Perusing the Facebook group “United in Islam in South Africa” one finds a variety of posts that might catch one’s attention. From agriculturally informed exhortations, to charity, to the posting of events in Tshwane/Pretoria, to quotes of Ibn Taymiyyah and other sources the posts on the page are wide in range, source, and influence—some yielding likes and comments, others sitting silent on the page.
One particularly popular post called for du’a (non-obligatory prayer) to be made for rain in the Gauteng province including Johannesburg. On several days a woman began by saying “Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem” (“in the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful”) expressing shukr (thanks) and calling for rakaats (units of prayer) in grateful response. The other most popular post on the page shows Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Europe.
Here, on Facebook, in the digital borderlands, the global and local are meeting as South African Muslims interact with Muslims from across the globe and share media, meditations, and methods of piety online with “likes” and “comments” the affirmations in place of vocal takbirs (informal expressions of faith with the acclamation, “Allahu akbar” or “God is great”). The petitions and posts on the page are predicated by both global concerns and local conditions. As such, this short vignette and case can serve well as a piquing entrée into the digital and electronic media world, which is part of a large religious, social, economic, and political patchwork across Africa.
As intimated by the case above Africa’s religious media scene is rapidly evolving and constantly engaging. The book New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa seeks to cast a critical eye on this area of study and “focus on the diverse religious transformations being generated by the explosion of media technologies—both old and new—across Africa” (p. 5). It is the contention of this review that this text is a helpful primer on the historical and contemporary ways that media—old and new, print and digital—have shaped, are shaped by, and continue to shape religion in Africa.