IslamOnline website in crisis as employees in Egypt stage sit-in

Future of one of the world’s largest Islamic sites in doubt as row escalates between Qatari managers and workers in Egypt

The future of one of the largest Islamic websites in the world was in doubt Tuesday after hundreds of staff walked out, accusing new managers of trying to hijack the site in order to promote a hardline, conservative agenda. IslamOnline, which draws over 120,000 visitors a day and is one of the most popular internet destinations in the Middle East, was plunged into crisis following an attempt by the website’s senior management in Qatar to wrest control of the site’s content away from its editorial offices in Cairo. Insiders claim that the move, which would involve many of the site’s 350 Egypt-based staff losing their jobs, is part of a broader effort by conservative elements in the Gulf to reshape the identity of a media outlet long viewed as a bastion of liberal and reformist voices within the Islamic world. With a reputation for including non-Muslims and secular Muslims on its payroll, the multilingual website has gained global popularity as a source for theological answers to questions involving everything from homosexuality to Hamas. It enjoyed a degree of editorial independence from its financial backers, but that independence came under threat last month when a new set of Qatar-based managers criticised journalists in Egypt, where most of the site’s content is produced, for running articles on Valentine’s Day and film festivals, and began to shut down sections of the website devoted to culture and youth. That put the site’s board of directors on a direct collision course with staff, who soon found that their access to the website’s servers had been restricted. After hearing reports that many of them were to be fired as part of an editorial shake-up, over 250 staff went on strike

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/16/egypt-islam-online-crisis-workers-protest

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