Muslims in New Zealand are being encouraged to use a soon-to-be-launched Islamic social networking site instead of Facebook.
Called “Salamworld”, the site aims to be to Muslims what Facebook is to others – but without all that is considered “haram” or forbidden in Islam, such as gambling and alcohol advertisements, pornography or sexy images.
Critics say it could be “hijacked” by Muslim extremists, and be used to promote Islamic fundamentalist ideas.
Details of the approved site will be discussed at the 7th World Halal Forum in Kuala Lumpur next month, which will be attended by representations from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.
The federation’s senior vice-president, Javed Khan, said his organisation would be encouraging Muslims in New Zealand to switch to the new social networking site because it would follow Islamic standards on “what’s acceptable and what’s not”.
“The problem we have with the other networks, like Facebook, is that we don’t know what standards they follow,” Mr Khan said.
“When children set up accounts on those sites, parents will have to worry about things like paedophilia and pornography.
“It would be good to have a Muslim site where we don’t have to worry about such things.”
The Islamic network promised it would filter out “harmful content”, he said, and its content would “uphold and respect family values” and “conform to the requirements of Muslims throughout the world”.
“At Salamworld, our aim is to overcome all political, language and cultural barriers,” a promotional video said.
The head of Islamic research at the University of Auckland, Zain Ali, warned that Salamworld could portray Muslims as “separatists” who viewed anything non-Islamic as bad.
Mr Ali said he would continue to use his Facebook account even after Salamworld goes live in July, and had no intentions of using the new network.
Salamworld is being developed by a group headed by Siberian Muslim businessman Abdulvahed Nizayoz, and is financed by a group of Russian and Turkish investors.
The network aims for 50 million users within three years. . New Zealand has about 50,000 Muslims.