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Is Facebook a Sin? Some Muslims Think So

posted by mconsoli

(RNS) Do a Google search on Shirien Elamawy and you’ll find her Tweets, her Egyptian Gumbo website, her college newspaper columns, and the beginnings of her Muslim children’s book.
What you won’t find anywhere is an image of Elamawy herself. It’s not attached to a screed she wrote against Oprah Winfrey, nor a speech she gave on Allah, and definitely not on her Facebook account.
In an effort to be modest in both real and digital life, the 23-year-old Elamawy doesn’t post photos of herself online, and is careful of her interactions with men on the Internet.
“If I could go back in time and not take yearbook pictures, I wouldn’t do that either,” said Elamawy, a marketing consultant who lives in Paramus, N.J.
In the right hands, Facebook can be a powerful social networking hub to keep tabs on far-flung friends, find a job or push a cause. In the wrong hands, it can reveal a treasure trove of dark secrets — photos of drunken coworkers, confessions of stoned preteens, and clues to an unfaithful spouse.
Some Muslims, like Elamawy, also worry it runs afoul of Muslims standards of modesty. Others see it as a home to offensive images like depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, and have personalized Facebook to fit their Islamic beliefs.
“There’s such a thing as virtual modesty,” said Shahed Amanullah, editor-in-chief of altmuslim.com, a popular online magazine. “If you’re modest in the real world, you can be modest in the virtual world.”
While Amanullah says only a minority of Muslims would go as far as Elamawy and remove photos from websites, he said “the best way to gauge how Muslims interact in social networks is to look at Muslim responses to Facebook.”
Online debates ask if Facebook is haram, or forbidden. Facebook has deleted numerous anti-Islam groups; most recently, Facebook was banned in Pakistan and Bangladesh when a group promoted prohibited depictions of Muhammad.
A Pakistan-based website, MillatFacebook.com, cropped up in May as a possible Islam-friendly alternative. Yet despite the controversy, Amanullah said Facebook continues to be the social network of choice in Muslim countries like Egypt and Pakistan, and in the wider Muslim community. He pointed out that some imams even break the 5,000-friend limit and have to switch to fan pages.
Photos of the Canadian comic Hamzah Moin are easy to find online. He’s the funnyman behind the comedy website Maniac Muslim, as well as the “Poking Feels Haram” T-shirt, a reference to the Facebook feature that users love to hate.
While Moin, 25, sees Facebook as a valuable tool for networking and discussion, he also recognizes that it can lead to tainted reputations and bad judgment. “You put the wrong person in front of a car, they can do a lot of damage,” he said.
Farrah Hamid, the editorial director for Elan magazine, agreed that Facebook can be a valuable tool for fostering a conversation between readers and editors, and connecting Muslims around the world.
“It’s kind of like bringing together global voices on a platform where you don’t risk being scrutinized by your government or society,” Hamid said.
But for modest-minded Muslims like Elamawy, it’s the images — not the voices — that cause concern. She’ll browse her friends’ photos and e-mail her photos to friends, but said there’s no way to guarantee privacy once something is posted online.
“You don’t know whose hands they’re going to be in later,” she said. “You don’t know if there’s a guy who is going to be looking at you all decked up, dressed for a party.”
Elamawy’s friend in Dallas, Mehanal Begawala, doesn’t post photos of herself online, and even asked guests not to take photos at her wedding. Begawala allows friends to share pictures where she is wearing a headscarf or full-face veil, like she would in public.
“I’m not sure whether it’s personal or related to my religion,” said Begawala, 28. “I don’t prefer to broadcast my life to everyone or anything.”
The issue of proper attire or image isn’t just a concern for women. Seeing a man in a tank-top and shorts could have the same effect as a woman in a miniskirt, she said.
Begawala worries when she sees Muslim friends post photos in less modest clothing than they would wear in public. That double-standard, along with risqué status updates and photos, can stir gossip in tight-knit communities.
Citing broken marriage proposals and threatened careers that were prompted by Facebook revelations, Moin said “now more than ever,” Muslims should post photos that reflect their personality and values when using Facebook.
“If we’re going around flirting online and in real life we are shy and quiet, it’s kind of a mild schizophrenia,” he said. “As Muslims we should be consistent in how we act.”
Elamawy insists she has no problem with self-expression, but rather with propriety. While her opposition to female hymen surgery and thoughts on Jesus are fair game in a public forum, her face just doesn’t mix with Facebook.
“People often think that when you’re covered, your personality and your voice is covered too,” she said, “but that’s definitely not the case.”
By ANKITA RAO
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • pagansister

    No one forces anybody to post pictures on Facebook, so a member has the option. Allah says no? then don’t it if you happen to want to follow what he says.

