Slated for launch this November in Egypt, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia, Salamworld, a Muslim social networking site, intends to topple Facebook as the premier networking site in the Muslim world.
Turkey-based Salamworld, currently undergoing piloting to over 1000 people, features onsite translation of English, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and Russian and a wall for sharing comments, photos and videos.
According to the site, it aims to have 5 to 15 million users by year-end and more than 150 million users within next three years.
According to Abdulvahed Niyazo, one of the directors of the firm behind the site, Salamworld is a global social network based on the Islamic idea of ”collaboration”, for Muslims to express their individuality through different communities and post about their social integrity and interests.
“Salamworld is a chance for Muslims to have their own space in Internet and in social networks and as a unique communication system, enables exchange of knowledge, skills, useful information, jobs and business opportunities, for Muslims,” he added.
Niyazo says Salamworld is an instrument to revive, modernise and develop Ummah – Arabic for “nation” or “community” – in terms of lifestyle and open opportunities for young people. It also seeks to preserve traditions for families seeking harmless and safe content for their children.
The site is a move against what it views as pornography, gambling and vices found on other social networks and viewed as corruption – or “haram” – in the Muslim faith.
Salamworld’s professional team consists of experts from 12 countries, while its Executive Board has representatives in about 17 countries
According to a report by Pew Research, there were over 1.57 billion Muslims in 2009, 23 percent of the world’s population. About 60 percent of these are found in Asia, 20 percent in Middle East and North Africa and the rest scattered across the world.
In spite of this huge potential audience, the site faces a major obstacle in that many Muslim countries have faith-based internet censorship.
According to Open Net, Saudi Arabia’s religious police have been trained on monitoring social networking and chat sites. Back in July 2001 the Taliban banned the Internet in Afghanistan, claiming it hosted obscene, immoral and anti-Islam material. There have been reports of religious extremists attacking Internet cafés in Gaza with the aim of saving the youth from the corruption found online.
According to the BBC, Salamworld is not the first Muslim-only social network. In 2006, Finland-based Muxlim.com took to the stage. The site is currently offline. In 2010 Ikhwanbook.com was launched by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but this too is offline.
Some experts argue that the notion that Salamworld could dethrone Facebook in Asia or any Muslim country might be a pipe dream. Currently, over 190 million of Asia’s one billion Internet users use Facebook, according to Internet World Stats’ March 2012 statistics.