Bilal Rana, Universität Erfurt – Erfurt

Network of the Pure: Tracing Islamic discourses in social media of Pakistan

Internet technologies have revolutionized the human communication. Technological innovations are enhancing the scope of research dealing with the effects of internet on society. Traditional Muslim societies in general and Pakistan in particular is experiencing this change in a different realm. Social media is giving voices to the marginalized segments of societies and challenging the existing power structures. Moderate voices have a new platform for critical discussion of religion. Traditional and extremist forces are using social media to reach out larger audience. Meaning of blasphemy backed up by state and social conformity has lost its absolute power in social media. There is a huge body of literature available on portrayal of Islam in media and about the usage of internet by Muslim extremist. Social media nonetheless and its effects on an internal conflict within Islam is still not a priority research area. This study plans to investigate the conflict of moderate and extremist Islamic forces in social media. Pakistan being an Islamic republic with a strong blasphemy law can serve as a perfect example. The so called war on terror and its effect on Pakistan and rise of militant Islam make Pakistan an appropriate case study. Internet is changing the religious debates and the rules of assignation. New technologies equipped with emerging diversified content genres are redefining the Muslim public sphere in Pakistan. Famous social media platforms in Pakistan will be used to complete this study. A micro level investigation will be conducted by using content analysis to gather and analyze the available content. A discourse analysis will be applied on the user’s comment for a comprehensive scrutiny. In order to understand the motives and effects of such discussions, in-depth interviews will be conducted by pointing out the key players and experts. Notion of public sphere will serve as a theoretical framework. Public sphere of Islam will be the specialized theoretical area that will guide this study. This study will fulfill the existing gap in the literature regarding the effect of internet and intra-Islam debates, and enhance the scope of future research in this emerging area.