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ARAB WORLD: World's first Islamic search engine 'a success'

September 21, 2009 |  6:44 am

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The creators behind the new ImHalal.com, an Islamic-oriented Internet search engine that is intended to filter sites considered sinful under Islam, say theirs is a success story after attracting more than 500,000 visitors in their first two weeks online.

The search engine was set up by a Dutch company in an attempt to enable Muslims to "safely" surf the Web without accidentally encountering sinful, or "haraam," material. The site is being billed as the first of its kind in the world.

ImHalal.com works like any other search engine until users search for "forbidden" -- potentially illicit -- words. The site then rates the user's search request from one to three on a "haraam scale," indicating the likelihood that the term will generate salacious material.

Words such as “sex,” “porn” and “gay” generate a rating of three -- the highest score on the haraam scale.  As a response to searching for the word "sex," for example, a user will receive a warning from ImHalal.com that says: “Oops! Your search inquiry has a Haram level of 3 out of 3! I would like to advise you to change your search terms and try again.”

A search for the word "pig," an animal Muslims are not allowed to eat, gives a haraam warning of one out of three, and the term "pork" triggers a two rating.

The word "bikini" generates a warning of one out of three, but a search for "burkini,"  the full-body swimwear for Muslim women, is considered a halal search. If a term is considered to be clean and safe, the search result pops up immediately.

Users can search in several different languages, including Arabic, English and Farsi.

Twenty-year-old Reza Sardeha, founder of the AZS Media Group, which runs the site, describes ImHalal.com as a search engine designed to "help Muslims explore the Internet in a safe and clean environment."

Sardeha, who is based in Amsterdam, recently told the U.K.'s The Times that the idea behind the concept of ImHalal was born out of complaints from his friends about bumping into sinful content when using search engines such as Google.

Sardeha said the site also has proved successful with non-Muslim Internet surfers who don’t want to bump into illicit material when searching the Web.

"We already have received quite a number of positive feedback from non-Muslims saying they have set ImHalal.com as their homepage so that their children can explore the internet without coming across 'filth' as well,” he said.

Sardeha has high hopes for ImHalal.com. He told the U.K.'s The Times that the team behind the site believes its search engine could become the most used in the Middle East within a year. He hopes that, eventually, ImHalal.com will become one of the three most-used search engines in the world.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: The ImHalal.com search engine filters content considered sinful or forbidden under Islam. A search for the term "sexy" on the site triggers a warning of 1 out of 3. Credit: The Times of U.K.

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