For the last 10 years, the Brotherhood, whose goal is to spread conservative Muslim values into Egyptian society, has transformed from a shadowy social organization with power bases in mosques and charities, to a media and tech-savvy machine. In Egypt’s political wasteland, the strongest opposition to the secular regime not only owns the street—today, they dominate the Web.
And though the Egyptian regime accuses the Brotherhood of trying to overthrow the government and frequently cracks down on the organization, Al-Sharnouby’s site employs a full-time team of 30 and a freelance network of 45—a fairly big staff in the world of small start-ups. They work around the clock to promote the Brotherhood in cyberspace, with a contingency plan for what to do if the government raids their headquarters.
Ikhwanonline is just one of many cyberfronts maintained by the organization—among them is an English-language website that aggregates Western reporting on the group; an Islamic Facebook called Ikhwanbook; Ikhwanwtube, and Ikhwanwiki. (Ikhwan means Brotherhood in Arabic.) In real time, Brothers tweet through multiple feeds and post countless Facebook pages.
“Out of all the political groupings in Egypt, the Brotherhood has been one of the most aggressive in terms of… using the Internet as a platform to get their views across,” says Shadi Hamid, research director of Brookings Doha Center who studies the group.
“The Brotherhood has always been paranoid about how people view it. It’s an organization that’s very sensitive to outside criticism … And they’ll use any means possible to try to shift public opinion more in their direction,” Hamid said...Update: In other tech-savvy jihad news, an Abu Dhabi-based site issued a whopping 350,000 fatwas this past year.