// IslamOnline website in crisis as employees in Egypt stage sit-in
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« on: Mar 17, 2010 10:00 PM »


I never knew they were such a big website. And it is truly sad. I enjoyed their 'cultural' type articles. We do need that too sheesh!! -- J.

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IslamOnline website in crisis as employees in Egypt stage sit-in

Future of one of the world's largest Islamic sites in doubt as row escalates between Qatari managers and workers in Egypt


The future of one of the largest Islamic websites in the world was in doubt today after hundreds of staff walked out, accusing new managers of trying to hijack the site in order to promote a hardline, conservative agenda.

IslamOnline, which draws over 120,000 visitors a day and is one of the most popular internet destinations in the Middle East, was plunged into crisis following an attempt by the website's senior management in Qatar to wrest control of the site's content away from its editorial offices in Cairo.

Insiders claim that the move, which would involve many of the site's 350 Egypt-based staff losing their jobs, is part of a broader effort by conservative elements in the Gulf to reshape the identity of a media outlet long viewed as a bastion of liberal and reformist voices within the Islamic world.

"This is not an issue of money," journalist Fathi Abu Hatab told the Guardian via telephone from the website's offices, which are currently under occupation by staff. "It's a matter of editorial independence and media ethics, and we are not going to back down. They are trying to hijack IslamOnline, and we are resisting."

IslamOnline was founded in 1997 by the controversial Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a popular preacher who has previously been banned from entering the United States and Britain.

Promoting a "holistic" vision of Islam, it offered Muslims a wide range of online guidance on political, family and social issues. With a reputation for including non-Muslims and secular Muslims on its payroll, the multilingual website quickly gained global popularity as a source for theological answers to questions involving everything from homosexuality to Hamas.

"When it was launched, IslamOnline was very distinctive and very different," said one former employee, who worked for the site for seven years. "Most other Islamic websites are quite dull and dense, but this one saw Islam as a way of life and offered practical help."

Most importantly, it enjoyed a degree of editorial independence from its financial backers, a welcome rarity in the Arab media world.

That independence came under threat last month when a new set of Qatar-based managers criticised journalists in Egypt, where most of the site's content is produced, for running articles on Valentine's Day and film festivals, and began to shut down sections of the website devoted to culture and youth. That put the site's board of directors on a direct collision course with staff, who soon found that their access to the website's servers had been restricted.

Today, after hearing reports that many of them were to be fired as part of an editorial shake-up, over 250 staff went on strike.

"We will all resign," said Abu Hatab. "They may own the offices and the URL, but they don't own us."

Workers taking part in the sit-in used a variety of innovative ways to air their grievances to the general public, including setting up real-time video footage from inside the offices and streaming it on the web.

"Those of us that stayed in the building overnight slept on our desks," said the site's new media analyst, Abdallah Elshamy. "But when we weren't sleeping we were also putting out a lot of messages on Twitter and other social media which kept the attention on us and eventually forced management to the negotiating table."

Analysts believe that the dispute at IslamOnline is part of a wider conflict between Salafist Muslims in the Gulf, who follow a more literal and traditional interpretation of the Qur'an, and the more reformist brand of Islam popular in countries like Egypt.

guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/16/egypt-islam-online-crisis-workers-protest
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« Reply #1 on: Mar 17, 2010 11:06 PM »

Salams,

Can anyone (having contacts) tell them that here in pakistan we have abundance of quality web developers ?

At my workplace we are actively working on Web2.0, WebSecuity and CloudSites/SalesForce. A famous company AboutUS.Org had an office in Lahore which was managed by someone I worked with for 3 years. Us pakis can help them get back live and kicking Smiley

In fact, I should write to them directly about it.

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« Reply #2 on: Mar 18, 2010 01:22 AM »

Huh?

Huh? They're not shutting down bc they can't find ppl... Basically they got new owners who fired almost all the previous editors and journalists because they want to change the site. Here's more info...

===

Islam Online goes offline
by Dilshad Ali
 
Yesterday, marking that it was the 15th of March, I recalled the Shakespearean play “Julius Caesar” and posted on my Facebook wall, “Beware the Ides of March.” Little did I know it would foreshadow what would be happening to me in the U.S. and numerous other courageous and intelligent journalists in Cairo, Egypt. The rumblings came again, first, on Facebook, when I read the status of colleague Lamia El-Sadak’s that she was praying for Al-Aqsa and for Islam-Online. What was happening in at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (an Israeli crackdown) I knew. But what was going on at IslamOnline. net, the Muslim news website where I have been employed for the past three months?
 
