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Jihad, Syria and social media: how foreign fighters have documented their war

By John Domokos and Alex Rees
(April 15, 2014 | The Guardian) - From pictures showing a 'five-star jihad' to identifying the sheikhs foreign fighters draw inspiration from, three researchers in a basement at Kings College, London, have tracked and analysed the torrent of social media posts coming from Syria. It is a conflict they say is 'the most socially-mediated' in history, leaving a wealth of information to help us understand what is happening. Read more

Summarized by Sangeeta Shastry

The rapture of the nerds

By Jessica Roy
(April 17, 2014 | Time Magazine) - A new religion has set out to store memories for centuries and deliver its believers into a world where our souls can outlive our selves. Read more

Summarized by Sangeeta Shastry

Spiritual unplugging, or what to do when there is wi-fi at the ashram

Matt Hamilton
(April 24, 2014 | Religion Dispatches) - A wired journalist finds himself reaching for his phone during silent meditation, and stops to reflect on the deeper meaning of that reflex. Read more

Summarized by Sangeeta Shastry

The Saudi blogosphere: Implications of new media technology and the emergence of Saudi-Islamic feminism

By Philip Tschirhart
(April 24, 2014 | Cyber Orient) - The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia serves as a protector of the social, cultural, and religious epicenters of the Islamic faith; Mecca and Medina. While other Islamic autocracies have fallen in the wake of the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia and its religious and political elite remain. However, threats to their legitimacy are growing. Especially relevant are increasing calls for women’s rights.

The Saudi Arabian public sphere of the pre-digital era had effectively banned women’s participation in public. More recently, the spread of Internet authored blogs has created a new public sphere for women’s deliberation. This study seeks to analyze how the Saudi blogosphere, as a public sphere of deliberation, provides insight into the emergence of Saudi-Islamic feminism through a critical discursive analysis. Read more

Summarized by Sangeeta Shastry

Women and media: Libyan female journalists from Gaddafi media to post- revolution: Case Study

By Fatima El Issawi
(April 24, 2014 | Cyber Orient) - This article examines the representation of women in Libyan national traditional media before, during and after the February 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. Read more

Summarized by Sangeeta Shastry

A question for Seder: What role for screens?

By Jennifer Medina
(April 13, 2014 | The New York Times) - For many Jewish families, this Passover night will indeed be different from all others. As they gather around the dinner table on Monday for the Seder, some families will forgo passing around wine-stained copies of the Haggadah, the book used to guide the evening and one of the most ubiquitous volumes in Jewish homes. Instead, they will be tapping on their Kindles, tablets or cellphones, downloading in unison whatever version of the ceremony they plan to follow. Read more

Summarized by Sangeeta Shastry

Young Muslims choosing to wear the Hijab despite rising tide of Islamophobia

(April 21, 2014 | New America Media) - Salmon Hossein, an Afghan-American Muslim working on a joint law and public policy degree at UC Berkeley and Harvard, says that his own family hates that he has a beard. The outward sign of his Muslim faith, he says, makes his family worry about his future. Read more

New Muslim American council aims to measure a diverse community

By Michael Lipka
(March 20, 2014 | Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life) - The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations recently announced its formation, uniting 10 major American Muslim groups and aiming to “serve as a representative voice” for the population of about 2.75 million — a community that Pew Research surveys have found to be diverse in many ways, whether by racial or ethnic identity or political ideology. Read more

Vietnam continues to suppress religion: US Congressional testimony

(April 8, 2014 | New America Media) - Religious leaders and activists, testifying before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress on March 26, told of numerous attempts by the Vietnamese government to persecute the communities of faith that do not accept government controls. Read more


Gulf atheism in the age of social media

By Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi
(March 3, 2014 | Al Monitor) - The Gulf states have a long association with Islam; after all, the religion was founded in the Arabian Peninsula more than 1,400 years ago. More recently, movements such as Wahhabism and Salafism were also founded here. However, over the past few years a rising number of Gulf nationals have started to distance themselves from religious practice and in some cases started to openly criticize the application of religion in society. Read more

How Jews became ‘White’ on Broadway

(March 12, 2014 | The Jewish Daily Forward) - The Jewish Daily Forward interviews playwright Warren Hoffman whose book, "The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical," is a history of race and identity on the musical st ... Read more

WhatsApp and the Hasidic community

By Alex Goldman
(Feb. 20, 2014 | On The Media) - Despite having a large presence in Brooklyn, the Hasidic community remains pretty cut off. Most Hasidic schools will not admit students who have internet at home; there are almost no televisions in homes; and internet filters are used voluntarily on both phones and work computers that block sites like Facebook and YouTube. In 2012, there was a rally at CitiField in Queens about the internet's risks that was so well attended the organizers had to rent nearby Arthur Ashe stadium as well to accommodate the 60,000 attendees. Read more

Interfaith Voices

Interfaith Voices is the nation's leading public radio show about faith, ethics and spirituality. Each week we offer you analyses of the big headlines alongside lesser-told stories – those of Orthodox Jewish artists and African-American atheists, Muslim feminists and spiritual seekers. Through these stories, a rough sketch of our country’s religious landscape begins to emerge. It’s a marketplace of beliefs and ideas too complex for sound bites, and too important to ignore. Read more

Sochi Olympics shine spotlight on Russia’s Muslim population

By Michael Lipka
(February 7, 2014 | Pew Research Center) - Among Russian adults, a survey we conducted last year showed that about half (53%) think Muslim extremist groups pose a major threat to their country. Russian Muslims – especially those living in the North Caucasus – share their non-Muslim compatriots’ concerns about extremism.

