Muslim Brotherhood creates Facebook alternative
The alternative IkhwanBook mirrors the popular social networking site in most ways. It includes online “friendships,” video and photo sharing, and live chatting. Facebook has garnered over 400 million users since its startup in 2004. The Brotherhood hopes their site will be similarly successful in gaining followers.
But some Brotherhood members criticize the idea, calling it superfluous and self-defeating since Facebook already provides the ideal means for attracting supporters.
But supporters of IkhwanBook defend the site, saying that it will provide a parallel supplement to Facebook, not a substitute. The Muslim Brotherhood needs a networking site that can be tailored to the groups particular needs, members say, mainly looking to privacy, security, and decency. The pages of senior Brotherhood officials have been removed from the original Facebook in the past.
“We will not be isolated,” said Ahmed Said, an engineer for the Brotherhood’s media development team. “Many groups have their own social network on the net. The name is Ikhwan, but it is not limited to Ikhwan. It is open to everyone.”
Though the site is still technologically primitive, supporters say the site carries on the Brotherhood’s founding mission of reaching out in the community. “When [Brotherhood founder] Hassan al Banna started his call for people to return to the real Islam, he started by promoting this idea in coffee shops, in places where there are people who should be helped to return to Islam,” said 22-year-old member Mosab Ragab.
The site’s creation could be seen as a sign of the group’s need to reach out from its embattled position, said Afshin Shahi, an international relations researcher in Britain. “It is possible to argue that a combination of creativity, control and fear have encouraged the Brothers to offer their own version of Facebook,” said Shahi.
The site has already been up and running for several months now, but the extent of its success remains to be seen.
The site will be one more addition to a wide array of Brotherhood sites. You can now surf the web at IkhwanWiki, IkhwanWeb, IkhwanGoogle, and IkhwanYouTube. ‘Ikhwan’ means ‘brother’ in Arabic.