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Re: <nettime> confused euro muslims (via b. sterling)
Benjamin Geer on Thu, 12 Aug 2004 08:19:43 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> confused euro muslims (via b. sterling)


geert wrote:

 > http://www.newyorker.com/printable/?fact/040802fa_fact

The _New Yorker_ used to have better editorial standards.  This
article is inexcusable: it blithely equates Arabs with Muslims
and Muslims with terrorists.

 > "The Internet provides confused young Muslims in Europe with a
 > virtual community. Those who cannot adapt to their new homes
 > discover on the Internet a responsive and compassionate forum.
 > "The Internet stands in for the idea of the ummah, the
 > mythologized Muslim community," Marc Sageman, the psychiatrist
 > and former C.I.A. officer, said.

The idea here seems to be to infantilise Muslims: the former CIA
officer would have us believe that, gullible and hypnotised by
myth, all Muslims are easy prey for whatever devious, fanatical
views they might find on the Internet.

In any case, who wouldn't be confused by the fact that, in France
for example, university graduates called Abdelatif or Nedjma are
well advised to change their name to something that sounds more
"French" when looking for a job?[1]

 > "The Internet makes this ideal community concrete, because one
 > can interact with it." He compares this virtual ummah to
 > romantic conceptions of nationhood, which inspire people not
 > only to love their country but to die for it.

The Internet is a medium for all sorts of nationalisms; there is
nothing unusual about this.  However, to imply that web sites
made by Muslims are mainly focused on promoting war, with the aim
of translating the concept of ummah into a real political entity,
is ridiculous.  Muslims use the Internet to communicate ideas as
diverse as those of any other group of people, on as wide a range
of subjects, both secular and religious.

 > "It allows the propagation of a universal norm, with an
 > Internet Sharia and fatwa system."

I certainly hope this Professor Kepel is being quoted out of
context.  The idea that Muslim writers on the Internet, never
mind Muslim Internet users, represent a homogeneous group,
adhering to a "universal norm" concerning Islam, is nonsense.
Consider Tariq Ramadan[2][3], advocate of a "fully European
Islam", or the blogs of Raed Jarrar[4], an Iraqi, and his Iranian
girlfriend Nikki[5], who consider themselves "secular Muslims".

 > "Anyone can seek a ruling from his favorite sheikh in Mecca,"
 > Kepel said. "In the old days, one sought a fatwa from the
 > sheikh who had the best knowledge. Now it is sought from the
 > one with the best Web site."

This sounds suspiciously like the American neoconservative idea
that the Internet is an immoral and decadent medium that corrupts
the minds of youth (in this case those "confused young Muslims").

 > To a large extent, Kepel argues, the Internet has replaced the
 > Arabic satellite channels as a conduit of information and
 > communication.

Here we elide the distinction between Arab and Muslim.  The
people who make Arabic-language satellite channels and web sites,
and the people who use them, include many Christians as well as
Muslims.  The editor of Al Hayat[6] (a widely read
Arabic-language newspaper and web site published in London, which
often contains articles of great perceptiveness and wit) is a
Lebanese Christian.

 > "One can say that this war against the West started on
 > television," he said

And with no transition, we pass from Arabic-language media to a
"war against the West", as if the two were equivalent.  As if
Algerian[7], Moroccan[8] and Tunisian[9] journalists and web site
operators weren't being imprisoned for criticising their *own*
governments.  As if the state-controlled Egyptian newspaper and
web site Al Ahram[10] didn't publish deferential interviews with
George W. Bush[11] and Francis Fukuyama[12].  Or as if the
Internet didn't contain a plethora of Arabic-language women's
magazines, full of the sort of material you find in all other
women's magazines.

 > "A jihadi subculture has been created that didn't exist before
 > 9/11."

As most nettime readers will probably know, the United States
nurtured the jihadi subculture as an instrument of its proxy war
against the USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s.[13]

 > Because the Internet is anonymous, Islamist dissidents are less
 > susceptible to government pressure. "There is no signature,"
 > Kepel said. "To some of us who have been trained as
 > classicists, the cyber-world appears very much like the time
 > before Gutenberg. Copyists used to add their own notes into a
 > text, so you never know who was the real author."

It's hard to believe that anyone who has actually used the
Internet, in any language, would think that most of the texts on
the web are not signed.

 > Specific targets, such as the Centers for Disease Control, in
 > Atlanta, or FedWire, the money-clearing system operated by the
 > Federal Reserve Board, are openly discussed. "We do see a
 > rising focus on the U.S.," Weimann told me. "But some of this
 > talk may be fake -- a scare campaign."

Indeed.  And some articles in the _New Yorker_ may also be part
of a scare campaign.

Ben

[1] http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2000/03/NEGROUCHE/13405
[2] http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-5-57-2006.jsp
[3] http://oumma.com/article.php3?id_article=886
[4] http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com
[5] http://raedandtheirani.blogspot.com
[6] http://www.daralhayat.com
[7] http://www.apfw.org/indexenglish.asp?fname=news%5Cenglish%5C12153.htm
[8] http://www.amnestyusa.org/bannedbooks/alilmrabet.html
[9] http://www.amnestyusa.org/bannedbooks/zouheiryahiaoui.html
[10] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg
[11] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2004/689/fr4.htm
[12] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2004/688/intrvw.htm
[13] http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/essay.html

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