Islamic Social Media: What Is It … and are Selfies Allowed?

It could be argued that Islamic social media is a bit like Woody Allen’s film portfolio. There’s absolute gems, and then there’s things that the critics will pan outright.

Scholarly articles have been penned in abundance, and for many academics it’s that frisson between the unrepresentable concepts of Allah and the penchant for social media influencers to bare their flesh in selfies which erupts the immediate shock of the Now.

If you google “Islamic social media” you will find many such university treatises, but underneath them, ranking #1 organically is a platform called Labayk and this is what its home page says:

“The World’s First Islamic Social Network

Labayk Is A Social Network Built On The Islamic Values Of Honesty, Integrity And Respect.

We Will Never Sell Your Personal Data To Anyone.

That’s A Promise.

What Makes Labayk Different?

Most Social Media Platforms Either Cater For A Non-Muslim Audience, Or They Allow Inappropriate Content To Be Posted.

In Addition, Other Platforms Tend To Turn A Blind Eye When Their Members Continuously Keep Posting False Comments About Islam And Muslims. Some Platforms Will Also Sell Your Personal Data To Private Firms For Marketing Purposes And Allow Live-Streaming Of Violence And Suicides.

Fake News Is Also Something That Most Platforms Have Not Taken Any Action Against.

Labayk Does Not Agree That Social Media Was Designed For Such Purposes.

We Believe That Social Media Platforms Should Allow People To Fulfil Their Potential, Communicate With Their Friends And Enjoy Life Online In A Safe And Non-Abusive Way.”

One of these scholarly articles about Islamic social media is titled:

Social media and the birth of an Islamic social movement: ODOJ (One Day One Juz) in contemporary Indonesia

This article traces the birth of a new Qur’anic movement within the context of wireless communication networks. ODOJ adds a new dynamic to the broader picture of middle class Muslim media worlds in Indonesia.

Its elites, in particular, demonstrate innovative efforts of young middle-class Indonesian Muslims to ‘vernacularise’ social media and utilise it to for the expansion of public Islam in Indonesia.

One important feature of ODOJ is in its emotional mobilisation and taking on the role of offline ‘blind dates’, which make ODOJ similar to the social movements described by Castells (2012).

However, in contrast to other networked social movements which usually mobilise emotions regarding poverty, injustice and political despair, ODOJ emphasises emotional relations to the Qur’an and crises of morality that are seen as being rooted in the failure of Muslims to make the Qur’an close to their hearts.

Its online and offline dynamics serve as the channel to maintain these affective relationships to the Qur’an and the commitment to reading the Qur’an daily.

Islamic social media is also quite a bit like Islamic banking, in the sense that there are clear-cut rules, but seemingly inventive human ways around some of them.

Islamic or Sharia-compliant home loans don’t charge interest in the same way traditional mortgages do. But this doesn’t make them cheaper for the borrower. The existence of Islamic finance comes down to Islam’s belief that usury – or charging interest – is unacceptable.

As such, Muslims looking to borrow to buy a home while still remaining true to the tenets of their faith must look for other options. Islamic finance overcomes the hurdle of charging interest by instead purchasing a home in partnership and selling it back to the buyer over a pre-determined period of time.

The article is concerned with the latest developments in Indonesia’s Islamic field. Its focus is on the role of social media in exchange relationships between Islamic preachers and their constituency.

A Subtle Economy of Time

In the scholarly article Social media and the transformation of Indonesia’s Islamic preacher economy writer Martin Slama discusses economic exchanges between preachers and their followers, and then it concentrates on social exchanges and how they are mediated today.

Empirically, the article delivers insight into the concerns of mostly female Indonesian middle-class Muslims and shows how preachers have to adjust to the needs of their followers who are regularly online.

Theoretically, the article offers a rereading of Pierre Bourdieu’s classic work on forms of capital and their conversion. It emphasises the temporal dimension of capital accumulation and conversion and explores the temporalities of online exchanges that have become constitutive of preacher–follower relationships.

In doing so, it shows how Indonesia’s Islamic preacher economy is currently transformed by these online exchanges, resulting in preacher–follower relationships that are characterised by dialogic constructions of Islamic authority.

Being part of Indonesia’s Islamic field, these changes in the Islamic preacher economy point to a broader trend in Indonesia’s Islamic field toward greater sensitivity to the needs and worries of Indonesian middle-class Muslims.

Post- ISIS Analysis of Islamic State’s Use of Social Media

It would be remiss of us not to touch on the most infamous Islamic use of social media the world has yet known, and so here we paraphrase academic Lisa Blaker’s article available on Digital Commons which is a fascinating read. We have paraphrased her present tense writing from 2015 into past-tense post-ISIS questions:

“The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made use of the internet and online social media sites to spread its message and encourage others, particularly young people, to support the organisation, to travel to the Middle East to engage in combat—fighting side-by-side with other jihadists, or to join the group by playing a supporting role—which is often the role carved out for young women who were persuaded to join ISIS. The terrorist group even directed sympathisers to commit acts of violence wherever they are when traveling to the Middle East isn’t possible. ISIS propaganda was frequently aimed at Westerners and more specifically aimed at the
“Millennial generation.”

Social media proved to be an extremely valuable tool for the terrorist organisation and was perfectly suited for the very audience it was intending to target. According to Pew Research Center’s Social Networking Fact Sheet, 89% of adults aged 18 – 29 use social media”

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and even YouTube, allowed ISIS propaganda to reach across the globe in real time. Increasingly, ISIS’ posts to Internet sites included sophisticated, production-quality video and
images that incorporate visual effects.

What messages from jihadists induced young Westerners to become involved with the terrorist group? What convinced young people from Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States—many who are technically runaways, still in their teens – to leave their homelands to join ISIS on the battlefield?

What risks did a home country face when its nationals communicate and established relationships with members of ISIS? Can the jihadist social network propaganda machine be shut down, and weighing all factors, was stopping ISIS rhetoric on the Internet one of the best courses of action?

This paper explores these and other questions related to terrorist groups’ utilisation of social media.”

The main question is, are the social media owners now better equipped to deal with the hijacking of social media for malevolent and malicious, often violent use – post-Trump the question takes on added intellectual fascination.

TikTok Expressing Dynamic Muslim Actors, Performers & Video Producers

Remarkably, TikTok is proving to be a spirited home for extrovert people of a Middle Eastern background. We note that as yet the Discover Afghanistan profile continues

While here in Sydney, contemporary urban Middle-Eastern entertainers are attracting a massive following – Sooshi Mango are innovating and compelling as this post-lockdown celebratory video shows:

@sooshimango People in Sydney on Monday… #foryou #fyp ? original sound – Sooshi Mango