I quickly learned that Islam Online was facing immense pressure from a new board of directors based in Qatar, who were moving to fire most of the 330 editors and journalists based in the Cairo office and turn the tone of the diverse moderate Muslim news and information website into one with a conservative, Wahhabi/Salafi tone. Editors in Cairo said there were long-standing tensions between the newsroom and the Qatar directors.
The site was founded in 1997 under the guidance of Egyptian cleric Yousef el-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar. It has numerous sections-news, arts & culture, youth, health & science, politics in-depth, reading Islam (for new Muslims) and others. In my experience of freelancing there for 10 years and working exclusively as their U.S. correspondent/ editor since January, I’ve come to known Islam Online as a site that covers topics other Muslim sites don’t dare to address: marital issues, homosexuality, and child abuse. This, in addition to offering news from the Muslim world and fascinating arts reporting. When I came on board, the site was on an initiative to increase its coverage of Muslim-Americans, for which I was heavily involved.
 
To hear the abrupt and commanding way the Qatar board of directors swiftly locked down Islam Online’s servers and changed the passwords to prevent the Cairo editors from doing their work was a shock. The editors quickly used their skills and took their protest to Twitter and live streaming to rally support around the world. A Facebook support group quickly sprung up.
 
But the damage has already been done. My friend and colleague, Rasha Mohammed, the arts & culture editor who was visiting Islam Online’s fledgling Washington D.C. office for four months, was alternately defeated, hopeful, and angry in her talks with me. “I can’t believe they’re doing this. For more than ten years we’ve done this work. What we did meant something. People learned about Islam. We reported important news. And all of a sudden, this?”
 
Articles and sections are already being taken down from the site. Islam Online editors are telling each other (as Rasha told me) to print out their articles and take screenshots of their work before it’s gone. The contract between Qatar and the Cairo newsroom will be dissolved at the end of the month, I’ve been told. I’ve also heard that there are already editors hired and working in Qatar who is removing content from the site and putting up new content. Some of my editor colleagues at IOL have told me that the Qatari government probably had a hand in this - wanting to bring all control back to Qatar, as it has done with Al Jazeera.
 
In an article on Al Masryaloum, one striker stated that if the Qatari board of directors wanted a conservative website, they should’ve made a new one. “Don’t take over Islam Online and try and change it.”
 
I agree. Islam Online’s mission statement says that it aims to “present a unified and lively nature of Islam that is keeping up with modern times in all areas.” Changing it to reflect a Salafi/Wahhabi tone will no longer do this. Of course the mission statement will change, and that’s a shame.
 
At the end of the day, the Qatar board of directors pulled a Marc Antony on the Cairo newsroom of Islam Online (and those of us here in the States) by stabbing them in the back and putting them out on the street without fare warning or negotiations. Hundreds of talented journalists and editors are suddenly out of work. Beyond the job loss, they and I are ticked off that the work we’ve tried to do - present Muslim news, dispel misconceptions, end stereotypes, and expose important issues, is taken from us.
 
It’s a damn shame that an immensely important, moderate voice in the Muslim media has been abruptly silenced. As news editor Ayman Qenawi said to me in an email today: “The loss is huge. [Islam Online] was my first, not third, child. But we cannot say anything except alhamdolillah.”
 
In addition to her work at Islam Online, Dilshad D. Ali is a writer and former editor for Beliefnet.com.
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« Reply #3 on: Mar 18, 2010 03:18 PM »

and people wonder why young muslims are influenced by extremist propaganda...

...its because the crazies have all the money and publish most of the islamic books in English.

for example, if you go to most islamic bookstores in england, they are overwhelming filled with salafi/wahabi books.  i went to the regent's park mosque, and virtually EVERY book was by a wahabi author.

so depressing...

btw: if you wonder why this is bad, just recall what they say on tv:  "although not every muslim is a terrorist, all terrorists are muslims."

that's not true, but what is virtually true is: "not all salafis are terrorists, but all muslim terrorists are salafis"
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« Reply #4 on: Mar 18, 2010 05:34 PM »

Salaams,

I'm not saying that they can't find people in egypt. But the one's they hired aren't doing their jobs right, since its the management that should decide direction of business, and if you dont agree with their decision, you can switch job instead of creating a hostage situation!


