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The Essential and Urgent Pursuit of Digital Sovereignty By Muslim Authorities

In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.

The Essential and Urgent Pursuit of Digital Sovereignty By Muslim Authorities -Brief Refutation of The Pessimists and Saboteurs

Abu Hurairah [may Allah be pleased with him] narrated that the Prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “Verily, the leader is a shield behind whom they fight and he protects them. If he commands fear of Allah and justice, he will have a reward. If he commands something else, it will be against him”. (1)

“The leader is a shield”, meaning, he is like a shelter because he prevents the enemy from harming the Muslims, preventing people from (harming) each other, and safeguarding the Muslim nation, and the people fear his authority. “Behind whom they fight”, meaning, they fight next to him against the non-believers (i.e. those non-Muslim nations that declare war against Muslim nations), the insurgents, the Kharijites, and all those who commit corruption and injustice. (2)

Undoubtedly, it is common knowledge that the advent of social media has brought forth a plethora of technological marvels, enabling individuals to engage, connect, and disseminate their creations with a diverse array of individuals hailing from various backgrounds. However, this invaluable medium of communication has regrettably fallen victim to the machinations of unscrupulous, malevolent, and cunning individuals, particularly those who orchestrate and wield influence over the discourse on social media platforms to sow discord within Muslim nations. In a matter of mere moments, they disseminate fabricated information far and wide, effortlessly translating it into numerous languages, both within their own circles and beyond, all under the guise of championing the concept of free speech. Henceforth, those who possess sound comprehension of the final infallible divine revelation do not under any circumstances predicate the notion of free speech upon the opinions of men; instead, they harbour a profound apprehension towards the repercussions of one’s words in both the present existence and the hereafter. They do not gauge the boundaries of free speech by the confines set forth by social media platforms; rather, they vigilantly shield themselves against any form of discourse that may precipitate ruin in this life and the next. The Messenger [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbour and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should utter what is good or keep silent.” (3) He also said, “When the son of Adam wakes up in the morning, all the limbs humble themselves before the tongue and say: “Fear Allah for our sake, (for) we are with you; if you are upright, we will be upright; and if you are crooked, we will become crooked”. [4]

Henceforth, owing to the rampant misuse of the privilege of free speech and freedom of expression through various social media networks and platforms, numerous Muslim authorities have emphasised the imperative of digital sovereignty, irrespective of any opposition they may encounter from tech conglomerates. They firmly believe in their right to restrain the influence of those who endeavour to disrupt the tranquillity of their lands under the guise of freedom, liberty, and free speech. It is abundantly evident to discerning individuals that the internet and social media have revolutionised numerous aspects of our lives, as they wield immense power to shape how people communicate and interact. Furthermore, it is crucial to acknowledge that these platforms can be exploited to manipulate human behaviour and emotions, destabilise nations, and exert an un-Islamic sway over public opinion.

Those who have mastered the art of sophistry, concealment, and misrepresentation dare to proclaim, “Let not the rights of the populace be violated, nor their access to information be curtailed.” Yet, behind this facade of progress, they cunningly exploit their media platforms to cast a repugnant shadow upon sound beliefs and morality that are firmly grounded in the infallible final divine revelation. They employ captivating slogans and deceptive tactics to distort the true essence of sound beliefs, leading unsuspecting readers and listeners astray from the very truth that should awaken them to their fallacy. They bombard them relentlessly with a deluge of ambiguous information, leaving them ensnared in a perplexing state of doubt. These cunning individuals express their disapproval as Muslim leaders strive for digital independence to safeguard their communities – vociferating, disseminating misinformation, and falsely accusing them of digital tyranny, as the Muslim leaders obstruct their channels of influence through which they sow discord, provoke the naive, tarnish the morals of the Muslim youth, and undermine the stability of the Muslim countries. They say that Social Media Platforms serve as a gateway to foster communication and enable individuals to explore beyond their immediate cultural boundaries. Nevertheless, this technological advancement has inadvertently provided a platform for certain cunning ideologues, demagogues, fervent secularists, zealous liberalists, and instigators to effortlessly reach the susceptible populace in Muslim nations. This unrestricted access has, at times, granted them the power to sway public sentiment and lead astray a multitude of individuals. Undoubtedly, the unrestricted availability of information often leads to confusion among individuals, making it difficult for them to accurately differentiate between falsehood and truth, clarity and ambiguity. Similar to how the Khawaarij (ISIS and other terrorist groups) exploit Social Media Platforms to mislead young Muslims, certain ideologues, and their followers also exploit these platforms to corrupt the minds of Muslim youth under the guise of free speech and liberty. Al-Allaamah Saalih Al-Fawzaan [may Allah preserve him] stated, “The social structure of this country will be destabilised if its security is lost, then where would the Islamic world proceed? Due to this, the adversaries of Islam conspire against this country day and night, as you all know, sometimes scheming to sow seeds of doubt regarding its creed and propagate repugnant views among the offspring of the Muslims to instill idleness, extremism, or taking up arms, wield explosives, or to cause destruction; sometimes by corrupting manners, promoting forbidden activities and desires among the Muslim youth to corrupt their manners and strip them of their religious (convictions) under the guise of freedom of expression and other false statements”. (5)