  • nnmns

    A lot of people have made stupid mistakes on Facebook.

  • http://youropenbook.org/ Noddy

    No it’s not a sin. But you’re a moron if you use it.

  • Lo

    Don’t post the pic if it’s against your religion. Yes many have made mistakes on Facebook but that’s a fact of life. Making mistakes helps you learn and grow.
    No matter what you religion I don’t think its a good idea to post your picture, just for security reasons. But if your not comfortable don’t. It should be everyones own decision

  • Glenn

    Yes, I like the items she posts like which wine to serve after an ambush on NATO soldiers and what kind of eye shadow is preferred on suicide missions and what is the proper etiquette when you are threatening Christians with beheading if they don’t convert to Islam. A really helpful tip is how many punches the man of the house is allowed to issue to his wife before she is allowed to complain. A truly helpful way to start my hate filled day!

  • http://beliefnet.com/debrincon Debra Rincon Lopez

    Posting pictures is a very small part of FACEBOOK, I believe she is misreading and not really aware of what the site is all about. I thought it was used mostly for people with alike ways of life, or religious beliefs or Ethnic backrounds to get together and share news with each other. It’s not a dating site to find men, I have never ever used it for that reason in my life? I think it’s being used by other’s with different objective’s in mind than her fantasy ideas about it. All Internet sites can be used for bad things, but FACEBOOK isn’t one of the bad ones. They don’t dish out porn and foul language and or disturbing things, that I know of anyways? She needs to check her information a little bit more and not take everything so literally. Facebook is what you make it, and nothing more>>>>.

  • http://beliefnet.com/debrincon Debra Rincon Lopez

    I forgot to say I am a Christian mother of 5. I don’t think that FACEBOOK is a Sin to use or it could be misused by some. But, you can delete anything or block members who you don’t agree with at anytime. Sin is in the eyes of the beholder. I practice my religious beliefs very carefully and Facebook has nothing to do with sin as any other sites on the Internet. That’s a false statement all around the world! I pray for someone who is so misguided and fears so many things in the world. It’s up to us to watch what’s happening on our own computer and what’s being read and posted personally. It can be used for good things such as Christian followers and all other religious groups to learn from others and pass on our beliefs to the world.

  • pagansister

    Personally, I’ve never found the need to be on Facebook, but one of my 2 sisters posts, as does on of my cousins. If I want to communicate with someone, I use their email address. Maybe because of my age it doesn’t appeal to me. However, “sinful”. Obviously not to a lot of folks.

  • pagansister

    Should be “However, “sinful?”

  • pagansister

    Glenn, just where did you get your information on what she posts? Do you have a Facebook account so you were able to get on and read just what wine to have after an ambush on NATO, or what eye shadow to wear in a suicide missions, and all the other stuff you posted as examples of her postings? Did you just make it all up because she happens to be a Muslim? (which is what I think). Your prejudice shows mightly if you made all that stuff up.

  • Wannabe Theo

    Good post Pagansister. I was about to respond to Glenn with a similar post, but you beat me to it.
    The essence of prejudice and bigotry is to take the actions of a few members of a group, and attribute them to every member of that group, to only see the collective, and not the individuals. It is a particularly demeaning form of objectification.
    It’s ironic that Glenn ends his post with “A truly helpful way to start my hate filled day!” It’s clear that his day is filled with hate, and it is not Shirien Elamawy’s fault. Perhaps Glenn is one of those who keeps the phony ex-Muslim terrorists, which we read about in another article, in business.

  • pagansister

    Thanks Wannabe Theo. I just write what I think. (at least if it is within the “guidelines”…there are a few things I have wanted to write but resisted).
    I agree, that last line in his post could be considered rather disturbing!

  • cknuck

    There’s nothing wrong with FB. People use it for social networking if they are healthy, but for the few that it may be a social replacement for human contact then that a different story.

  • pagansister

    Very true, cknuck. If FB is used as a person’s only “contact” with other people, then it is not a good situation.

  • Your Name

    Is drinking coffee a sin? Some Christians think so.
    Is dancing a sin? Some Christians think so.
    Is buying a lottery ticket a sin? Some Christians think so.
    Lo, behold how far Beliefnet has sunk. Is it possible they could ask stupider questions?

  • pagansister

    “Lo, behold how far Beliefnet has sunk. Is it possible they could ask stupider questions?” Your Name
    But you posted, didn’t you, Your Name?

  • http://www.polprav.blogspot.com/ Onicelime

    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  • http://nikehalftruth.blogspot.com/ MiseRyStewart

    I would like to exchange links with your site blog.beliefnet.com
    Is this possible?

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