In a 2011-2012 Pew Research survey, nearly half of Russian Muslims said they were either very concerned (20%) or somewhat concerned (27%) about religious extremism in their country, including more than half of Muslims in the North Caucasus (33% very concerned, 25% somewhat concerned). The same survey revealed that the vast majority of Russia’s Muslims (86%) reject the use of violence against civilians in defense of Islam. Read more

Penguin's withdrawal of The Hindus causes international

By Alison Flood
(Feb. 13, 2014 | The Guardian) - Major authors from Arundhati Roy to William Dalrymple and Neil Gaimanhave condemned Penguin's controversial removal of Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus from circulation in India, a withdrawal which has been described as an "egregious violation of free speech" and "deplorable" by the international literary community. Read more

Gay rights in Russia and the former Soviet republics

By David Masci
(Feb. 11, 2014 | Pew Research Center) - The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi have brought attention to a recently enacted Russian law banning the distribution of gay “propaganda” to minors. The statute has been widely criticized by Western politicians, Olympic athletes, celebrities and others. Among the 15 countries that used to comprise the Soviet Union, Russia is not the only state to restrict LGBT speech. Laws restricting “homosexual propaganda” also have been enacted in Lithuania and in parts of Moldova. Read more

Key findings about growing religious hostilities around the world

(January 17, 2014 | Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project) –A third of the 198 countries and territories studied in 2012 had a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion, the highest share in the six years of the study, according to a Pew Research Center report. These hostilities – defined in the study as acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society – increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. Read the report

God of all things

By Krish Ashok
(Oct. 19, 2013 | The Hindu) - The Internet is pretty much the closest thing to an all-knowing entity mankind has ever had, and unlike her competitors lounging around in temples, churches and mosques, does actually provide reasonably accurate advice and unlike priests, fathers and imams, broadband connections to my god are largely quite simple to use.

My religion did go through a very predictable early period in its evolution when its priests (ISPs) were whimsical, unreliable and unreasonably demanding, but things have improved and continue to get better (and cheaper, unlike trips to Tirupati) every day. Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri

The modern hermit living in an end-of-terrace house

By Rebecca Sandiford
(Oct. 18, 2013 | BBC) - Nestled beyond extensive farmland in Lincolnshire and a series of seemingly infinite narrow lanes, lies a red brick, end-of-terrace, ex-council house - home to one of Britain's hermits. Dressed simply in a long tabard, white top and skirt, and leaning on a twisted walking stick, Rachel Denton looks almost timeless.

But this 50-year-old woman is all about the present and celebrates a life of solitude, silence and prayer, using digital technology to maintain her vows and her hermitage. Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri



Religion, Spirituality, Magic . . . and Technology

By Nora Young
(Oct. 18, 2013 | CBC Radio) - Recently, I talked to Jeremy Stolow. He is a media historian at Concordia University, and editor of the book, Deus In Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between. He takes on the conventional idea of religion and technology as separate, contradictory spheres, and shows instead how they're connected.

Contributors to the book look at a wide range of examples, from mainstream, organized religion, to Jeremy's own look at seances and spirit communication, to explore how technology weaves its way through diverse spiritual practices. Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri


Serious games: Studying religion in video games

By David McConeghy
(Oct. 23, 2013 | A Lively Experiment) - I take issue with anyone who would criticize the serious study of video games. … I would criticize them, and I don’t see a lot of reason to defend their hypothetical myopia. Nor does it seem appropriate for them to be casting dirty looks about. I think we all know by now that there are really no topics that are off-limits so long as we can clearly demonstrate the academic merits of a project.

Just 20 years ago the study of material religion was in its infancy. Material religious objects have been around for millennia. But we didn’t put the pieces together until recently in a way that fit the guild’s model of study. Video games, by contrast, emerged just 40 years ago. In that time they have become one of the pillars of popular culture. They inspire fashion, fiction, and film. More important, they inspire fans–that word rooted in fanatic, which means one “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri

Moral police go overboard

By Asif Yar Khan
(Oct. 24, 2013 | The Hindu) - This is the age of social media where friends and peer groups stay connected in whichever part of the globe they are in. However, the same social networking sites are also being used by different communities to monitor ‘lovebirds’ who dare to cross the line.

Hate mongers as well as the ‘moral police’ are quite active on social media platforms like Facebook with messages and posts asking people, especially the youngsters of their community, to be vigilant against the ‘evil designs’ of nefarious elements, obviously from the other communities. Girls who befriend youths from other communities seem to be top on the list for these vigilantes. Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri

Can online Communion be a substitute for the real thing?

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey
(Oct. 23, 2013| BRNow) - When the bombs at the Boston Marathon exploded a week ago Monday, a familiar chain of events and emotions unfolded for many in the American Muslim community: shock and grief, followed by an unspoken dread that the perpetrators could be Muslim; condemnation of the attack; fear of reprisals – and of being conflated with the acts of violence; and quietly, an inward examination of what went wrong. Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri

Moroccan kiss, Muslim society shaken by Internet effect

(Oct. 11, 2013 | AFP via Global Post) - The trial of three teenagers for posting photos of themselves kissing on Facebook has sparked a storm of online protest in Morocco, where conservative Muslim values are being challenged on the Internet.

The offending couple, a boy and a girl aged 15 and 14, and their 15-year-old male friend who took the photos outside their school in the northern town of Nador, were arrested last week. The arrests immediately triggered a wave of online support, with activists posting pictures of couples locking lips and calling for protest “kiss-ins”, and the judge ordered that the teens be released on bail three days later, ahead of their trial on Friday.

“Social media are playing a more and more important role in monitoring both the authorities and Moroccan society, which remains deeply conservative,” said political analyst Mohammed Madani. Read more

Contributed by Sangeeta Shastry, a graduate student at the University of Missouri

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