Chapter Summary

The Internet and New Communication Dynamics among Diasporic Muslims: Opportunities, Challenges, and Paradoxes

By Sahar Khamis, Ph.D.

University of Maryland, College Park

The chapter titled “The Internet and New Communication Dynamics among Diasporic Muslims: Opportunities, Challenges, and Paradoxes,” was authored by Prof. Sahar Khamis, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park, and published in the book “European Muslims and New Media,” edited by Merve Kayikci and Leen d’Haenens and published by Leuven University Press in 2017.

In this chapter, Khamis argues that the expansion of new diasporic Muslim communities in many parts of the world, especially in the West, is paralleled by the simultaneous explosion in new media technologies. These two complex and mutual processes imposed new realities and invited new communication dynamics, in the political, social and cultural domains simultaneously. They also created a number of unprecedented opportunities, challenges, and paradoxes, which are worth exploring in details.

This chapter sheds light on some of the opportunities which the expansion of new media technologies, especially the internet, has enabled among diasporic Muslim communities, such as opening new avenues for members of these communities to establish better and stronger links with both their communities of origin back home, as well as their new communities in the diaspora, in addition to opening new windows through which they can better see the rest of the world, while allowing the rest of the world to better see them, at the same time.

It also discusses some of the challenges and paradoxes which the introduction of the internet invited among these diasporic Muslim communities, such as the question of religious authority or obtaining authoritative religious knowledge in the age of the internet, the possibility of being exposed to extremist or radical ideas through the internet, in addition to the tensions between diversity and cohesion; hegemony and resistance; religiosity and secularization; and globalization and localization.

The chapter complicates the discussion of all of these issues, arguing that it is, indeed, at the intersection of all of these diametrically opposed binaries that new, hybrid, and, indeed, eclectic Muslim identities are born. At the heart of this discussion, Khamis makes the argument that new media tools and technologies, especially digitally-enabled modes of communication via the internet, are both mirrors and molders, or reflectors and shapers, of these new eclectic Muslim identities, with all their complexities, ambivalences, and nuances, which manifest themselves in numerous ways, both online and offline, in this modern age.

Keywords: Internet; social media; diasporic Muslim communities; Virtual Umma; globalization


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