June 19, 2019
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Halal surfing: Web browser targets 1.8 billion Muslim followers

 An undated handout image shows Hajjah Hasni Zarina, the director general of SalamWeb Technologies, at the company's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. EPA-EFE/HANDOUT

An undated handout image shows Hajjah Hasni Zarina, the director general of SalamWeb Technologies, at the company's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. EPA-EFE/HANDOUT

By Noel Caballero

Bangkok, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- A Malaysian tech firm claims to have developed the world’s first mobile and desktop browser that is compliant with Islamic values to target the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims by offering them a safe and ethically-sensitive online experience.

Among other features, SalamWeb has a clock showing prayer timings as per your geographical location, a compass indicating the direction that a Muslim must face while praying and signals warnings when you try to open a website that may be forbidden according to Islam's teachings.

The multilingual browser with a simple interface to which its user can add other linked applications, all in accordance with Sharia, made its debut earlier this year.

"Generation M, the younger Muslims who have a strong belief in their faith and are technology-savvy, is looking at more practical solutions to support their needs," Hajjah Hasni Zarina, the director general of SalamWeb Technologies, told EFE in an email.

With over 1.8 million Muslims in the world or 24 percent of the global population, the company, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, sees a "huge opportunity" to exploit the niche market and "the potential in making technology the enabler to enhance the lives” Muslims around the globe.

"Our guidelines have been developed with the care and guidance of Muslim adab (discipline) based on the principles of the Shariah (Sharia)," Zarina said in the email.

She claimed that the certificate for the browser was endorsed by the Shariah Supervisory Board of Amanie Advisors, comprising of scholars from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Malaysia.

In order to respect and uphold fundamentals of Islam, the browser filters search options and allows users to classify websites as appropriate, neutral and inappropriate.

"Salam Web was founded with a vision to provide a safer, private and ethically-sensitive online experience (...) This means that harmful content is filtered out and visits to pornographic or inappropriate websites are forewarned with a harmful content ahead alert," Zarina said.

Before accessing an "inappropriate" website, a red warning message appears on the screen and leaves the user with an option of continuing to the non-recommended website or return to the start.

One of the promises of the browser, according to its creators, is to "combat" fake news through trusted media, and with personalized information about the happenings around the world.

"Technology is in constant change and our world today presents new, unknown challenges and opportunities," the head of the tech company explained.

The browser also has an application called "SalamSadaqah” for offering zakat, a form of alms-giving to share your wealth with the poor. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam.

For every search carried out through SalamWeb, the company claims that it will make a donation to charitable causes.

"Most of us browse the internet on a daily basis without giving a second thought to how we can use this incredible tool for a larger, more charitable experience," said Zarina, who seeks to "empower" the global community with this tool.

The user can also make direct donations to causes such as the construction of schools, mosques or houses for Muslim homeless, as well as supporting families to pay for their medical emergencies.

The browser, developed since 2016 on the Chromium open source software and to which a messaging program can also be added, is available in multiple languages, including English, Bahasa (Malaysian and Indonesian), Urdu, Bangladeshi and Arabic.

And although it is based on Islamic principles, "any person regardless of age or creed" can use it, according to the company.

"We believe that the benefits can be reaped by families, parents, and caretakers who are worried about their children's access to porn, unsavory content, and those who are seeking for a safer, private and ethically-sensitive online experience," Zarina said.

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