The Politics of Virtual Fatwa Counseling in the 21st Century

Jens Kutcher

Abstract

A multitude of fatwa services sprung up on the Internet during the last few years and has grown since. One finds askimam.org, islamicity.com, islamonline.net, and islamqa.com among them. Yet it is not only these private Muslim jurisconsults who maintain websites, but also government-affiliated muftis and agencies have increasingly established an online presence. At the same time the private online muftis are not a monolithic group themselves. Therefore this paper sheds some light on the different actors and their competition. Who are they? And, more importantly still, which norms do they set? This paper argues that there is a competition between these fatwa services for the conclusive authority of Islamic legal interpretations and their creators over the minds of Muslims situated in non-Muslim political discourse spheres. Within the context of the norm-setting processes these online fatwas have the potential to influence and shape Muslims’ opinions especially in predominantly non-Muslim societies. So how do the norms presented relate to existing norms there? Examples of where the Muslim authorities position themselves when it comes to contested or topical issues like migration and integration into the states of Western Europe will be provided. The research is initially based on a quantitative content analysis regarding these questions. None-theless it shall be supported by a theoretical framework including the notion of Peter Mandaville’s (2001) “modes of translocality”.

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