The future of the IslamOnline website [IOL] remains unclear. The assurances made by the website’s administration, as well as those by its spiritual guide, Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, have failed to dispel the ambiguities that have arisen as a result of the latest crisis. The IOL staff staged a sit-in at the IOL offices in Egypt in protest against unfair managerial decisions that they described as unjust. This protest was aimed at the al-Balagh Cultural Society, which is the Qatar-based financial sponsor of IOL.
Analysis on the background and causes behind the crisis at the world’s most popular Islamic website vary. Some believe that behind the crisis is an Egyptian-Qatari dispute over the management of the website. While others believe the crisis is due to the disturbance over the site taking a more hard-line and conservative approach. A third group even believes that this may have something to do with the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the US has played an undisclosed role in this crisis.
Whatever the case may be, this is a crisis that raises a question that relates to all aspects of Islam in the post-9/11 era; what kind of media for what kind of Islam after more than a decade of crises where politicians, philosophers, and activists have explored and analyzed everything connected to Islam to the point that the media is leaning towards irrational fear rather than towards research and knowledge?
It goes without saying that we live in a world that has grown more obsessed about religion and its interconnection with politics. Perhaps Islam, following the spread of armed Jihadist groups, has become the chief but not the sole subject of such controversy. Religion has become a global obsession as religious groups and sects have started to bring all their concerns to the internet. The internet, which is the most important invention in modern times, has allowed for the revival of religion. Religion is no longer about outdated ceremonies and tales that have no connection to their surroundings. The internet has increased the opportunity for there to be meetings and dialogue between groups, which we never imagined before and the internet has also contributed to the isolation of groups and trends that have become overly focused and centred on their websites. IOL presents itself as a site that presents Islam and Islamic issues around the world. So is the controversy at IOL an internal Islamic controversy?
Who can specify the identity of IOL?! Who can identify the kind of Islam this website presents to its audience?
This matter has been subject to as much debate as the idea of confronting Islamic extremism with moderation…in some cases the site presents issues in a moderate context, but in other cases IOL presents issues in an extremist manner.
Who sets the standards for moderation or extremism here?
It is obvious that we need some kind of measuring system that we are already lacking. The bottom line is that IOL is suffering a setback, but the discussion surrounding this is unclear and is taking place behind closed doors. Perhaps what we need is a measure of transparency in order to discover what kind of controversy has taken place at IOL, and this is something that we definitely need to order to state that IOL is a moderate site.