Cultural Norms and the Internet Universe

Muslim Brotherhood members and internet bloggers Sondos Asem Shalabi, 21, and Abdulrahman Mansour, 21, in a cafe in Cairo. Photo: David Wroe

Does cyberspace reproduce flesh-and-blood relations or does it in some way transform them?  From The Age:

Analysts in Egypt say [the Muslim Brotherhood] is struggling to define its political goals amid divisions at the top and a lack of fresh, charismatic leadership. At the same time, a new generation of brothers and sisters are gaining prominence through Egypt’s ubiquitous political tool, internet blogging, and are starting, sometimes gently, to criticise their leaders.

Differences within the 79-year-old organisation emerged last month when it released a draft of its first political platform, which advocated banning women and Coptic Christians, who make up a 10th of Egypt’s population, from becoming president. The draft also raised the spectre of an Iran-style religious council.

The draft was widely debated and criticized online. To the surprise of older leaders, members organized dissent against these provision and demanded changes.

This story suggests within Islamist organization’s themselves the internet generation values political equality more than elders and online users are creating forums and generating power. Women in particular are empowered by this medium. All is not sanguine, though. Jihadists, too, have taken to reproducing their ideology in cyberspace. Is the internet merely a politically neutral set of tools or forums?

100 years ago democratic and socialist activist used newspapers and coffee houses to spread and motivate change throughout Arab lands. By mid-century secular dictators or monarchs in most countries took control over media (think of TV and newspapers in Egypt today). In what ways is the internet different?


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