Intertextuality and Constructing Islamic Identities Online

Intertextuality and Constructing Islamic Identities Online

Najma Al Zidjaly (Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch012
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Abstract

This chapter explores, from a sociolinguistic perspective, the role that the Internet plays in the online discursive construction of the Islamic religious identity of an enlightener. It does so by examining chatroom conversations between a man with a disability from the Islamic Arabian country, Oman and individuals of diverse religious backgrounds and nationalities with whom he frequently chats. The chapter illustrates how an enlightener identity is constructed through juxtaposing two contrastive religious identities: a liberal identity (when interacting with other Muslims) and a far more traditional one (when interacting with non-Muslims). The findings of the study suggest that the Internet is helping transform many Islamic discourses from being “authoritative,” i.e., unquestioned, to being “internally persuasive,” i.e., open for debate (Bakhtin, 1981). The analysis also reveals how the Internet is offering new possibilities regarding the constitution of an Islamic identity while additionally posing increasingly poignant questions about the role of Islamic religious leaders in this digital age.
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Intertextuality And Identity

The term ‘intertextuality’ was first introduced in English by Kristeva (1967/1986) based on her interpretations of Bakhtin’s (1981, 1986) notion of dialogicality. The basic idea of intertextuality is that all texts—oral or written—consist of numerous “intertextual weavings” of what Becker (1995) calls “prior texts” of different sorts (see e.g., Gordon, 2006, 2009; Tannen, 2007). This view of text as an amalgamation of multiple voices, transformations, and interventions stems from Bakhtin’s realization that in using language, we are constantly mixing our own words with those of others. That is, while texts (in theory) stand alone, in reality, they tie back to previous usages of language and simultaneously anticipate future usages. This traditional definition of intertextuality, however, which limits the idea of dialogicality to texts alone, blinds us to the fact that dialogicality also involves actions. Scollon (2007) thus suggests broadening the concept of intertextuality to include repeating prior actions in addition to texts.1

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internally persuasive discourse: According to Bakhtin (1981), internally persuasive discourse is the type of discourse that is open to engagements with other points of view i.e., it can be negotiated. Examples from the Islamic context involve the practice of cutting off the hands of thieves (a very controversial issue within Islamic circles).

Insiders and outsiders: In this chapter, insiders refer to Muslims and outsiders refer to non-Muslims.

Islamic religious discourse: Islamic religious discourse in this chapter refers to the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam; Hadith, prophet Mohammed’ sayings; and Islamic practices and doctrines such as praying and fasting.

Chatroom discourse: Forums of conversational exchanges that take place online through various theme-related websites.

Authoritative discourse: According to Bakhtin (1981), authoritative discourse is the word of ancestors that comes from the past and which, for the most part, stands unquestioned. Examples of authoritative discourse are religious texts such as the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, and Hadith, prophet Mohammed’s sayings.

Enlightener identity: In this chapter, the Islamic religious identity of an enlightener is constructed through juxtaposing two contrastive religious identities: a liberal identity (when interacting with other Muslims) and a far more traditional one (when interacting with non-Muslims). The enlightener identity is taken up by Muslims whose goal is to reawaken other Muslims by making them think for themselves rather than depending on ready-made interpretations of others.

Sociolinguistic case study: It is an in–depth qualitative analysis of the discourse of a small number of participants from the perspective of language in use or language in context.

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