here is only one way to expedite the clash of religions and that is to incite hatred and promote misconceptions about other people and their faith. Those who are determined to make this clash happen have adopted two approaches. One is open hostility: the in-your-face insults and wars of aggression, such as the Jyllands-Posten’s 12 insulting cartoons and Bush’s two wars of aggression. The other approach is more subtle and malicious. It starts with spreading falsehood, demonizing a people and ends with undermining their faith. Wikipedia has become a medium for this approach.
 
If there is any tool that will play a longer and effective role in the hands of the promoters of the clash of religions, it is Wikipedia and other similar projects on small scale. One can avoid reading the visible and known hate-mongers such as Thomas Friedman, Steven Emerson, Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes. It is, however, impossible to see the thousands of Friedmans and Pipes filling up the pages of Wikipedia for poisoning public mind on both sides of the divide.

By now almost everyone who uses internet has heard about or consulted Wikipedia to seek information and answers. But what do we know about the credibility of this source of information particularly when it comes to Islam and the associated concepts and terminology? What about the rules for differentiating between information related to hard science and Islamic principles, which have been deliberately made controversial? What about the people working behind the scene, who do not know anything about Islam and who are mostly influenced by the anti-Islam terminology recently invented by influential hate-mongers? How do they manage or not-manage the content that can so often be controversial or simply vandalized? One needs to look for answers to these questions before understanding the use of Wikipedia in the hands of those who are expediting the clash of religions.

While the concept behind Wikipedia is admirable, we cannot help but feel that the project has become a tool in the hands of diehard Islamophobes who have planned to add validity to the concept and divisive terminologies. The reason is simple: they are taking advantage of what Wikipedia admits as its serious quality problems.[1]

Wikipedia has brought the worst aspect of blogs and discussion forums. It presents the unreliable information and a mixture of opinion as most credible and neutral information. People in general are not expert in every subject, nor they have time to volunteer and keep correcting the wrong information in Wikipedia entered with malicious intentions. Even if one attempt to correct or add some information for clarification, it is instantly removed.
Some individuals seems to have devoted their lives to using Wikipedia as a blog and not allow others to clear the mist of misconceptions on certain pages. I personally tried to enter a paragraph into the entry under Dhimmi, only to find out that it disappeared without any trace of it.[2]

This is just one example of not allowing anything that contradicts falsehood masqueraded as facts. This also exposes the myth of free-for-all approach. Each topic is overseen by an administrator, who has the power to block users and remove content without any trace of it even in the history section.

The overall poor editing becomes more prominent in almost all issues related to Islam. Undoubtedly, there are people involved that have the best of intentions but the web is highly influenced by organized groups and fully supported individuals—sometime anonymous, such as Ali Sina—whose only intention is to spread misconceptions, confirm rancid notions and pit Muslim against each other.

Regardless of professional qualifications, anyone-can-add approach affects mainly the concepts related to Islam. If the information under a Wikipedia entry is about the second law of motion or gravitational force, for example, it is difficult to add personal opinion and conjecture to it. However, when it comes to promoting notions such as Islamism, or promoting some cults such as Al-habash,[3] it is most certain that mistakes happen and biases ceep in. In such cases, not only opposing views but solid references to the reality exist. The problem of Wikipedia is that no one is responsible for the mistakes and no outsider can determine the final word on the main article pages. In the case of entries related to Islam, we cannot even say, everything goes. In the final analysis what actually goes is the prevailing views of the hate-mongers and their allies.

For example, one needs to have a look at the lead definition of Islamism, Islamic Fundamentalism, Islamic World and Dhimmi. Wikipedia doesn’t say who coined the term “Islamism” and when. It rather says it is “a set of political ideologies” which “hold that Islam is not only a religion, but also a political system that should govern the legal, economic and social imperatives of the state.” Before making it the lead definition, did the editors give it a thought to verify and see why did the Qur’an called Islam a Deen for Muslims? If Islam is not a Deen—a way of life—what is it actually? And if it is a way of life, why should it not cover “legal, social and economic imperatives.” Interestingly, there is no entry for Deen in Wikipedia. There is only a reference to a Bosnian dancer by the name of Deen. The absence of Deen in Wikipedia is not for the reason that there is no space for Arabic entries or it is less important than other Arabic terms such as Riba. A proper definition of the word Deen with reference to the Qur’an will nullify the falsehood under Islamism.
Similarly, there is a repetition of “Islamic” societies and “Islamic” world, hardly giving any thought to the fact that any society, state or area of globe doesn’t become Islamic merely because it is populated by Muslims.[4]

