The IslamOnline Affair

Pic of IslamOnline strikers from Flickr user Ahmed Abd El-fatah

Over the last few days, Egyptian media circles have been up in arms about a strike at IslamOnline.net, the portal about Islam, Islamists and politics in the Muslim world. The chief meme being put out by employees and their supporters is that the "moderate" brand of Islam the site had promoted is being pushed out. A new board has come in at the Islamic Message Society of Qatar, which owns the site. Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, the board chairman and founder, is said to be considering resigning. The new board wants to take the site in a more Salafist direction — for instance, board members objected to mentions of Valentine's Day on the site. All of this info, of course, comes from the strikers so we have to take their word for it, the board is staying mum.

Now, I've always been irked at people describing Qaradawi as a moderate. But IslamOnline, which is not always necessarily so moderate, did put out an excellent media product and fascinating debates about Islamists, notably the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (I suspect that more than a few Brothers work at IslamOnline). I notably remember reading there the most trenchant critique of the Brothers' political party program there, by a leading member of the group. It also has very wide discussion of social and personal problems from an Islamic perspective. Overall, while it wasn't my proverbial cup of tea, it was possibly the most professional new media publication in Egypt, and certainly more "moderate" than Qatari wahhabis (they're not much talked about, but are just as bad as their Saudi counterpart).

The strike thus far has featured a huge sit-in at the Sixth October City office of the site, which was broadcast live online, and vigils. And it's very much the talk of the Egyptian Twittosphere.

There's been some good reporting on this, here are a few links:

Islam On-Strike | Al-Masry Al-Youm: Today's News from Egypt

Going Off-line | Al-Masry Al-Youm: Today's News from Egypt

Daily News Egypt - Full Article (DNE: I thus punish you for not putting the headline of articles in the title of the page.) 

IslamOnline website in crisis as employees in Egypt stage sit-in | World news | guardian.co.uk