A remarkable testimony to the power of the modern mass media
revolution was noted in the complaints of an Egyptian cleric in 2005:
Leading Egypt Cleric Wants Fewer Frivolous Edicts
The chief Muslim cleric in Egypt wants tighter controls on who may issue religious edicts, or fatwas. Egypt's Grand Mufti says more fatwas have been issued in the past 10 years than in the previous 1400 years. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to issue or receive a fatwa, one of the religious edicts that guide Muslims' interpretations of Islamic law. Someone with a specific question about what Islam allows can get a personalized fatwa on the matter over the Internet, through television or via cellphone. The number of religious edicts keeps growing, and because Islam has no central authority there is no set system for governing who is allowed to issue them.
This explosion of unorthodox religious activity can only be compared to that of Christian Europe in the early 16th century. Just as Gutenberg’s invention marked the first mass media revolution in the West, the Internet and satellite TV are now doing the same thing in the Islamic world. However, the outcome may be very different, and the parallels between the Protestant Reformation and what is happening in the Islamic world now shouldn’t be pushed too far. The introduction of the printing press was delayed by several centuries in the Islamic world because of religious resistance and never had the same effect there as it did in the Christian West, which should strongly indicate that although technology is important, it isn’t everything. Culture matters. Islam does not have quite the same centralized hierarchy as the Catholic Church had in Europe, which means that the change cannot be linked to a specific date as it did with Martin Luther’s 95 theses. Although it did ultimately have consequences far beyond the borders of Europe, and although it did happen at a time of Ottoman Muslim expansion in the Mediterranean, the Reformation was primarily an internal, Christian and European affair. The turmoil in the Islamic world now affects more or less the entire world, and many of the critics are based in rival civilizations. And last, but not least: The religions are entirely different. Christianity was reformable, whereas Islam probably isn’t.
Does this mean that the current information revolution will destroy Islam? That is the view of David Wood:
The truth about Muhammad has been one of the world's best-kept secrets. For centuries, it has been virtually impossible to raise objections about the character of Muhammad in Muslim countries, for anyone who raised such objections would (following the example set by Muhammad himself) immediately be killed. Outside the Muslim world, there has been little interest in Islam. But things have changed. Now many people are interested in Islam, and Muslims aren't able to silence everyone. Moreover, with the advent of the Internet, it is now impossible to keep Muhammad's life a secret. The facts about the founder of Islam are spreading very rapidly, and Muslims are frantically scurrying to defend their faith. But the information superhighway is paving over the ignorance that has for centuries been the stronghold of Islamic dogma. In the end, Islam will fall, for the entire structure is built upon the belief that Muhammad was the greatest moral example in history, and this belief is demonstrably false.
This optimistic view ignores several important facts. Many of the worst Islamists have above average education, as did many supporters of Communism in the West. Which shows that, unfortunately, increased knowledge does not always translate into increased wisdom. The second catch is that Muslims do not view the world in the same way as Westerners or infidels do. In his book The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam, renowned cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi explains how Islam has restricted the authority to legislate the haram and the halal (forbidden and permitted), taking it out of the hands of human beings and reserving it for the Allah alone through explicit verses of the Qur'an and from clear ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad. The jurists' task does not go beyond explaining what Allah has decreed to be halal or haram. Prohibiting something which is halal is similar to committing shirk (idolatry).
According to traditional Islamic law, and confirmed by leading scholars today, it is perfectly allowed for a Muslim man to have forced sex with the infidel concubines he just captured by massacring their relatives in front of their eyes. Muhammad himself did this several times. You just shouldn’t wear a silk tie while doing it. Likewise, it is perfectly permissible, halal, to behead a Buddhist schoolteacher in southern Thailand, but it's haraam to wear a gold ring at the same time. This thinking is why slavery was eventually abandoned and forbidden by the Judeo-Christian West, where the emphasis is on what’s moral or immoral, but only banned through external pressure by the same West in the Islamic world, where the emphasis is on what’s permitted or forbidden. It also explains why Qaradawi himself is reputed to be married to a girl in her pre-teens, 60 years his junior. He is perfectly aware of the fact that Muhammad had sex with a 9-year-old child, and has confirmed, in Arabic, but not in English, that this is allowed even today. To say that “Muhammad was immoral” just won’t wash with a truly devout Muslim, who is trapped in a circular thinking where the very concept of “morality” begins and ends with the example of Muhammad and his Sunna.