Virtual people’s virtual Islam

With a few rare exceptions, Muslims as a whole have turned into scum of the humanity because they have put the true message of Islam aside and have indulged themselves into chasing the mirage of democracy, liberalism, socialism, secularism and moderatism. They deserve the onslaught they are facing from many different fronts.

While we see their killing, torture and daily psychological degradation at the hands of oppressors on the physical fronts in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kashmir, we remain oblivious of the raging war on the cyber front.

The systematic humiliation and dehumanization of Muslims in the mainstream media is before everyone’s eyes. However, the invisible cyber world of mailing lists, web forums and chat rooms is the invisible front where the real war for corrupting both Muslim and non-Muslim minds about Islam is at its peak.

In the real and visible war on Islam, there are not as many Thomas Friedmans and Daniel Pipes as there are in the invisible, cyber-war on Islam. Unlike Friedmans and Pipes of the real world, who can neither say what is on their minds nor influence too many people, the identity-less virtual combatants of the cyber world are making real inroads in public psyche against Islam.

First, let us have a look at their background and methodology. Soon after 9/11, the crusaders on all fronts scrambled to redouble their efforts for physically putting Muslims against the wall and intellectually, morally and religiously proving Islam a bankrupt and violent cult. Promotion of “a war within Islam” and “war for the Muslim mind and soul” are the famous slogan and rallying cries for this crusade.

Of course, the crusade is not limited to mere slogans. These slogans are reflection of wider, strategic efforts to achieve the greater objective. The warlords soon realised that many Muslims and non-Muslims are turning to the Internet looking for answers or inspiration. Discrediting this source as well as using it for inflaming differences among Muslims became the top priority.

Discrediting Internet is possible through putting many identity-less, fake scholar on the net who would become on-line Muftis. They would pass judgements and present rulings in a way that would scare away non-Muslims and put a draconian face on the teachings of Islam.

Inflaming differences is possible through promotion of nameless Muslims on mailing lists, chat rooms and discussion forums, who would curse Islam, demonise the Last Prophet (PBUH) and reject the Qur’an. They would, however, insist that they are Muslims. Their names would remain Ali Sina and Gahez Shpol despite their cursing Mohammed PBUH and total rejection of the Qur’an.

These anonymous, virtual personalities, who could be from government agencies or other organised groups, are doing much harm than the physical wars and the Islam-bashing that we observe from the known personalities in the real world. These people try to preach controversy, confusion, conspiracy, arrogance and hate in the name of Islam which basically helps the enemies of Muslims and Islam.

Thus keeping the effectiveness of Internet’s spreading the message of Islam in mind, the war lords have turned it into a two-edged sword for Islam. The real, known and genuine scholars have given millions of human beings unfettered access to primary texts and the right Islamic perspectives.

The name-less individuals on web-forums and in the chat rooms have, nevertheless, created an equal confusion, stirring a volatile mix of competing opinions — including serious divisions over who speaks for Islam. This is effecting youth and all those who are new to Islam or look for quick ideas about Islam from Muslims.

For many, Islam’s egalitarian simplicity is strength — one of the reasons why it is the world’s fastest growing religion. However, the confusion created by the infiltrators in the guise of Muslims has made an issue of this. In fact, In the presence of the Qur’an and Sunnah, there was no need to get engage on the issue as to who speaks authoritatively for Islam.

These infiltrating have generated an explosion of viewpoints by posing themselves both as "cyber muftis" and Islam-bashers. Dr. Khaled Abou el Fadl, who teaches Islamic Law at UCLA, says the Internet makes it more difficult for Muslims to decide who speaks with legitimate authority. Legitimacy, he says, comes with accountability — and the Internet dilutes accountability.”

Thus, those who are nameless; those who remain anonymous and those who have no background whatsoever are the ones who are unaccountable and should be discredited.

Some scholars, such as John L. Esposito, are right when they argue in this regard: "We forget, for example where Christianity and Judaism are today is the product of centuries of… intellectual revolution (and) physical revolution." That kind of change, he tells Moon, has been limited within the Islamic world. That means Islam’s evolution will take place in an era of globalization and instant communication — making change much more compressed and volatile.”

It would have been a step towards evolution if there were a legitimate debate and if it were among Muslims. Instead, what we get from the pseudonym individuals is definitely not leading us into any evolution at all. They are leading us to what Friedman promotes in the pages of the New York Times: “A war within Islam.” Besides the Islam-bashers with fake Muslims names are working hard only to create doubts in the minds of Muslim youth and non-Muslims who are interested in learning more about Islam.

Only experience shows that there are persons on these groups and in the chat rooms who are there with specific objectives: 1. to stifle real debate and never let Muslims get engaged in discussing the right issues and 2. to spread the fear of Islam and discredit the value of its teachings.

For instance, on ethnic yahoo groups, there are infiltrators, who would force the participants to keep their discussion limited to nationalism and widening the gaps between different ethnic Muslim minorities. On these groups, it is perfectly valid to curse Islam, use derogatory terms for Ahadith and make fun of the Qur’anic verses. However, no sooner someone interject to clarify the misconceptions, he or she is instantly removed.

Similarly, in the chat rooms are either dominated by the virtual cyber scholars, whose extremist interpretations would only scare those away from Islam who enter there to learn, or there are Islam-bashers, spitting venom that dwarfs the work of real Islam bashed by many degrees.

An observation of these chat rooms reveal that people working as undercover Muslims actually work in groups, acting like virtual gangs, who would stifle any dissent to the kind of agenda they promote. Some of them would use Islam as a foreplay to having cyber sex later on, leaving bad impression of the way Muslims behave. They would promote those who would promote divisions and doubts.

The most dangerous aspect is the use of cyber space as a tool by invisible forces for dominating the heart and minds of Muslims and spread hatred and fear about Islam.

Young people in the Muslim world, with lust for sex and the glittering Western world before their eyes, find themselves sitting in this virtual world for hours on end, pausing only briefly and then going back on to chat as soon as they are done with other affairs. Many parents are totally oblivious of what their teenagers are doing late at night on the internet. Even watching pornography becomes a blessing by comparison with these chat rooms and infiltrator’s moderated groups for the simple reason that pornography does not change their ideological orientation against Islam and it does not make one hate everything that is related to Muslims and Islam.

In conclusion, while the Internet has become a pervasive and inexpensive way of learning about Islam, one must evaluate the usefulness of the available information in this medium. The simple test is to find out who is speaking. One doesn’t go to chat rooms to learn economic, physics or chemistry. Why should one go there to learn about Islam? Islam of virtual people, without any name and address, will forever remain virtual without any link, whatsoever, to the real world of Islam.

Furthermore, the user must bear in mind that unlike most books or journal articles which go through a number of checks to make sure that their contents are reliable, the user must give some thought to where a posting on Islam is found and whether the author who put it on the Internet is a reliable authority on the subject.