This is how certain ideologues and their counterparts orchestrate and govern the discourse on social media, exerting their dominance over the dissemination of news to further their own agendas. They display a complete disregard for the number of individuals who may be sacrificed, as long as their own safety remains intact and beyond the reach of any Muslim governments seeking justice. Consequently, it is understandable why certain Muslim governments endeavour to establish provisions to protect their “digital sovereignty” and suppress the corrupt influence wielded by these individuals. They possess the rightful authority to regulate and determine what measures will safeguard the prosperity of their nations and establish the necessary guidelines. Muslim leaders are justified in intervening when certain individuals misuse media outlets to sow discord, disrupt peace, and threaten security. They have the authority to restrict access to these platforms, enforce compliance with local laws, and require data to be stored within Muslim territories to prevent any abuse of freedom of speech.

It is truly astonishing to witness the audacity of certain opportunistic ideologues who have the nerve to lament about other nations hacking their networks and destabilising their crucial political institutions, all the while being guilty of the very same offense! It is simply mind-boggling how these individuals dare to complain about other nations expanding their influence, exploiting the divisions among their own citizens, and launching attacks on their social fabric based on race, gender, class, and religion when they are guilty of perpetrating such crimes! The sheer hypocrisy is astounding! Furthermore, it is astonishing how these individuals have the gall to complain about a strategy being employed to destabilise their own country and exacerbate existing divisions when they are guilty of employing the very same strategy! It is a clear case of double standards and hypocrisy. This is one of their objectives on social media platforms, whilst awaiting the emergence of their pawns and internal plotters, who cunningly propagate slogans in the name of so-called liberty and freedom of expression. Subsequently, the naive masses fall prey to their deceitful and embellished catchphrases. Both the Khawaarij and certain ideologues, demagogues, and agitators have exploited social media networks and platforms to incite Muslims to take to the streets, thereby causing the ignorant among us to unwittingly dismantle our homelands. Hence, one must not be swayed by the alluring proclamations of these internal conspirators, regardless of how they adorn their rhetoric. Allah says:

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يُعۡجِبُكَ قَوۡلُهُ ۥ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَيُشۡهِدُ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا فِى قَلۡبِهِۦ وَهُوَ أَلَدُّ ٱلۡخِصَامِ
وَإِذَا تَوَلَّىٰ سَعَىٰ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ لِيُفۡسِدَ فِيهَا وَيُهۡلِكَ ٱلۡحَرۡثَ وَٱلنَّسۡلَ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡفَسَادَ
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُ ٱتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ أَخَذَتۡهُ ٱلۡعِزَّةُ بِٱلۡإِثۡمِ‌ۚ فَحَسۡبُهُ ۥ جَهَنَّمُ‌ۚ وَلَبِئۡسَ ٱلۡمِهَادُ

And of mankind there is he whose speech may please you (O Muhammad), in this worldly life, and he calls Allah to witness as to that which is in his heart, yet he is the most quarrelsome of the opponents. And when he turns away, his effort in the land is to make mischief therein and to destroy the crops and the cattle, and Allah likes not mischief. And when it is said to him, “Fear Allah”, he is led by arrogance to (more) crime. So enough for him is Hell, and worst indeed is that place to rest! [Surah Al-Baqarah. Ayaat 204-206]

Despite the elucidations and admonitions provided by the senior Salafi scholars concerning the pernicious nature of the internet, orchestrated by those who exploit it to instigate discord among Muslim nations, certain duplicitous ideologues are expeditious in their condemnation of Muslim governments when they expunge certain prominent video-sharing and microblogging platforms. Imagine the potential harm that could arise when corrupt individuals and troublemakers are given unrestricted access to a Muslim nation with approximately 34 million internet subscribers, 33 million users on various social media platforms, and 12 million individuals on a microblogging platform. It is truly heartening for believers when Muslim authorities take decisive action to shut down any network that promotes discord, violence, and chaos under the guise of peaceful protest and freedom of speech. The protection of the religion, lives, mental well-being, dignity, and resources of the Muslim community should always take precedence over financial gain, opinions that go against Islamic teachings, the supposed right to freedom of expression, and the alleged freedom of peaceful assembly. May Allah bestow more wisdom and firm resolve to the Muslim rulers in the fight against those who manipulate the public through language, gestures, and visuals – overwhelming individuals with content that undermines the morals ordained by Allah and substituting them with ideas that lead to disbelief, polytheism, vain desire, deviance, and corruption under the guise of digital freedom; endorsing wickedness and falsehood through rhetoric, all the while concealing righteousness and truth.

