UWTSD Academic focusses on Islam in cyberspace with new book release


An international publication focussing on how cyber-Islamic environments are transforming religious authority has been released by a UWTSD Lampeter based academic. 

LLun Gary Bunt t4.

Professor Gary Bunt is a twenty-year pioneer in the study of cyber-Islamic environments (CIEs). In his new book, he explores the diverse and surprising ways digital technology is shaping how Muslims across vast territories relate to religious authorities in fulfilling spiritual, mystical, and legalistic agendas. From social networks to websites, essential elements of religious practices and authority now have representation online. Muslims, embracing the immediacy and general accessibility of the internet, are increasingly turning to cyberspace for advice and answers to important religious questions.

This book also shows how online rhetoric and social media are being used to articulate religious faith by many different kinds of Muslim organizations and individuals, from Muslim comedians and women’s rights advocates to jihad-oriented groups, such as the “Islamic State” and al-Qaeda, which now clearly rely on strategic digital media policies to augment and justify their authority and draw recruits. This book makes clear that understanding CIEs is crucial for the holistic interpretation of authority in contemporary Islam.

Professor Gary Bunt is a professor of Islamic Studies at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus. He said:

“I'm pleased that ‘Hashtag Islam’ has emerged, after several years of research and preparation. There is continuity between this book and my earlier publications, in a field that is constantly shifting and evolving in response to world events in relation to Islam, Muslims and the Internet. This book seeks to reflect those developments, including within a theoretical perspective. As such I’m hoping it will reach a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary audience of students and academics, as well as readers from a broad range of backgrounds who previously shown interest in my other work.

The process of putting the book together was complex, given that it required the observation and capture of diverse online media output in a variety of contexts. This included the online pronouncements of religious authorities and their responses to interpretation issues, exploring how they reconcile Islamic sources with contemporary issues. My work also required monitoring the intense online activities of so-called ‘Islamic State’, charting their output online, which was integral to their approach towards what I describe as 'electronic jihad'.

I'm now working on new projects associated with Islam and the Internet while trying not to experience too much information overload!”

Hashtag Islam book cover

The content and views shared in Professor Bunt’s latest book has been welcomed internationally. Daniel Varisco is a Research Professor and Coordinator of Social Science at the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences of Qatar University. He added:

“Hashtag Islam--the newest work by one of the pioneers in reporting on Islam in cyberspace - reflects an incredible range of views and counterviews and provides a valuable corrective to the tendency to focus on the negative and political uses of the internet and social media by jihadists without due consideration of the more everyday uses by all kinds of Muslims.”

'Hashtag Islam: How Cyber Islamic Environments are Transforming Religious Authority' (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press)

Publisher's webpage: www.uncpress.org/book/9781469643168/hashtag-islam/ 

Research website: www.virtuallyislamic.com  

Further Information

For more information please contact Arwel Lloyd, Principal PR and Communications Officer, on 01267 676663 / Arwel.Lloyd@uwtsd.ac.uk