Islam on the Internet
Part I: Building Islamic Communities Online
to Davar Ardalan's report on building Islamic
Hana Baba, program director for
the Islamic Broadcasting Network, a start-up company that
Webcasts Islamic-oriented news and entertainment shows from
the Washington, D.C. area.
Photo courtesy Islamic
March 16, 2002 -- Surfing the Web to
Islamicity.com is almost like entering a virtual city. There's an
education center, a business and finance plaza, and an online
shopping bazaar that offers a range of Muslim-themed items, from
Islamic books, videos, and artwork to a Barbie doll wearing the
Muslim hijab, or headscarf.
IslamiCity.com is one of
the biggest of a whole range of Muslim-oriented Web sites. Islam is
the world's fastest-growing religion, and the Web is seen as a
powerful way for Muslims to connect.
Weekend All Things
Considered producer/reporter Davar Ardalan recently spoke with Mohammed Aleem,
the CEO of Islamicity.com, who says that in an era where Islam's
more radical elements are under scrutiny, the Internet is an
effective way to educate non-Muslims about the faith, and portray
Islam as a religion where diversity and debate are
Medical ethics questions asked by
Muslims in the United States via e-mail, answered by Shahid
Athar, MD, FACP, FACE, former chairman of medical ethics for
the Islamic Medical Association of North
Q. My wife cannot conceive. Can
she use her ovum and my sperm to be fertilized in her sister's
A. No. Surrogacy is not permitted in
Q. My sister, who is pregnant, found
out the baby has the congenital defect, Down syndrome. Should
she abort the fetus or carry it to term and spend her life
caring for a disabled child?
A. Carry to term.
There is extra reward in going through this test from God in
caring for such a child.
Q. I am on a heart
transplant waiting list. Should I accept a heart from a
criminal or an atheist?
A. Yes, and pray that
God changes your new heart to adopt it to your pious
Q. Is patient's autonomy (i.e. right to
not seek treatment) equal to planned suicide? If so, should it
A. Patient's autonomy involves a
sound mind, while a suicide decision is made in severe
depression. One can refuse treatment because of side effects,
but to kill yourself is against the will of God.
Q. Is gene therapy and genetic manipulation
to cure diseases allowed? Can we use embryonic stem cells for
A. To seek cure for a disease is
mandatory. Thus, gene therapy is allowed and stem cells from
spontaneously miscarried embryos can be used. However, it is
wrong to conceive or create an embryo just to harvest cells
and then destroy it.
E-mail your questions to Dr.
Athar at Islam USA.com
Aleem says Muslims use his site to get together in
chat rooms, post messages to discussion boards and download lectures
or debates. "We feel that all of these discussions allow us to
express ourselves in ways that maybe in other countries they don't
have the ability to do," he says. "We are still a very young
community, a growing community. But the advent of the Internet... is
bringing us a collaborative tool, where we can make sure we can
leverage our strengths in a meaningful way."
includes Muslim women. "I think for the first time for a lot of
Muslim women they can be equal partners in a discussion on
anything," says Samer Hathout, co-founder of the Muslim Women's
League in Los Angeles. "That is, I think, primarily the beauty of it
-- that nobody knows who you are. They don't know if you are a woman
or a man -- or if you're covered, or you're not covered."
Islamic Broadcasting Network (IBN), a start-up site based in the
Washington, D.C., area that Webcasts original programming, features
a variety of shows. Omar Toor, a Pakistani-American, hosts a
technology news show on IBN. He points out that while the Internet
has been a great boon to Muslims worldwide, they also face the same
problem as everyone else who uses the Web: There's plenty of
misleading material out there that he says is not Islamic.
IBN Program Director Hana Baba says there's no way of
controlling information -- that's the nature of the Web. She says
IBN tries to stay neutral, but that can be difficult. "For instance,
one person will call up and say, 'What is the rap music you are
playing?' They associate rap with a certain look. That is also what
we are trying to change," she says. "It's not just one culture, it's
not just Arabs -- people express themselves differently all over the
"Razanne" student Barbie doll,
complete with headscarf, available for sale online at IslamiCity.com
Dr. Zahid Bukhari, who studies American Muslims at
Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding,
says the Internet will play a crucial role in sorting out difficult
issues in the Islamic world. That's especially true in the United
States, where he says a recent survey found Muslims from 80
different countries call America home. There is only one other
parallel for that kind of diversity in the Muslim world, Bukhari
says: Saudi Arabia, during the Hajj pilgrimage
Bukhari says consensus among the jummah, or
major Islamic scholars, used to take decades -- sometimes centuries.
But thanks to modern communications and the Internet, in the next
few years he expects consensus to emerge on issues such as
extremism, interpretations of the Koran and the role of Muslim
women. Over the Internet, American Muslims are engaged in a global
conversation, one that Bukhari says is no longer limited to the
views of a single mosque or imam.
Links to Sites Heard on
• Islamic Broadcast
• Muslims in American
• Islamic Medical Association of North
• Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at
Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
• Muslim Women's
list of all Islam on the Internet resources.
to the Islam on the Internet intro page.