Some entries even take some Muslim out of Islam. Under “Islamism” Wikipedia states: “Islamists regard themselves as Muslims rather than Islamists, while moderate Muslims and liberal movements within Islam reject this notion.” It means the so-labeled Islamist have no longer the right to even call themselves as Muslims. This flies in the face of the definition for the word Muslim in Wikipedia. This basic definition of a Muslim gets lost, along with its meaning, in the hate-mongers’ promoted terminologies for inciting “a war within Islam.”[5]

Views of anti-Islam lobby and cults, established in the name of Islam, prevail in the “democratic” Wikipedia. Unlike the entries related to science and technology, the basic standard (the Qur’an and the Sunnah) for judging the validity of Islam-related entries is not a standard in the eyes of the editors. So, the cultists, such as Ahmadis, Habashis and Ismaelis—who do not believe in the totality of the Qur’an and the finality of the Prophethood—are free to enter their un-Islamic views as Islamic in Wikipedia.

There’s no name, no author. Peer review and technical editing is also absent. The only way for anyone to be sure that a so-presented “fact” is true is to research it separately. So while Wikipedia might be good to get the gist of a subject, all the “facts” need independent research and rechecking. The Islam-related entries are hardly more than the gist of views presented by the fear-mongers on many other Islamophobic websites and books.  For instance anyone who would like to find out about the concept of Zimmi in Islam will only find the distorted reality and twisted “facts” which the Islamophobes have piled up for many years. This defeats the stated object of the Wikipedia project anyway. 

The guidelines state that the Wikipedia reflects a neutral point of view. However, one has to read the definition of Islamism, a term which was non-existent until the recent intensification of the war on Islam. This is good example to see the truth behind the much vaunted neutral point of view. So far, Wikipedia has utterly failed to show that it is the world’s largest list of very accurate and impartial facts. What we see is a mix of views, fact, and fiction; some cleverly written, some not.

Wikipedia has become one of the best sources for spreading disinformation about Islam. In the 2004, traffic to Wikipedia doubled to 5.3 million unique visitors in February according to research firm ComScore Networks Inc. Most of these visitors are there to learn. They are in no position to recognize inaccuracies in the entries related to Islam or sift truth from falsehood. After going through what is presented as neutral and impartial at Wikipedia, who has time to go into independent research on each subject and return to make corrections.

Entries about the Islamic concepts and principles are not like entries about exotic pets and body piercings, where slight inaccuracy would not make a big difference. In the case of Islam, a clash with its teachings and way of life is being strongly promoted by the hate-mongers. In this situation, Wikipedia is simply intensifying the prevailing myths about Islam with the “democracy prevails” approach which it uses to validate the final accuracy of an entry. What has become of Wikipedia vis-à-vis Islam is totally against what its owner, Jimmy Wales, claims about it: “Something that’s good for the world.”[6] In fact, it is not when looked from the perspective of peaceful existence among people of difference faiths.

Robert McHenry, former Editor in Chief of Encyclopedia Britannica agrees with this conclusion. McHenry posted an insightful critique of Wikipedia. Titled “The Faith Based Encyclopedia.” He believes, Wikipedia’s bad on non-technical topics because it’s easy for any individual—regardless of knowledge of or passion for the subject at hand—to pitch in.[7] With regard to Islam, it is easy for the indoctrinated individuals to open the existing work of hate-mongers, paraphrase the text, post it on Wikipedia and believe they have done a “service” to the Wikipedia community.

Over the past few years, Wikipedia's strong community of die-hard Islamophobes has helped it gather a huge amount of contradictory material on the issues related to Islam. Most sites on Wikipedia, however, are still relatively sparse and seem to be edited by just a few people. For example, there is hardly anything under 9/11 other than what the official story provides. There is no reference at all the great and intensive work of American researchers who have proven the official story wrong. Compare this with the instant glorification of 12 Danish cartoons about Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and the  dis-information and contradictory material under the concept of Zimmi, which in the end leaves one with the biased opinion that the editors and backers of these pages want the visitors to retain.

The concept of “administrators” and “page watchers,” having little or tainted knowledge of Islam, makes little sense with regard to Islam-related entries. Their weakness can be judged from the following observation by Eric Hellweg in Technology Review.

