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The futility of a Facebook fatwa

The futility of a Facebook fatwa

The Middle East is witnessing exponential growth in the use of social networking sites, despite the apparent social problems posed by the likes of Facebook.

February 8, 2010 1:59 by

A top Egyptian cleric this week issued a fatwa against Facebook, saying the site goes against the principles of Islam, and that Muslims using social networking sites must be considered ‘sinners’.

“It’s an instrument that destroys the family because it encourages spouses to have relations with other people which break Islamic Sharia law,” said scholar Sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Atras in the fatwa. “While one or other of the spouses is at work, the other is chatting online with someone else, wasting their time and flouting the Sharia. This endangers the Muslim family.”

In a way, al-Atras is right. According to press reports, the fatwa was issued following a study in which it was claimed that one in five divorce cases in Egypt was down to one of the partners using social networking sites.

Clearly, while social networking sites have revolutionized communication, they have also revolutionized flirting.

But whether social networking sites like Facebook are the instigators, or merely the facilitators of marital infidelity is open to debate. When humans first learned to talk, that turned out to be a pretty good flirting tool too – and no one wants to ban that.

Either way, Facebook is not going to go away.

According to, use of the site is growing exponentially in the Middle East. While there are far fewer users in this region compared with in most other parts of the world, there were 1.5 million new subscribers in October 2009 – double the number who joined the previous month.

Other social networking sites are also growing rapidly. The number of Twitter users in the MENA region nearly quadrupled in the second quarter of 2009, according to a report in The National.

So it seems that the rise of the internet is set to continue, bringing with it both undeniable social problems – and infinite opportunities.

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