A group of Russian and Turkish investors are putting tens of millions of dollars into the development of a site that aims to be a kind of Islamic version of Facebook: SalamWorld.
The exact nature of the concept has not yet been revealed, but the site is set to launch in the next few weeks.
At the 7th Muslim Forum in Moscow, a memorandum of cooperation was signed between the SalamWorld social network and the Russian Mufti Council.
Elmir Kuliyev, Editor-in-Chief of SalamWorld, well-known translator of the Quran and a PhD in Philosophy, signed the document together with Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin, Chairman of the Russian Mufti Council.
Russia and Turkey are not the only countries involved in the social network's development. It is an international project involving Muslims from Kazakhstan, Germany, Egypt, Malaysia, and other states.
It is planned to open in spring 2012 with offices in major cities of 16 countries with large Muslim populations, including Cairo, London, Moscow, Dubai and New York.
"No politics, no bans, no limits," reads the motto of the website, which will be streamed in 15 languages.
SalamWorld aims to attract 100 million users by the end of its first three year term, targeting Muslim youth, intellectual leaders and non-Muslims wanting to learn more about Islam.
As Facebook's relentless domination of social media continues, the idea of launching an alternative is appealing to many. And while there's nothing notably un-Islamic about Facebook, SalamWorld's promise of a social network specifically geared towards Muslims seems set to attract a considerable number of users.
A particularly interesting part of SalamWorld is the plan to launch some form of e-payment system. Again, it's not entirely clear how this is going to work, but there are reports that a deal is being sought with a prominent Indonesian bank.
SalamWorld is not the first attempt to establish an Islamic website that would compete with social networking giant Facebook.
In 2010, a group of Pakistanis established millatfacebook.com. The initiative came in response to an offending Facebook page that had enraged Muslim users by running a competition for cartoons mocking Prophet Mohamed. The page prompted Pakistani authorities to temporarily block access to website in the country.
Michael R. Gideon, "Salam World aims to be the Islamic Facebook" 100gf November 14, 2011
"Russian Mufti Council supports formation of Islamic social network" vestnik November 15, 2011
Mohamed Mustafa, "Islamic social networking site to launch in Istanbul" Almasry Alyoum November 14, 2011
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today