Tapping a Muslim online community

Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:57am EDT
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By Eva Lamppu

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Shabana Ahmadzai, 19, and Sara Bahmanpour, 20, like to hang out on a social network a fraction the size of Facebook. Their portraits enhanced by makeup or anime images, the women are logging on at Muxlim, a lifestyle community for Muslims.

Started in 2006 by an Egyptian national, the site in English is one of a handful of specifically Muslim communities developing a niche in a growing market. Others include Mecca.com and Islamicaweb.com.

Ahmadzai, who lives in Finland but is originally from Afghanistan, has been part of Muxlim for two years. She found it easier than on Facebook to make friends and join groups, and likes the site's culturally sympathetic sounding-board.

"We all share the same ideology, even if you're non-Muslim or even atheist... the fact that you are interested in knowing about Islam or knowing how Muslims are, it kind of brings the entire site into one," she told Reuters at a cafe in a Helsinki mall.

Muxlim is tiny: in Britain alone, it registered just 22,000 unique visitors in January versus 22 million for Facebook according to internet database ComScore.

ComScore does not register traffic for Mecca.com and Islamicaweb.com. Mecca.com says it has 50,000 users, while a member search on Islamicaweb.com returns 9,748 users.

The sites all feature videos, news, images, blogs and chat related to Muslim culture and Islam.

Ahmadzai's real-life friend Bahmanpour, a Finnish-Iranian who joined Muxlim recently, said she has 52 friends on the site mostly from the United States and Britain, and likes it because it involves Muslims from the conservative to the very liberal.   Continued...

<p>The Muxlim webportal, which bills itself as the world's largest Muslim lifestyle community, is seen on a computer screen in Stockholm February 25, 2009. The website has seen visitor figures leap to 1.5 million hits monthly from 100,000 but that is just the beginning, the founder of the site said. REUTERS/Bob Strong</p>