For the last couple of years in Second Life, there have been reproductions of Islamic holy sites, including a virtual Mecca (with a virtual Kabaa), and a small handful of virtual mosques, including replicas of the Hassan II mosque in Morocco, the Chebi mosque (a replica of the Mezquita mosque in Cordoba, Spain), Istanbul's Blue mosque and a few others.
But as anyone who has encountered a flying penis knows, Second Life isn't exactly specifically geared toward Muslims.
However, "within the next few months," says Ashar Saeed, a vice president at Muxlim.com, the Internet will receive its first Muslim-themed virtual world, not unlike Second Life, complete with its own currency and culture.
Saeed asserts that Muxlim.com, based in Finland and the United Kingdom, is the world's largest online Muslim community.
The new virtual world will be called Muxlim Pal, and Saeed told me in a phone interview that "this is something that's the first of its kind in the Muslim world."
So how will a Muslim virtual world be different from a non-Muslim one? Saeed says there won't be very much difference at all. "You will have everything from clothes to restaurants on this virtual world," he says. "People will be able to create their own rooms; they'll be able to decorate the rooms, to give gifts."
Saeed adds that Muxlim Pal is meant to create an open community for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Further, Muxlim.com and Muxlim Pal are designed more as vehicles to explore Muslim culture -- particularly the culture of minority, English-speaking Muslims in the Western world -- and less as ways to explore Muslim theology.
"One-fifth of the world's population is Muslim, and you have to [ask yourself] if they're different than everyone else?" he says. "I would say not. The only thing distinguishing them is certain preferences in terms of their lifestyle. They may prefer to pray at certain times or prefer to eat things that are prescribed to them. A lot of people are very practicing and [there are] people that aren't very practicing."
"The whole idea is opening up the Muslim world and showing the [rest of the world] that Muslims are no different than anybody else. The picture that is shown in the media is rather derogatory, rather scary and rather unrealistic. It's a really, really great way of creating a dialogue for the Muslim community and Western, non-Muslim people."
So will there be a virtual call to prayer in Muxlim Pal, as there is in many Muslim communities around the world?
While there will be religious spaces (as there are in Second Life), Saeed says that Muxlim Pal isn't really designed for that. "It's a virtual world, which is not a religious platform; it's for people who are religious and not religious," he says.
Now while I'm fascinated by the idea of a virtual world geared toward a particular religious group -- even though Saeed says that it won't be all that religious -- I do wonder how much of a general community for "non-Muslims" a site or virtual world whose slogan is "Enhancing the Muslim Lifestyle" can actually create.
The advent of Muxlim Pal in some ways is similar to Rushmore Drive, the African-American-themed search engine that debuted earlier this year. But it's still not clear that African-Americans on the Internet (or anyone else for that matter) are going in droves to use Rushmore Drive instead of Google. I'm guessing that it will be the same for Muxlim Pal -- its makers have quite a hill to climb, but it will be fascinating to watch them try to make it work.
(Via TechCrunch UK)