Is the Internet good for Muslims?
The Internet has permeated our daily lives. From using online maps to get to work, to reading the news or even connecting with our friends, the Internet has embedded itself into our most mundane of daily rituals. Its versatility and ability to change as well as accommodate all sorts of platforms allowed it to adapt to our needs.
Indeed the landscape of the internet is always changing. From the early days of MySpace and Friendster, to the current internet giants YouTube, Amazon and Facebook, the Internet is vastly different from what it was when public domains were first available. With change, however, always come uncertainties. Many debates have sprouted within the Muslim community about the dangers and virtues of the internet. Many are understandably wary of the dangers the internet pose.
The Internet can be a very dangerous place. The advent of social media, while giving us opportunities to connect with friends can also be filled with pitfalls. Our social media identities can become unrecognizable to us. It can become an unhealthy source of validation and fuel vanity. Social media while opening up our social circle can also leave us and our loved ones vulnerable to cyber bullying and cause our mental health to deteriorate. Numerous news stories have come out regarding vulnerable people being scammed and defrauded on the internet. Indeed there have been cases of people being physically harmed by people they have met on the internet.
Beyond social media, the internet also is a source of temptation. The Internet can become a tool for instant gratification. This can come from instant validation on social media or even online shopping. The satisfaction and joy gained from these activities however can be short-lived and may cause us to return to these same sources when these feelings die out.
Indeed the internet can host many ideas. Many of these can be dangerous. ISIL for example has been known to recruit online. There are websites that sell drugs, host gambling companies and show pornography. Indeed as Muslims on the web it is important for us to be wary of our activity, and keep in mind our Muslim values while browsing the web.
The Internet of course also contains many virtues. It has widened access to education for many people. Wikipedia for example has crowd-sourced information and provides a comprehensive encyclopedia of knowledge on virtually every topic for free. Indeed it has made many forms of knowledge accessible to people who would have no other way of accessing it. It can also be a promoter of tolerance, exposing people to ideas and experiences they would not have otherwise.
The Internet is really a blank canvas that humans have painted their ideas on. Just like any tool, it can be used for good and for nefarious purposes. A hammer can be used to build a library but it can also be used to hurt someone. Similarly, the Internet is such. Many Muslims have used the Internet to create tools to help people serve Allah better.
Numerous websites and applications host the Qur’an and Quranic translations for free. There are apps that can be used to find the Qibla or even alert the user when its prayer time. Indeed the Internet gives us as many opportunities to be good Muslims as it does tempt us to sin.
Muslims thus have to embrace the Internet. The modern world is increasingly reliant upon it and Muslims risk being isolated and left behind if we become so wary of it as to abandon it completely. That is not to say that we should not exercise caution when using it. Indeed if we were to use the Internet with good intentions, we surely would be able to use it to practice our faith.
Not only should Muslims embrace the Internet, but we should work to change it. Indeed if the Internet is only a mirror for human society, we should increase Muslim presence on the internet and create safe spaces for which Muslims can enjoy and use it as a platform to spread our ideals of peace and love. The forever changing landscape of the internet can be altered to become more Muslim-friendly and to change perceptions of Muslims around the world.