As the violent controversy over “Innocence of Muslims” has demonstrated, content disseminated on social media sites with global reach (like YouTube) isn’t always compatible with the religious or cultural sensitivities of specific populations. In order to provide a social media environment sensitive to Muslim sensibilities, a group of Turkish, Russian, and Central Asian businessmen are funding a new social network for Muslims called Salamworld.
Bloomberg Businessweek quoted Salamworld chairman Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov as saying Salamworld will be like Facebook with more attention paid to “core Muslim values.” Niyazov noted: “There are 250 million Muslim Facebook users because there is no halal (Islam-compliant) alternative. We've created a virtual model society in a climate of peace -- and a halal alternative that answers to the needs and requirements of the modern Muslim.”
According to Businessweek, in addition to the usual Facebook-style features, Salamworld will offer advice from Muslim clerics, a virtual religious library, city guides, and Muslim news. The founders hope to attract 50 million users in the next five years. It’s not clear how the network’s management will reconcile or choose between the codes and religious strictures of the many different sects and varieties of Islam, which vary widely, for example, regarding how women may appear in public, or the permissibility of music and dancing, not to mention language barriers.
Salamworld isn’t the only religion-focused social network launching in recent months. Last week I wrote about Aleteia.org, a new global social network for Catholics which aims to bring together believers and share the “best answers to questions to peoples’ questions about faith, life, and society,” and ultimately aims to be a reference source for not only the general public but also journalists, opinion leaders, and others. It consists of three complementary parts: first, a network which brings together Catholic and ecumenical partners, for example from the media, ecclesiastical movements, and institutions, as well as individuals, including members, contributors, and experts, to identify and select content; second, a collaborative platform for disseminating knowledge to provide answers to commonly-asked questions; and third, an evangelizing component carried out by the Internet community, including missionary activity on other social networks and, of course, the real world.