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« Reply #5 on: Mar 18, 2010 06:17 PM »

ws,

lucid not all salafis are terrorists. also, most scholars in the 'salafi tradition' were many of the first to write treatise's against terrorism. ie the Saudis. It's only now that scholars in the sub-continent and West are writing the same type of "fatwas" against terrorism.

hard2hit that's not really fair. workers have a right to strike when there are injustices and disagreements. that's why there are things like unions. in poor countries though unfortunately doesn't look like ppl have any recourse but to do as you say 'just get another job'.
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« Reply #6 on: Mar 18, 2010 06:34 PM »

Quote
I never knew they were such a big website

Salam - Wow, Sis J, I'm surprised you didn't know that; I've been a big fan for the last few years. I love reading the convert stories, even the Counseling section helps me a lot, as I learn lessons through the events in others' lives.

I just heard about this on the news bulletin on Al-Jazeera.

Indeed, this is sad, IOL is a great voice for us and I have read that journalists, when they need genuine information about Islam, they use IOL for their background research.

I'm not very informed as to the different school's of thought, though I'm not a fan of Wahabis. Yes, from what I remember, and as lucid said, there are Wahabi books in the Regent's Park Mosque store (I did buy the book on Tawheed by Dr. Bilal Phillips, though I know he can be a bit more strict than others, but we should not only just stick to one author/teacher).

This is such an unfortunate way to have things change, to take away from all the hard work the various authors have done. My favorite article that I recall is called "10 Reasons to Fall for Prophet Muhammad" I wonder if it's still up. I have saved about 7 articles on my hard drive, but that would be one that I would like to recover before its taken down, if it already hasn't.

 Sad
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« Reply #7 on: Mar 19, 2010 03:15 AM »

I dont see any injustices. Disagreements, well... if I want my boss to develop apps for Android, and he's targeting iPhone instead, should I go for a strike and create a hostage situation, OR I should hush and start playing along. Or I can always join another company that's developing apps for Android.

Theres nothing unfair in it.

Quote
At the end of the day, the Qatar board of directors pulled a Marc Antony on the Cairo newsroom of Islam Online (and those of us here in the States) by stabbing them in the back and putting them out on the street without fare warning or negotiations.

Well doesn't that happen all the time in the West as well? Many of our counterparts were laid off when I was at MGC. They were just gathered in one room and told that they have a great future but not with MGC. Talk about stabbing in the back!

And then there were cases back in 2001-2003 where the doors were just locked at employees and their entry ids/keys were deactivated. Not to say that I approve of this. But the situation in Egypt wasn't as bad, since its the employees who were trying to control direction of business, something they have lesser right to than the board of directors... I mean its "the board of directors" they are challenging here!


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« Reply #8 on: Mar 19, 2010 03:34 AM »

No injustice? Everything you've worked for gone up in smoke. People come in, take over, fire people, delete their work. That's injustice. They started and worked on the website for almost 10 years believing and working for a vision. They have a right to be upset and strike if they want to.

Let me put this in a way that you might be able to relate. Let's say the US pays off all the debts of Pakistan right now. In effect selling themselves to the US. Now the US feels they have a right to control the country's direction and vision and what came before. So they destroy all libraries and books and schools. They build mega malls and churches. So they change everything to be westernized. Everyone has to wear miniskirts and listen to Beyonce and cursing is the national language. So you're OK with that or are you a little upset? Why don't you quietly pack up your stuff and move to a different country eh?
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« Reply #9 on: Mar 19, 2010 03:47 AM »

Countries aren't owned by governments, they are just the caretakers. Therefore nobody can sell Pakistan to US, USSR or any other country. So technically speaking the analogy doesn't work Wink

IOL is a privately held company, it belongs to, and is owned by those who are sitting in the board of directors and those who fund it. Had that been a publically held company with employees having shares in it, that would have been a different story. And if thats the case, then I would have different thoughts on the subject.

