How the Internet is changing the Muslim world’s view of the West

The Internet can do many things — help mobilize massive social uprisings in the Arab Spring, raise thousands of dollars … Continued

The Internet can do many things — help mobilize massive social uprisings in the Arab Spring, raise thousands of dollars for needy girls in an online “flash mob” and drive 500 million people to watch “Charlie Bit Me.”

Can it also work to de-escalate tensions between the Muslim world and the West?

A new poll released Friday from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicates that Internet use among Muslims across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa is associated with more positive views of Western culture. Muslims who use the Internet are also more likely to see similarities between Christianity and Islam (the two faiths share common prophets).

Among the key findings:

The results from Pew that show Muslim Internet use generally correlative with more positive views of Western culture in contrast with recent examples of the Internet as a medium for radicalization. So-called self-radicalized Muslims extremists like Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, are believed to have been radicalized at least in part by viewing sermons of jihadist preachers online.

So while the Internet can give you access to people far outside of your physical community, allowing you to appreciate your commonalities, it can also connect sinister actors to one another in ways never before possible. It’s both promise and peril for those who hope to remake the relationship between the Islamic world and the West.


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • WmarkW

    I wouldn’t feel to certain about which is the cause and which is the effect.
    Christians, Jews and Hindus who are regular internet users are probably a lot less parochial than those who avoid it. Didn’t some ultra-Orthodox sect in New York hold an anti-internet conference a few months ago.

  • edismae

    They must not know some of our members of Congress or Westboro Church.

  • evilpettingzoo

    AWFUL, just awful.
    The title is “How the Internet is changing the Muslim world’s view of the West”. Parsed that’s “The internet is changing the view.” First, since it’s changING, surely this includes what it was before, right? Wrong.
    Worse, do you think it’s possible that internet use might be merely COINCIDENT with a higher level of education and/or wealth, and that those factors might not be the cause of the different perceptions of western culture and Christianity? Huh? Maybe?
    What do you want to bet that you would get the same general pattern of results if you replaced “internet users” with “wrist watch owners” or “automobile owners”? Do you think “wrist watch ownership is changing the Muslim world’s view of the West”?
    Reporting results is fine. Drawing inferences from them as if you never graduated from high school is not.

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