ONI Releases New Report on Faith-Based Censorship

By: Rebekah Heacock on 1 August 2011

Internet censorship has become a growing and pervasive global norm. Internet censorship policies implemented by states are premised on a number of motives and rationales including national security, the control of dissent, and appeals to morality.

The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) is pleased to release In the Name of God: Faith Based Internet Censorship in Majority Muslim Countries. This occasional paper analyzes the Internet censorship policies and practices of majority Muslim countries and finds that in many of these countries online information controls are primarily based on the Islamic faith and interpretations of its instructions.

The paper provides a detailed analysis of the religious concepts, legal frameworks, and technical filtering that underlie faith-based censorship policies in majority Muslim countries. Faith-based filtering is becoming a contested issue in many of these countries. There is an ongoing struggle between state and nonstate actors who want to regulate the Internet to protect and even strengthen the Islamicity of their countries, and those who see the Internet as an alternative information tool to bypass the undesirable guardianship of the religious authorities—those who see the Internet as a potential threat to religious identity, and those who strive to bring to censored real space some of the qualities of the Internet: openness, freedom, and neutrality.

This OpenNet Initiative occasional paper was authored by Helmi Noman, who is a Senior Researcher at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University.

The OpenNet Initiative is a collaborative partnership of three institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group (Ottawa). The ONI’s mission is to investigate, expose and analyze Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion. We intend to uncover the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences of these practices, and thus help to inform better public policy and advocacy work in this area.

The full report is available for download at In the Name of God: Faith Based Internet Censorship in Majority Muslim Countries