If Microsoft dumps some software and tries to come up with newer one that the top management thinks would be better one as well. Should the team working on previous software go on strike and start registering youtube protests ?  Cheesy

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« Reply #10 on: Mar 19, 2010 07:53 AM »


The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another:  [9:71]
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« Reply #11 on: Mar 25, 2010 11:32 AM »

Salams,

The country example was so that ppl would understand and perhaps empathize. here's another one. the real owner of jannah.org sells it tomorrow to lesbianandgay-liberal-islamophobe-muslims.com. they come in and delete all the posts and content they don't like. kick out ppl they don't like. and change the entire site to be one pro-free-range-sex-party. now you guys don't actually have any stake in this but imagine you actually worked here. imagine you were me. so you'd be fine with it eh? continue to work here under the new owners right, cuz you have to feed your family too or try and get some other job in this economy or start another website from scratch right?? it wouldn't bother you one bit that all your hard work the last 10 years, your vision and everything you worked for turned into garbage, and worse into everything antithetical to everything you've ever believed and worked for?

Yep. That type of attitude is why the third world still has no rights for workers. maybe it's a western thing to understand what strikes are, why they are needed and what is gained by them. And why it's _wrong_ to cross a strike picket line. There are also a lot of derogatory names for people who come in and take the jobs of strikers. Again those are ppl who care only about the bottom line, they deserve the names.


Anyways more bad news:

 
Thoughts on the IslamOnline Tragedy and the Removal of Dr. Qaradawi

http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/thoughts-on-the-islam-online-tragedy-and-the-removal-of-dr-qaradawi/
by Suhaib Webb

Assalamu `alaykum,

Today, we received news that Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi was removed from his position at the NGO that funds IslamOnline (IOL). For those of you who have not heard, IslamOnline is a website that is world-renowned for tackling issues in a moderate, balanced way, and is a forum for diverse views. In the past couple of weeks, there has been an increasing furor between the staff at the website and the organization in Qatar that funds the site, which has been pushing for a more conservative viewpoint to be reflected on the website. This culminated with the website being shut down, and today, news that Shaykh Qaradawi was fired. You can read more information about why the IOL staff is is protesting here.

This  reminds me of the Michael Jordon/Abe Pollin incident – Jordan thought he finally had placed himself in a position to actually own an NBA team. (He does now by the way!) In order to do so, he came out of retirement, agreed to play for the Wizards with a promise that after playing for some time he would move to the front office and become part owner. After playing two years, contributing greatly to what was once an abandoned arena and sagging jersey sales, he retired and headed straight to Pollin’s office, hoping to finally take his seat at the table. Once inside, Pollin showed him the door and left him in the street for dead, telling him “I don’t want to work with you, Michael!” Commenting on this, former Georgetown coach John Thompson said: “They threw him back to the plantation.”

It seems that, in many ways, Qaradawi and his students were treated in the same way – when it actually came time to express their opinions and in the case of the shaykh, exercise power, they were thrown back to the plantation and – as many of us would say – “put back in their place” by “the man.”

It is unfortunate to see the true value of our community, its scholars, and its leaders, in the eyes of  some people who will place ideology over etiquette and power over “the right thing to do.” Firing Shaykh Qaradawi is one of the tragedies here, but perhaps even worse is the fact that these people are deaf to the roar of the Muslim community: parents, teens, women, children, other websites, organizations and converts. All of this leads to one conclusion – in a climate of utilitarian da`wah, some of our leaders are nothing short of plantation owners and they simply do not care about the Muslim community.

The solution is for students of knowledge and workers to seriously consider, as I’ve said before, a Wuu Tang type organization that functions independent of any group, community or Godfather. The first goal should be to generate enough capital through various means to insure the economic independence of scholars and students of knowledge. Real estate investments, the stock market and other securities should be utilized to create a scholarly “green zone” in order to preserve the integrity of the scholarship and its carrier’s stability. Secondly, it should work to serve the needs of the real community – the one not on the front of any newspaper: single mothers, converts who are struggling to pay the bills, new immigrants to the community, students of knowledge, etc.

Allah knows best.
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« Reply #12 on: Mar 26, 2010 05:56 AM »

salaam

I REALLY liked that site.

Why do they want to change it?Sad
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