Islam Online, the news portal owned by Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, reports that is is marking the beginning of Ramadan by launching what it describes as “the first Ramadan tent ever made inside the virtual world Second Life.” Wikipedia describes Second life as:
an Internet-based virtual world launched in 2003, developed by Linden Research, Inc (commonly referred to as Linden Lab), which came to international attention via mainstream news media in late 2006 and early 2007. A downloadable client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called “Residents”, to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another.
Although Second Life claims millions of user accounts, recent estimates place the number of active users at around 500,000.
The Islam Online (IOL) report said the tent will be a joint project between IOL and the Islamic Group, a group of people managing the virtual Chebi Mosque, one of the most well known mosques in Second Life. According to IOL, the tent itself is:
Designed with a distinctive Arabian theme, the tent will serve as an informative center on all aspects of Ramadan and will cater to both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. It will offer daily special events to the residents of Second Life which includes hosting prominent scholars, lecturers, artists and singers. “The aim is to make the tent fun. Visitors will always find something different to do whenever they visit,” says Breathe Swindlehurst, IOL’s correspondent in Second Life…..Tenet visitors will find a big screen showing video clips and information about Ramadan. They can also visit the tent to watch the Tarawih prayers live from the holy city of Makkah. IOL will also hold daily events where Second Life residents can come to meet muftis and scholars and ask questions.
Virtual surveillance inside Second Life confirms these details. The Islam Online tent is located next to the Chebi mosque and in front of the tend is a virtual Iftar (Ramadan evening meal) table hosted by an individual who said he was from Palestine and married to an American woman. At the time of observation, the tent itself was empty. Clicking on various objects nearby sends the user to web pages operated by Islam Online and by readingislam.com as well as delivering note cards containing Quranic verses.
The report states that in the coming months IOL plans to buy its own island in Second Life where it will “extend the services of its bilingual portal to Second Life residents.” IOL thus will join Reuters, Spiegel Online, and other international media organizations as it becomes the first Islamic media known to be operating in Second Life. The IOL virtual world project is probably best viewed as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Dawa (preaching) activities and illustrates the flexibility and innovativeness of the Brotherhood as it constantly seeks new means to pursue it’s interests.