Hey kids, the Muslim Brotherhood has launched IkhwanBook.com! (Ikhwan = brother.) Now you’ve finally got a place to post all those wild pictures of you, Omar, and Naguib protesting like gangstas at the Al-Fath mosque demo. Those bitchin’ cross-posted videos of angry bearded men sitting behind desks? Yup, them too. Got to post up-to-the-minute gossip on Mubarak's government? IkhwanBook has it all, and angry smileys with swords to boot! If you’re a little concerned you might enjoy yourself too much on Facebook, head on over to IkhwanBook, scheduled to open September 2010. (Bummer: There's no Philosufi page on IkhwanBook.)
IkhwanBook is the latest part of the Brotherhood’s plan to stay relevant and accessible to Egypt’s population. Egypt bans all religious political parties, so this is the Brotherhood’s end run around the restrictions. Since the government controls traditional media, the Brotherhood has turned to social media to make their voice heard. Their reason for IkhwanBook? To “promote moderate Islam and clarify who we are.”
So where exactly do you watch and upload videos of angry bearded men sitting behind desks? Well, IkhwanTube.org of course! Often I wish I spoke Arabic. Al-Gama’a is one reason, and IkhwanTube might just be another. No doubt there’s hours of power in convenient 10-minute chunks just waiting to school me. Can’t say much more until I sit with someone who can translate for me.
The third part of the trinity is IkhwanWiki.com (why not WikIkhwan? Seriously, if you want to name something, talk to us first), which has teh awesum Flash-carousel-entry-page-that-does-nothing-but-rotate-slowly-and-show-you-pictures-of-bearded-men and a difficult-to-find-entry-point-into-the-website (just below a picture of a befezzed, bearded man – I’ll leave it to you to guess who that might be. Hint: He’s pretty important to the MB). You can’t turn off the music, which is always a good sign. On the other hand, there’s music, so we know they’re not complete buzzkills (thanks, Deborah, for pointing that out). I ran the site through Google Translate, and the title for the page on how to edit entries has the best translation – “Rapid liberalization of the wiki.” The logo is the Wikipedia puzzle-piece globe coloured green with the MB swords superimposed. That worked out pretty well for them.
Copyright violations aplenty. But I totally get that the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t afraid of Facebook’s lawyers. Messrs Zuckerberg et al can say whatever they want about owning “-book” like the IOC owns “-lympics” but big whoop. (Can Wikipedia even afford lawyers?) What’s really interesting about the move to social media for an Islamist group is this: It makes perfect sense. It is the right move for them, as it draws people together, gets them to network, and allows others to mine the networks and cultivate relationships for their shared goals. Sure, I mocked the idea of IkhwanBook, but that’s because I’m coming from my skewed “the world is my source of entertainment” perspective. For me, social media is about being social. For them, social media is about strengthening the bonds of brotherhood and gaining control over their message and narrative.
The more governments exercise their power to control and limit communication, the more people will find a way around it. And those ways around it? They’re usually underground, which makes them harder to penetrate, and their members have already shown commitment. Luckily for the Egyptian government, IkhwanBook is right on the surface, which will make it easier to monitor. I wonder what the Muslim Brotherhood thinks of that? If nothing else, it makes Waheed Hamed’s job much easier.