Monday, 7 September 2009

Islamic Search Enginge?

Yupp, you read that right - 'Islamic Search Engine'. After seven months of development, the ImHalal service has been released for Islamic browsers.

Islamic search engine ImHalal filters out potentially sinful material.

This report, from the Times Online, was sent to me by an amused friend, and I thought I'd share. And rant a little.

It's certainly amusing, in that these people are so concerened about what the internet provides, that they had to create their own search engine for it. But it's also - in my opinion - ignorant, dangerous and down-right hateful. For example, this paragraph from the article:

The filter works by examining the user’s search terms and the websites that come up, trawling for a “danger list” of words that may indicate forbidden fruit. On the site, sex-related terms such as “gay”, “lesbian” or simply “sexy” merit a haram level of three. But “beer” and “pork” only merit one point, while “drugs” earns two.

I gave it a go. Type in 'homosexual' or 'gay rights' and you get the 3 point haram level and a warning:

Oops! Your search inquiry has a Haram level of 3 out of 3! I would like to advise you to change your search terms and try again.

I even tried 'lingerie' and 'sexual health' and got the 2 point Haram warning:

Oops! Your search inquiry has a Haram level of 2 out of 3. This means that the results fetched by could be haram!

I suppose on the upside, it does allow one to search for 'abortion' and 'feminism' without any warnings (though I wonder for how much longer this will be the case, as there is a 'feedback' system, for users to send in terms to be filtered out - 'Bikini' has already been sent in). This doesn't, however, make up for the blatant discrimination against homosexuality and even heterosexual sexual health issues.

This search engine is basically advocating censorship of basic, everyday issues and trying to hide that fact behind claims of moderates avoiding the internet over worries about what their children may come in contact with:

Mr Sardeha said: “Before we started this, we got the feeling that a lot of people in the Middle East, a lot of Muslims, really avoided the internet and prevented their children from accessing the internet because they were afraid their children might come into contact with sexually explicit material.”

There are ways of preventing your children from accessing such worrying material - it's not hard. Though it may not be perfect, you can do it without limiting search engines with discriminatory and censorious 'haram' level filters.

Obviously, people can go elsewhere, use other search engines - but that this thing exists is bad enough. Limiting the availability of information in this way can cause harm. People restricted to an engine that explicitly describes 'homosexual', 'gay', 'lesbian' and so on, as 'haram' and will not open any page containing the words, limits the exposure to such that normalises and help to create acceptance of a significant portion of the population of this planet.

In short, I don't like it.

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