Indeed, it is truly heartening to see telecommunication companies and phone operators in Muslim countries opting for locally developed apps over foreign ones. This move not only ensures the safety of citizens’ data within the country but also helps in prosecuting those who break the law, particularly those who incite social unrest. The Muslim authorities are to be commended for enhancing cybersecurity, safeguarding personal data, and upholding digital sovereignty to prevent malicious external forces from exploiting the data for their agendas. It is truly fascinating to witness the stark contrast in reactions when non-Muslim nations take measures to safeguard their national security, foreign policy, and economy by imposing restrictions on foreign apps and technologies. These nations recognise the imperative need to shield their internet-connected banks, trading systems, oil and water pipelines, dams, hospitals, and other vital infrastructures. Surprisingly, the naysayers and troublemakers remain conspicuously silent during these endeavours. However, their voices suddenly become amplified and filled with outrage when Muslim nations adopt similar measures. It seems that their discontent stems from the fact that they aspire to exploit social media platforms for purposes of cultural crusade. Nevertheless, certain Muslim nations and leaders have chosen to disregard the rhetoric of these detractors, as they comprehend the inherent risks associated with relying solely on foreign technology. Placing absolute reliance on such matters would entail the management of crucial infrastructure and communication systems that are entirely situated within foreign data centers and subject to foreign laws. Hence, it would be preposterous for anyone to criticise Muslim rulers for their pursuit of digital sovereignty, a path – inShaaAllah- that safeguard Muslim nations.

Similarly, it brings immense joy to one’s heart when encountering upright Muslims proficient in the realm of digital technology, expounding upon the imperative nature of possessing cyber and electronic weaponry. That is because these formidable tools, when strategically employed, possess the capability to neutralise the ballistic missiles of adversarial nations during periods of strife, effectively incapacitating their Defence Industry and military command and control networks, thereby rendering the hostile enemy powerless by the Will of Allah. This noble initiative reminds us of the advice of Imam Abdul Azeez Bin Baz [may Allah have mercy upon him] regarding the dangerous causes of weakness. These causes include the negative consequences and implications that arise from weakness in the face of the enemy, as well as delays in taking action. It also involves inclining towards forbidden desires, being preoccupied with distractions that hinder us from the path of Allah and guidance, and lacking preparation in terms of industry and weaponry to effectively combat the enemy. The Imam emphasized the importance of industry in Muslim countries, highlighting the need for preparation and strength to deter enemies. Individuals must be self-sufficient and well-prepared so that enemies are aware of their capabilities and are deterred from aggression. It is also important to maintain physical fitness and avoid excessive luxury, to be ready for any potential conflict. Cooperation between the state and the people is essential in obeying Allah and His Messenger, as well as in making necessary preparations for defense, as stated in the Quran: [وَأَعِدُّوا لَهُمْ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ – And make ready against them all you can of power]. [Surah Al-Anfaal. Aayah 60]

It is imperative to make physical preparations – to equip ourselves with defensive and military gear, as well as other necessary equipment, to rely solely on what Allah has bestowed upon us and not be dependent on what our adversaries possess. Engaging in combat with the weapons our enemies possess is exceedingly challenging to attain because if the enemy obstructs our access to weaponry, how can we effectively fight in addition to poor insight and insufficient knowledge? (6)

The main duty of carrying out this endeavour rests on the shoulders of Muslim governments and their representatives, not on Hizb at-Tahreer or other extremist factions such as ISIS. The Muslim rulers, may Allah bless them with a firm resolve, have diplomatic relationships with other nations, and we beseech Allah to bless them with triumph in their efforts to protect Islam and the Muslim populace. May Allah pardon our faults and oversights. Ameen.

Must read:

Salafi Shaikh Fawzaan on Jihaad in our times and the guidelines of Jihaad according to Islam

The Islamic Shariah on the Foundation of Muslim Relations With Non-Muslims Who Do Not Show Aggression and Hostility

Islam and the Muslims Are Free and Innocent of the Kharijite Extremists and the Islamic Shariah Has Come With a Command to Fight Them

[1] Ṣaḥih Muslim 1841

[2] Sharh Sahih Muslim 12/193. Publisher: Daar Al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah. 1st Edition 1421 AH (2000)]

[3] Al-Bukhaari 6136]

[4] Sahih At-Tirmidhi Number 2407

[5] paraphrased

[6] paraphrased