The Powers and Limits of Cyberspace: Indonesian Progressive Islam Networks
The production of Islamic discourse has increasingly taken place in the cyber-space, arguably not as a replacement, but as an ambivalent alternative to the traditional spheres of school, mosque, and literature. The Digital Age witnesses the dual if not paradoxical functions of globalization: democratization/pluralization and authoritarianization/homogenization of religious discourse. Although all Muslim groups perceive the Web as advantageous, the conservative groups would become more conservative, and the progressive more progressive, conditioned by the greater virtual sense of difference and otherness facilitated by the Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). The websites, mailing lists, discussion forums, on-line editorials, on-line fatwas, blogging, and friendship networks, serve as a cross-cultural, cross-boundary media, but at the same time serve as a marker and a tehnological tool for furthering the previously and traditionally held ideologies and discourses. The Digital Age certainly has allowed more interaction between the activists or the makers of Islamic discourse and their audience, but has not necessarily witnessed more interaction and dialogue among competing religious ideologies. This paper will analyze the role of the ICTs in the rise of Islamic progressive networks, and their powers and limits in the construction of new religious discourses, with a special reference to the Progressive Islam Network and Liberal Islam Network. The main question will be: how democractic is cyber-Islam after all?