By Daniel Garcia-Prats
In “The Internet in the Arab World: Playground for Political Liberalization” by Albrecht Hofheinz, the effects of internet growth in the Arab world is explored and how it has affected change politically, socially, and religiously. In the Arab world, internet is still relatively sparse. The average person does not have consistent access to the internet on a daily basis. One of the reasons is that it is too expensive for the average person to afford. It is limited to the upper and some middle class people but it is becoming more and more available as time goes on. However, much of the internet in these countries has some form of censorship. There is filtering and banning of certain sites deemed inappropriate for moral or political reasons but there are a few countries that have unfiltered access.
The age of the old patriarchs is nearing its end. Hofheinz talks about what he calls the “Arab spring” which is the changes that are occurring in the Arab world due to the “new media” (satellite television, mobile phones, the Internet). There are arguments as to whether these changes are being brought about by external western influence or through internal Arab movements.
Politics, religion, and relations between the sexes have generally been viewed as taboo in the Arab world. The media, especially internet, has opened the doors for discussion in these areas and has allowed dissent to be voiced. Eight to ten percent of the 100-200 most frequently Arabic websites are religious in character. Even though there are extremist sites that promote terrorism, the most popular sites by far are those promoting a moral renewal of the individual, not the militant ones.
Islam embraced the internet in the early stages of its creation. Amr Khaled, an Islamic preacher, has founded a website that has developed a huge following. AmrKhaled.net is not only the leading Muslim site on the Internet, but is also the most popular religious site worldwide. The newest trend is the use of blogs to voice personal opinions about everything. Blogs have given the everyday Internet user the ability to speak their own minds for all to read. On these blogs people are starting to share their personal view on Islam and what they personally believe. The internet has opened the Arab world to the rest of the world and has allowed people all over the Arab world to project themselves onto the world stage.
Hofheinz A. 2005. The Internet in the Arab World: Playground for Political Liberalization, International Politics and Society, Via: http://www.fes.de/IPG/IPG3_2005/07HOFHEINZ.PDF