Khamis Co-Authors Study of Islamic Cyberspace

Assistant professor Sahar Khamis is the co-author of a recently published study analyzing collective identity as articulated in Islamic cyberspace. Entitled "Collective Identity in the Virtual Islamic Public Sphere," Khamis's essay appears in the International Communication Gazette and is co-authored with Mohammed el-Nawawy of Queens University of Charlotte.

Khamis's study utilizes a textual analysis of selected threads from the Arabic discussion forums of two of the most popular Islamic websites — and — to explore the potential impact of the new Islamic virtual public sphere, and the reconfiguration of the ‘virtual umma’ (Islamic community) online, on the creation of collective identities. The study also assesses whether the discourses and deliberations taking place in these two sites’ discussion forums exemplify an ideal Habermasian public sphere, through shura(consultation), ijtihad (interpretation) and ijma (consensus), as defined within the Islamic context. Findings indicate that there is an uncritical, unquestioning type of emotional consensus among posters who did not exemplify a truly rational-critical debate, particularly when it came to issues of political salience. Discussions among the posters show that they consider being a ‘Muslim’ as the most important ‘identity signifier’ in their lives. However, in some cases, especially while discussing political issues of a ‘pan-Arab’ nature, a parallel ‘Arab’ identity also emerged, confirming the parallelism and interrelatedness of ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim’ identities, and the overlap between mediated ‘Arab’ and ‘Islamic’ public spheres.

Citation: Mohammed el-Nawawy and Sahar Khamis, "Collective Identity in the Virtual Islamic Public Sphere," International Communication Gazette 72 (2010): 229-250.


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