Digital Images and Visions of Jihad: Virtual Orientalism and the Distorted Lens of Technology

Author(s) Raymond Pun
Contact Raymond Pun, St. John’s University, 8000 Utopia Pkwy, Jamaica, NY, 11439, USA. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 7, Iss. 1, 2013, pp. 94-115
Published May 10, 2013
Type Comment
Abstract Since the aftermath of September 11, Western media have repeatedly lampooned and echoed the term "jihad" as a principle of the Islamic faith, arguing that this term inspires Muslims to wage wars against the west and modernity. The studies of jihad as a core belief of radical Islamic groups are numerous; the term is not a new phenomenon; it is mentioned in the Quran at least 164 times in various meanings and contexts. This piece analyzes how contemporary technology specifically search engines such as Google Images, pervades, distorts and reinvents Orientalist images of the term jihad from a western worldview. In these visual representations of jihad, we find abundant images of violence, mystery, terror, and even mockery and satire of Islam. The study focuses on the effects of these digital images to the consumers and how technology reinforces and reproduces “visual knowledge” in a transfixed level that neglects the multiple and ambiguous meanings of jihad in the Islamic context. This piece is not arguing for an authentic visual representation of the notion of jihad but is suggesting that the role of contemporary technology can be complicit in distorting and reconfiguring the meanings of sacred texts and ideas of Islam in the West.
Keywords jihad, Quran, Islam, internet, study of religion, photography, information and communication technology, Islam and civil society, authority, Internet studies