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Contemporary Shi’ite Polemic on the Web: A Media Analysis

Title:

Contemporary Shi’ite Polemic on the Web: A Media Analysis

Karimian, Nasser (2012) Contemporary Shi’ite Polemic on the Web: A Media Analysis. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

There are over one and a half billion Muslims in the world today, but a schism occurring
in early Islamic history divided the house of Islam into two factions: the Sunnis, comprising
roughly ninety percent of adherents today, and Shi’ites, comprising approximately the remaining
tenth. Sunnis and Shi’ites have long engaged in debates with and polemic against each other,
producing a substantial body of literature.
This presentation will explore the continuation and evolution of sectarian debate in
cyberspace. The reader is introduced to both the themes characterizing this discourse and
polemical techniques, including those favored or facilitated by the medium of the web. The
thesis concentrates on Shi’ite material, leaving Sunni internet activity for future investigation.
Treatment of the very large number of constantly shifting and proliferating sectarian websites is
enabled by the fact that they exhibit common themes and patterns, facilitated by the constant
interchange, copying and linking that are characteristic of the web. The research is limited to
sites posted in English, which has become a lingua franca of the web, including Muslim religious
sites.
The thesis also assesses the effects of the internet on sectarian debate and relations. The
chief effect has been to provide an outlet for popular, “lay” voices; within the last few decades,
the internet has given people of all walks of life a forum in which to share their views and
convictions, and Sunni-Shi’ite dialogue is no different. The impact overall, however, has been
negative, since the internet has served largely to intensify or escalate the negative features of
polemic by creating a new, trans-national space in which anonymous authors can, without much
learning or restraint, attack a depersonalized “other” while surfers instantly access that material
and pass it on. Because of the Shi’ite minority position, some Shi’ite sites appear to be
somewhat more temperate and begin by attempting to present a picture of their tradition
acceptable to Sunnis (Chapter One); but this strategy soon leads to more overt critique of
Sunnism and is finally undermined by material and tactics that are, like those found in Sunni
sites, openly hostile (Chapter Two). Surprisingly given the accessibility of the web, there are no
significant sites or internet voices (at least in English) that encourage real dialogue and respect, a
disappointing reality especially in view of the current rise of sectarian conflict and violence in
the Muslim world.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religion
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Karimian, Nasser
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:History and Philosophy of Religion
Date:August 2012
Thesis Supervisor(s):Clarke, Lynda
ID Code:974856
Deposited By:NASSER KARIMIAN
Deposited On:30 Oct 2012 11:07
Last Modified:30 Oct 2012 11:07
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