Home Religion and Web Technology, Part 3: Inside Islam

Religion and Web Technology, Part 3: Inside Islam

This week we’re looking at how religious organizations are using Web technology. Today’s post looks at a blog that aims to “challenge misconceptions and stereotypical perceptions about Islam and Muslims worldwide”. The site is Inside Islam and we caught up with lead blogger Kaitlin Foley today to find out more. For the previous posts in our series, check out our reviews of LifeChurch.tv (a Christian church) and Shalom Hartman Institute (a Jewish institute).

Inside Islam is a collaboration between University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Public Radio. It is using ‘new media’ to improve communications between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Heavy Metal Islam

The blog’s focus is clearly illustrated with the most recent post at time of writing: Mark LeVine and Heavy Metal Islam: The Fight Over What Islam Means. The post explains the story of scholar and professional musician Mark LeVine, who traveled across the Middle East “playing with and studying heavy metal bands in the area after the September 11 attacks in 2001.” According to Foley’s post, Mark LeVine’s work uses “the universal language of music to articulate the diversity of Islam in contemporary times.”

The post finishes with a selection of links to various media – Flickr, podcasts, the Heavy Metal Islam homepage, LeVine’s blog, links to audio. There’s also mention of a radio broadcast LeVine will be doing this Thursday, on ‘Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders’ – which is a radio program by one of the organizations behind the blog, Wisconsin Public Radio.

Incidentally, if you want a 1-line explanation of what Heavy Metal Islam is, this quote at the top of the HMI homepage – attributed to one of the founders of the Moroccan heavy-metal scene, Reda Zine – sums it up: “We play heavy metal because our lives are heavy metal.”

The trailer for a documentary called Heavy Metal in Baghdad, via InsideIslam

How Inside Islam Started

We asked Kaitlin Foley to tell us more about Inside Islam and how it got started. A recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison, Foley has a degree in International Studies and Political Science. She focused on Islamic studies for her degree and so the blog is kind of an extension of that. She explained:

“The project as a whole is a product of University of Wisconsin-Madison, of which me, the blogger, and the pubic radio shows are only part of… in the end, we hope to have a wealth of resources that people around the world can access about Islam and Muslim culture worldwide. This includes digital stories, blogs, YouTube videos, music, and all other types of popular content on the web.”

Foley told us that the response to the blog has been “positive from the Muslim community online.” She said that it “seems to be an issue people are really concerned about and want to talk about in a new way.” The Internet, said Foley, “is a way to talk about political, cultural and global issues in a democratic way.” The blog’s goal is to “create a dialogue and raise some debates about hot issues in a meaningful way.”

The blog is closely linked to the radio show ‘Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders’, mentioned above. The first radio show to be broadcast is on tomorrow, about Heavy Metal Islam. The second show is October 30 on the topic of Muslims and social media.

The final question we asked Kaitlin Foley was: are you a Muslim yourself? She replied that she’s not, although she said a couple of her supervisors are. She explained further that “even though I’m not Muslim, I think Islam is a big concern for anyone with a T.V. or internet access and [it’s] an important way people understand the world.”

Islam on the Web

Inside Islam is an interesting use case for a blog – it’s using a two-way medium, along with new media tools like podcasting and Flickr, to open up discussion on a religion that, in this day and age, can be easily misunderstood.

For context, we must point out that Islam is already a popular topic in the blogosphere. We noted in a post in November that trend charts showed more Web activity about Islam than about Christianity. There is indeed an Alltop category for Muslims, which has a lot of blogs in it. Not to mention there are some web 2.0 blogs that cover the Middle East, including ArabCrunch and IslamCrunch.

Let us know in the comments about other religious organizations or independent sites using the Web in innovative ways.

Top photo: Mark LeVine

See also:
Religion and Web Technology, Part 1: LifeChurch.tv
Religion and Web Technology, Part 2: Shalom Hartman Institute

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