City of Brass

City of Brass


The final blow to IslamOnline

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is a guest post by Dilshad D. Ali.

It’s been more than a week since the Cairo editors of IslamOnline.net, the popular Muslim news website and Islam portal, were effectively locked out of the site’s servers and had their passwords suddenly changed by the Qatar Board of Directors funding the site. In what became a widely reported clash of the Qatari board wanting the content and tone of the site to become more conservative versus the moderate voice of Islam Online and its reputation for covering diverse and often avoided topics, Muslim journalists worldwide sounded the alarm, crying that an important, well-established voice on Muslim news and gateway for thoughtful, balanced, and sourced Islamic guidance on all aspects of life was being silenced.

More than 200 of the 330 Cairo editors immediately tendered their resignation in protest of the lockdown last Monday and went on strike in the Cairo offices. They pleaded with Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian-born cleric living in Qatar who founded Islam Online in 1997, to intervene. More than 48 hours into the strike, Sheikh Qaradawi, who was in Saudi Arabia when the site was locked down, succeeded in having two of the Qatari directors (who many Islam Online editors felt were behind the push to turn the site into a conservative religious voice) sacked. My colleagues in Cairo said there was a flicker of hope at that point.

But tonight I received an email from an Islam Online editor (friend, and colleague), that has more or less stomped out that flicker. I’ve been told that Sheikh Qaradawi has been removed from his post on the NGO that funds Islam Online by the Qatar government. Without the support of Sheikh Qaradawi, the future of Islam Online is bleak, if not done. My colleague said that the Islam Online editors are still fighting to defend IOL content and direction, but we have to wonder how IslamOnline can recover from this blow.

It’s hard to come up with the words to describe this news, and I’ve been writing, reporting, and editing for nearly 15 years. I can’t imagine what the editors who have been with the site for years, if not since the beginning, who have worked fulltime, overtime, and who have dedicated their professional lives to shaping and developing this site, must be feeling.

If there’s anything positive to report at this point, it’s the outpouring of support that Islam Online has received the past week and a half from numerous other media outlets. As a contracted correspondent for Islam Online here in the U.S. I received emails of support for the site and offers of help from altmuslim.com, altmuslimah.com, Islamicity.com, Illumemag.com and others. The Muslimah Writers Alliance and International Federation of Journalists both issued statements in support of Islam Online and the Cairo editors and their employees around the world.

I only hope these sites and associations can help the talented editors and journalists of Islam Online find a way to preserve and produce the work of the site or a new outlet for their content.

In addition to her work at Islam Online, Dilshad D. Ali is a writer and former editor for Beliefnet.com. This is the second post in a series of posts about the coup at Islam Online; see here and here for the previous entries.



  • Brad

    As a convert to Islam, this is very disturbing news. I often use Islam Online to learn about my new faith (especially the fatwa bank) and I love reading their articles written from an Islamic perspective.
    Islam Online is a great resource and does a lot of good to promote Islam as a moderate, peaceful religion.
    Insha’llah the site can be saved in some way.

  • Alya A. Ali

    I enjoyed reading the articles that Sis. Dilshad wrote for Islam Online. I hope and pray that this unfortunate (and may I say unnecessary) situation is resolved soon.

  • Emmy Zee

    Wonderful article, but have HOPE! The IOL employees in Cairo are already working on a NEW IslamOnline url. Insha Allah the wonderful website will be up again soon, just under a different name. Ya Raab!

  • Noorani Khaderoo

    I was an avid reader of IslamOnline and researched a lot to topices for directions, fatwas, etc, and I really did enjoy reading how Allah SBWT guided people back to Islam.
    However, since the charade with the board of directors, etc, I migrated to Islamicity.com because the site was not what it was like before…educating, informative, great articles, etc.
    There are some muslims who are bent in pulling others down to their level and afraid to see Muslims rise up again.

  • Your Name

    As a non-Islamic who found IOL to be informative and clarifying for my understanding of the course modern Islam is taking I am saddened by this event. I honestly feel that the world religions will now be further disconnected by what is happening with IOL. We all need points of reference to each other’s heart and mind and that is the role IOL fulfilled to me. I pray that you are able to recover and get IOL back on track.

  • nafisha

    i was born into islam my mother passed away 15years i was nine years old my hole life change everything i learned that was wrong i began to do them.Im suffering in my life and i know were i belong its just so hard to fly straight

  • UK Muslim

    IOL was a breath of much needed fresh air for the Ummah.
    It was an Arab-country based site, which brought together Muslims from traditional Islamic heartlands to the new diaspora, AND non-Muslims. It had an uncommon Freedom of Speech, to limits that EVEN most Western media would not allow. It reminded me of Andalus, where academic FOS was pioneered by Muslim universities.
    The dictatorial shutting down of IOL highlights all that is wrong with the heartland. Restricting Freedom of speech & therefore constricting creativity & independent thinking lead to cravenly watching one’s back safe copycat conformity, corruption & societal stagnation.
    The Quran has the title of the Furqan, which approximates to Critical Thinking.
    I wonder if any external pressure has been put on the Al-Jazeera of the internet?
    SHAME on so-called “leadership” of the Ummah who have let the people down again – as the saying goes, “the fish begins to rot from the head”…

  • Susan

    As a new convert to Islam, and an American, it is difficult to find good information. This site was balanced and moderate compared to what is available, much of which I find to be much more radical and anti-American. I hope this can be resolved soon. There is no more room in the world for closed mindedness!

  • Abdul lateef Salat

    Islamonline is/was a family to me. Even though I am/was a contributor from a thousand miles away, I felt I belonged there. It is so unfortunate and ill that some individuals are taking that away from me. There is a higher justice!

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