If one does a search for “Islam” on a Russian search engine, only 19 of the first 100 sites listed are Muslim sites in Russian. Moreover, “57 percent of these have not been renewed for more than 30 days;” and many of them have a dozen or fewer visitors during a month. (Babich’s study covered 30 days earlier this year.)
During this month, the journalist continues, the most popular information portals in this category offered readers only three original interviews, six analytic essays “and not a single original report, a reflection of the caution and conservativism of the Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs) who control most of them.
Nearly two-thirds (64.9 percent) of the posts of the leading sites were either press releases from the MSDs, reports about Vladimir Putin from other Russian agencies, or reports, again picked up from others, about the struggle against terrorism. Few are about real issues and unique news. As a result, Russia’s Muslims have few reasons to visit these sites.
Indeed, Babich says, “93 percent of the five largest Islamic information agencies consist of rewrites or simple reprinting from non-Muslim resources. In other words, they provide an imitation of activity,” rather than the real thing. And some of the other seven percent are articles taken from other Muslim sites.
In their involvement with the Internet, the MSDs are more concerned about not rocking the boat and insisting on uniformity and absolute deference, the journalist continues, virtually guaranteeing that those who are interested in discussions and debates or critical issues will turn elsewhere, reducing the important of these sites still further.
The Muslim man or woman in the street is thus forced to “read non-Muslim newspaper and portals which in a professional fashion cover the life of the representatives of the second largest religion in Russia as part of their journalistic duty” rather than being constrained by the MSDs.
Besides the Muslim sites linked to the MSDs, of course, there are Muslim bloggers, “who haven’t been deprived of the right to freely criticize the activity and ‘reforms’ of Muslim VIPs.” They do have an audience, but because they appear and disappear, none of them has yet attracted a massive following.
And there are Muslim sites based abroad which provide more interesting material, but both the MSDs and the Russian government authorities try to discourage the faithful in Russia from turning to them lest they be exposed to ideas that neither group wants them to be.