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The early growth of the modern mass media in the Islamic world was associated, first, with state intervention in the production and distribution of the press, and, second, with the influence of both secular and religious leaders who sought to use the press for sociopolitical reforms. Thus, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, two types of publications emerged in the Islamic world: one journalistic establishment led mainly by the Western-trained and educated elites who were promoting European ideas of secularism, liberalism, and modern nationalism, and another pioneered by religious leaders and Islamic reformists such as Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, who was campaigning for a unified Islamic community throughout the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. By the turn of the century, the new tool of journalism was in widespread use in the Islamic world from Indonesia to North Africa.

The twentieth century thus marked the rise of modern mass communication in the Islamic world. The process of decolonization in a number of Islamic countries in Asia and Africa, coupled with the delineation of economic classes and the recognition of the nation-state system, elevated the communications media to new prominence in which the state played a major role. In the Central Asian republics where Soviet models of media became dominant, Islamic institutions of communication such as mosques and madrasahs (schools) remained under the control and supervision of the state.

A characteristic of the mass media in the contemporary Islamic world has been the multiplicity of press agencies as well as broadcasting, telecommunications, and cultural industries, which has largely reflected the diversity of ethnic, linguistic, and geographical groups. As a whole, the media in the Islamic world, particularly television, have been strongly influenced by their counterparts in the West. In contrast to the press, this has had a fairly independent, private status; radio and television typically have been operated by centralized, government-supervised institutions.

In countries such Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Egypt, the use of personal computers and facsimile machines for the diffusion of Islamic ideas has become widespread. Information about Islam has become more accessible to the layperson through databases on the Qur'an and hadith.

Even if traditional media outlets lost their monopolies, what also was sacrificed in this rush was the measured reflections made by well-read authors who relied on their own, as well as their institutional memories. Cyber muftīs issued fatwas that were not always popular or within traditional norms. Often, charismatic and media savvy clerics such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf—whose sermons on were among the most popular—gained a significant following. Thus, the Web created confusion, stirring a volatile mix of competing opinions—including serious divisions over who speaks for Islam—that sidelined local imams. Young and more educated Muslims flocked to the Internet for a variety of sermons by Muslim authorities living in faraway lands, but who appealed to the tech savvy through modernizing additions. Consequently, while some competence standards improved, local leaders lost much of their authority. Given inherent community values within Islam, this loss was significant, even if its consequences were not entirely apparent. Islam was certainly evolving intellectually but this evolution was largely occurring in an era of globalization and instant communication with, perhaps, unforeseen ramifications.


Mowlana, Hamid and Joseph A. Kéchichian. "Communications Media." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online,



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