An August report from Agence France sheds further light on the joint project between Islam Online, the news portal operated by Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, and the Islamic Group, a group of people managing the virtual Chebi Mosque, one of the most well known mosques in the “virtual reality” world known as Second Life. As a recent post has discussed, the two entities sponsored the first known “Ramadan Tent” inside Second LIfe. The Agence France report provides details about the Chebi Mosque and Muhammed Yussif Widhe, a Swedish Islamic convert who appears to manage the mosque:
Second Life resident Muhammedyussif Wikinger, whose real-world persona is 64-year-old Sweden-based psychiatrist Muhammed Yussif Widhe, found a spiritual home in a virtual version of the Mezquita (Mosque) de Cordoba in Spain. Wikinger is on the board of directors of the Mosque of Chebi in Second Life and says the virtual world offers a strong Muslim community and a far-reaching venue for teaching about Islam. The virtual mosque with its 150 members is a spiritual haven for Wikinger, whose town in Sweden lacks a vibrant Muslim community. “I am praying on my carpet at home at the same time my avatar is praying in the virtual mosque,” said Wikinger. When curious avatars fly or teleport to the mosque he greets them wearing a full Saudi Arabic dress called a dishdasha at the entrance. He answers questions and teaches visitors proper mosque etiquette, including removing virtual shoes; washing hands once inside, and women putting on veils available in a large clay-colored pot by the main doors. “I am happy to be here and explain the Islamic way of life and in which way we use the virtual world of Second Life to express our religious feeling…”I think Islam can explain itself better here.”
The move by Qaradawi’s organization into Second Life may have been prompted by a July article posted on Islam Online that discussed a British news report about Roman Catholic missionaries being encouraged to enter Second Life. It appears that the mosque and tent have already been subject to harassment and political protest inside Second Life. Players (avatars) who help to run the mosque have stated that an individual silently holding an Israeli flag stood next to the tent for a period of time and “a naked avatar shouting Islamophobic slogans” also made his appearance.