Muslim search engine blocks nudity

China is not the only country with Internet censorship. In attempts to block explicit content, some Muslims have attempted to create filters.

First, I’ll look at Im Halal search engine, halal meaning religiously permissible. It has two filters: the first gives you “clean results” for your search, while the second rates the results on a haram (forbidden) rating of 1 to 3, making it easy to block out “potentially sinful material“, using the words of The Times Online.

The second search engine is called Taqwa, “piety” in Arabic. Monday’s The Age featured this new site in an article titled “Search and chat website for the modern Muslim“. Frustrated at Internet filtering in Dubai, Melbournians Kerim Nu’man and Marwaa El Hassan created and developed Taqwa, “the Conscience Engine”, which allows users to judge Internet content themselves and discuss it with others. It has three Pac-Man like icons for users to rate the result as halal, haram, or debatable.

Let’s test these search engines out. I’ll experiment with the words “sex education”. Then, I’ll look up something more explicit, such as “nudity”. Finally, thanks to the tips on users from Whirlpool, I’ll bypass the blacklist by looking up “nudity education”. Yes, a strange term, but it’s an experiment to see how the different filters work. Here are the results on Google, Im Halal, and Taqwa.

SEARCH ONE: “sex education”

Google results: Results seem neutral to me. I blocked out the image from the video on the right. I don’t know why there’s a duck there, but I assume it’s a video for younger children. Links on the right turn on alarm bells.

Im Halal’s results: No Wikipedia entry at all. Maybe it’s been dismissed as forbidden. Mostly links to scholars’ articles.

Taqwa’s results: The first two links are from Yahoo Answers, then Pro Choice America, and a site on sex for teens by teens. Google seemed more informative.

: If I were a Muslim who preferred Internet filtering, I’d stick to ImHalal and then Google.

SEARCH TWO: “nudity”

Google: Trust Wikipedia to be at the top of the list. The rest is basically what you expect from such a search.

ImHalal: Blocked. No results.

Taqwa: The Pac-Man skull of Haram.  At least there are results to distract you.

Verdict: If I were a Muslim parent and had to judge a search engine based on one search, I’d have my kid search on Taqwa.

SEARCH THREE: “nudity education”

Google: Wikipedia entry, a parent’s review of a movie that has nudity, the Sex Ed show, an advice column, and a debate of whether nudity is art on The Age. Given the strange combination of search terms, strange results are bound to come up.

ImHalal: We may have passed the filter, but we didn’t get much by doing so. This was the only relevant link, and it doesn’t focus on just the search term.

Taqwa: A warning on results, and then a link on asexuality. Well, there’s a Wikipedia entry.

Verdict: So we can pass blacklist terms, but we don’t get much by doing so.

Final verdict: Being used to Google, I wouldn’t bother moving to another search site, except for image search to avoid irrelevant mostly results (2/6 pictures on page 1 were not the team):

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4 Responses to Muslim search engine blocks nudity

  1. Lieu Thi Pham says:

    Such an interesting post! It prompted me to investigate my home country’s censorship laws – Vietnam. No surprises that censorship is still very much alive. Apparently the authorities are allowed to block websites and to track user activity. A spokesperson for the government had this comment to make about it:

    ‘Vietnam respects the right to information, communication and free speech but it also enforces the laws of Vietnam.’ People who think the government threatens freedom of thought have no logical basis for that”.

    I love the ‘but’.

    For the full story:

  2. esmayu says:

    Ha ha! “But”…. the government of Vietnam needs new editors.

    Here in AU, the main thing I’ve been unable to see where certain music videos, but through other not so legal channels, that wasn’t much of a problem. I can’t get my head around these laws.

  3. gegao says:

    May i please ask whether citizens have access in muslim countries? as far as i know, people don’t have access to wikipedia and you tube in China. When you type in ‘wikipedia’ in Google, it shows “the page is not found”.

    what i find really interesting is that not only internet has been censored in China, but also the communist party has control over traditional mass media, such as newspaper and TV channels. Information will be filtered when it is considered as “inappropriate”.

  4. esmayu says:

    I don’t know about all Muslim countries. Each has its own policy. In Turkiye (where I’m from), YouTube is blocked, not for religious reasons, but for political purposes. There were too many videos that “insulted Turkishness” or whatever that means. But everyone in Turkiye bypasses the blocks using DNS servers to access YouTube.

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