Digital Islam: In Search of Gender Equality Online

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Lisa WORTHINGTON, Western Sydney University, Australia
Muslims find it increasingly easy to bypass formally trained religious scholars online in the search for ‘authentic Islam'. The discursive space of the Internet allows Muslims to create a new form of imagined community or a 're-imagined 'umma'. For progressive Muslims the Internet presents a space where gender equal visions of Islam can be both discussed and also encouraged in the offline world. In the case of progressive Islam we see that hybrid Internet spaces can facilitate, sometimes inadvertently, critical perspectives on Islam and can aid in the dissemination of alternative, more gender equal, religious knowledge. On the Internet the locus of the 'real Islam' and the identity of those who are permitted to speak for Islam becomes ambiguous. This paper intends to investigate the use of the Internet by progressive Muslim groups to create a space where like-minded Muslims can gather to share gender equal interpretations of Islam, support each other and sometimes worship in an online context. Data for this paper will be drawn from observations and qualitative interviews gathered during fieldwork in the United States in 2013 and also via Skype. This paper will argue that progressive Muslims are utilising the Internet to destabilise traditional Islamic authority structures in order to generate more gender equal interpretations and practices.