I tested the Wikipedia correction process while reporting for this article. After logging on, without giving an e-mail address, I edited the entry dedicated to musician Tom Waits. In a section on the artist in the 1990s, I wrote that Waits had played a concert with Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, and Mr. Ed (the talking horse). Within 24 hours, the Presley and Mr. Ed references were removed, but the Elvis Costello citation -- also false, but not as glaringly so -- remained. [8]

There cannot be anything more damaging to the relationship between the people of different faiths than some individuals writing a so-called encyclopedia in secret. All it needs is anyone with a keyboard, whose identity cannot be learned even by Wikipedia’s owners. The 15 second registration process for creating articles, introduced after critics challenging credibility of the information at Wikipedia, in itself is too weak to ensure accuracy of the material submitted. Furthermore, people who modify existing articles are still able to do so without registering.[9]

It is highly unlikely that Wikipedia will remove the thousands of questionable articles on Islam-related issues submitted by unverified users. If information about John Seigenthaler, USA Today's founding editorial director and a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, can remain totally false for more than four months,[10] who can guarantee that information submitted on Islam-related issues by controversial writers and biased individuals will remain problem-free and not hurt the image of Islam in the minds of those who stumble upon Wikipedia for gaining knowledge.

Seigenthaler is not convinced with the new registration requirement by Wikipedia because it would not stop the practice of posting content that is slanderous or knowingly incorrect. He believes, Wikipedia will either have to fix the problem or will lose whatever credibility it still has.[11]

Despite these weaknesses, Wikipedia remains immune from any liability. Daniel Teriman, staff Writer for CNET.com, says, if someone accuses you on Wikipedia of being responsible for killing a person, don't expect much relief from the courts.[12] That is where the problem of Wikipedia begins. When it is not possible for individuals to sue Wikipedia in cases where they would normally be able to do so, how would Muslims counter the misconceptions about Islam, when Wikipedia has already labeled those among Muslims as Islamists, who are trying to live by Islam? This leaves a vast majority of people to ridicule and isolation. The absolute freedom to eternalize falsehood on the internet is clearly leading to painting a majority Muslims and their faith as evil.

With the passage of time, Wikipedia as a whole is getting worse as more people work on its non-technical and non-scientific part. In its best form, it will be the worst enemy of humanity because it is impossible for its editors and watchers to vigorously check every line in main entries and related discussion and present neutral point of view as claimed. It has become impossible for Wikipedia to have the biases and falsehood out in the open. Instead it will carry the baggage of something inherently biased presented as authoritative. Robert McHenry, former editor of Encyclopedia Britannica, is deeply skeptical that the process presently followed by Wikipedia would yield useful, accurate results.[13]

Wikipedia needs to do away with its controversial, biased and hate-inciting material taken out of the work of hate-mongers. Otherwise, the only way left for those in search of truth and those working for peace among people of different faiths is to avoid Wikipedia, particularly its articles on social and religious matters.

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Notes:

[1]. Andrew Orlowski, “Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems: Yes it's garbage, but it's delivered so much faster!” The Register, October 18, 2005. URL http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/18/wikipedia_quality_problem/

[2]. This is what I entered for Dhimmi under “status.” It was instantly removed: “The myth of equal citizen is so alluring that no reality to the contrary passes through it. Moreover, giving minority the status of zimmi in an Islamic State is a matter of honor for non-Muslims compared to the opposite picture presented to the world. Word zimmi is from zimma, which means responsibility of protecting and safeguarding the minority, its property and honor is on the shoulder of Islamic State. After describing the minimum requirements for a Muslim, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has used the same word even for Muslims in his saying translated as, “So this is the Muslim for whom Allah and His prophet are responsible.” (Reported by Anas Ibn Malik and narrated by Bukhari.) 

[3]. Links to discover the reality of a cult that is promoted on Wikipedia as a sect of Islam.  a). http://islamicweb.com/beliefs/cults/habasi_history.htm  
b). http://www.whyislam.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5001

[4]. See: “The mistaken Islamism,”: http://www.world-crisis.com/analysis_comments/468_0_15_0_C37/

[5]. Check Google for: Thomas Friedman a war within Islam.

[6]. Joseph D. Bryant, "Alabamian is brain behind Wikipedia,” The Birmingham News
December 31, 2005: http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/base/
news/1136024385322320.xml&coll=2&thispage=3

[7]. See: “What Does Wikipedia Want to Be?” November 27, 2004. URL: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/?p=200  

[8]. Eric Hellweg, “The Wikipedia War,” http://www.technologyreview.com/InfoTech/wtr_16057,308,p1.html

[9]. Dan Goodin, “Wikipedia Tightens Submission Rules, Associated Press. December 06, 2005. http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/12/06/D8EB23D0A.html  

[10]. Ibid. Dan Goodin.

[11]. Ibid. Dan Goodin.

[12]. Daniel Terdiman, “Is Wikipedia safe from libel liability?” CNET News.com. URL: http://news.com.com/Is+Wikipedia+safe+from+libel+liability/2100-1025_3-5984880.html?tag=nl

[13]. See: “What Does Wikipedia Want to Be?” November 27, 2004: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/?p=200