Virtualizing the ummah

Worth reading: The recent New Yorker article about the virtualization of Islamic fundamentalism in western Europe. It paints a rich picture of the dark side of the internet's decentralization, as alienated Islamic men go online to find the mythologized pan-national Muslim community known as ummah, and sometimes end up getting recruited into terrorist organizations.

Buried in this piece is a gem of a quote by Gilles Kepel, an Arabist and Parisian professor. Talking about dissidents who issue angry manifestos behind the shield of networked anonymity, he hints at one consequence of the new ubiquity of publishing:

To some of us who have been trained as classicists, the cyber-world appears very much like the time before Gutenberg. Copyists used to add their own notes into a text, so you never know who was the real author.

Political violence and online community and the Death of the Author—I love this stuff.

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