SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

Hashtag Islam: How Cyber-Islamic Environments Are Transforming Religious Authority

Univ. of North Carolina. Oct. 2018. 240p. illus. photos. notes. ISBN 9781469643168. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781469643175. REL
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Bunt (Islamic studies, Univ. of Wales; iMuslims) focuses on how the presentation of information on the Internet and the immediacy between query and result impacts religious authority. In keeping with his past work, the author employs what he calls cyber-Islamic environments (CIE's), which is any online venue for people with a self-identified Islamic worldview. Besides looking at technical development since iMuslims (such as the rise of cell phones and mobile apps), Bunt examines the interplay between increased individual autonomy of consumers of religious information and attempts to control the production of information and its consumption within a CIE. Although Bunt spends two chapters on jihad, most of his attention is focused on issues such as apps that point out the exact direction of Mecca or search engines designed specifically to answer questions related to Muslim law and interpretation. Bunt often refers back to (but only briefly outlines) the works of Jürgen Habermas and Marshall McLuhan.
VERDICT Despite Bunt somewhat obscuring his thesis by marshaling data without reference to his underlying framework, the sociological underpinnings of this work make for a touchstone for further investigation.

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