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Virtual Warfare: The Internet as the New Site for Global Religious Conflict

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This paper explores the ways in which a resurgent Hindu fundamentalism (Hindutva) is redefining Hinduism and Hindu identities in a transnational, global context. The global project of Hindutva makes use of new global communication channels, including the Internet, and is apparently espoused by influential sections of the transnational Hindu middle class, especially in the United States. This paper examines a selected sample of Internet sites devoted to the spread of religious and fundamentalist beliefs and ideas particularly relevant to India and transnational Hinduism, and explores the ways in which the Internet is changing the shape of communities and the ways in which they represent one another. The paper puts forth the argument that in the context of globalization, the Net has become an important space for the creation of transnational religious identities. The Net is shaping religion, specifically Hinduism, in distinct ways and is the newest expression of religion's changing face. The battle for souls is being fought on Internet sites. The questions of this paper relate to the modes of representation of "other religions" as revealed particularly by Hindu sites, the ways in which Internet sites garner audiences, and the strategies they adopt to link themselves with both global audiences and local groups. A sociological analysis will reveal the shape of these discourses and link their popularity with the social and political context of globalization, a liberalized economy, and the organization of religious practice in post1990s India.


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