Islam Online: Replaced already?

As the crisis at Islam Online continued into its third day on Wednesday, striking workers expressed anger that the influential Islamic website’s Qatar-based parent company had already begun moving on without them.

Striker Fathi Abu Hatab said the website’s Arabic-language page had begun being updated with fresh material today. “That means they’ve already hired new people in Qatar,” he said.

Nevertheless, he added, “We’re still working. We haven’t left the organization yet.”

The website’s English-language portal, meanwhile, has remained unchanged since employees walked off the job Monday.

Abu Hatab said most of his colleagues were willing to continue providing content for the website–especially coverage of the ongoing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem–even while working the picket line in shifts.

“To supply this content is very important to us,” Abu Hatab said. “We haven’t resigned yet.”

But given the circumstances, mass resignations seem all but inevitable at this point–the only thing left is to hammer out final details of financial severance packages. Abu Hatab said most of his colleagues were simply unwilling to work under the new board of the Islamic Message Society, the Qatari NGO that funds the site.

According to several current and former employees of Islam Online’s Cairo newsroom, the board has begun imposing editorial restrictions that are designed, they say, to portray a narrowly-focused conservative Islamic vision.

The rapid appearance of new content from Qatar on Wednesday may indicate that the new board–having judged the Cairo office to be insubordinate–was determined to purge the newsroom and start over, either here or in Qatar.

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