The Internet and the Construction of Islamic Knowledge in Europe

Vít Šisler

Abstract

Muslim communities in Europe vary greatly in regards to their ethnic origin and geographical location as well as their religious and cultural backgrounds. From Muslims in the Balkans, settled in the area for centuries, to the first-generation immigrants of Asian or African Muslims in the Western Europe, these communities live in a legal and political framework where the Islamic law is not recognized as a legitimate source of law and thus is not applied by the state authorities. According to some scholars, the specific conditions in European Muslim communities contribute to a series of social and political changes, briefly referred to as the ‘privatization’ and ‘individualization’ of Islam. Given the distinctive character of the Islamic decision making process, a new paradigm has emerged in the construction of Islamic knowledge and interpretative authority. Within this new paradigm established ‘traditional’ authorities operate in coexistence with Internet based muftis, on-line fatwa databases and individual Islamic blogs. The Internet arguably holds the potential to reshape inequities in the distribution of information tied to other forms of mass media. This paper examines how, and if ever, the Internet Islamic sites after several years of operation change the process of decision making and construction of Islamic knowledge within European Muslim minorities.

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