various other media channels and
information resources including Encyclopa-edia Britannica, he
said. The site has received awards from PBS and Yahoo.
On the other hand, the IslamiCity news link provides
coverage of timely issues and analysis released by
international media, presenting the view and the opposite
view, he said.
"Over 50,000 people were able to watch
the ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) convention, an
annual event attended by some 30,000 people from all over the
U.S., being broadcast live on IslamiCity," he said, by way of
Online shopping for Islamic books is also
available on the site's bazaar hit, which features hundreds of
items at competitive prices. Moreover, IslamiCity organises
tours to Islamic sites in various countries such as Spain and
China. Participants get a good discount on hotel stay and
"Those are edutainment trips that
combine learning with fun," Dr Doueiri stressed.
all its unique services, the site has been receiving guests
from all over the globe, around 40 per cent of whom are
Around 50 per cent of the visitors come
for the U.S. However, a site with this level of popularity
inevitably faces frequent attacks by hackers, although these
have all been brought quickly under control.
from hacking, we also receive hate mail, which we take time to
answer in an attempt to change hatred to
Dr Doueiri contended IslamiCity has, to
a great extent, helped remove misconceptions about Islam and
promote the inherent Islamic principles of peace, liberty and
He cited a Los Angeles Times report that had
earlier referred to one of the hate mail instances.
its September 26, 2001 issue, the newspaper reported: "Culver
City based IslamiCity.com, a popular Islamic website, was an
easy target (for hate mail) after the September 11 terrorist
"But Mohammed Abdul Aleem, the site's chief
executive thought the insults had more to do with ignorance
than anger, so he replied with a short compilation of Islamic