Scholar Spotlight on Mona Abdel-Fadil: Mediatized Religious Environments

In today’s society, religion is an ultra-sensitive topic. Religious attire can often spark controversy or religious debate, especially attire of public figures.

Mona Abdel-Fadil, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oslo, discussed religious-political interactions online in the journal article, “Identity Politics in a Mediatized Religious Environment on Facebook: Yes to Wearing the Cross Whenever and Wherever I Choose.” This article explores the prohibition of the cross for Norwegian news anchors. A special interest Facebook group was established to discuss the visibility of Christianity in the media, but ended up creating conversations on immigration, Islam, atheism and more.

In this study, Abdel-Fadil focused on the ways that media participants are, “amplifying, multiplying, intensifying or subduing cultural and religious conflicts.” She noted how various groups have different ways of enacting conflicts and approaching challenges. Through research, Abdel-Fadil found that a notable number of women were participating in the online debate with more “intensity, and far more emotional labour” than most men. Men tend to have intensity in their responses, yet they do not have near as much regularity as women.

A significant finding exemplified in Abdel-Fadil’s article, “Conflict and Affect Among Conservative Christians on Facebook”, is that “media users appear to act in near identical emotive patterns across a variety of conflicts irrespective of theme, so long as ‘trigger themes’ such as ‘climate change’, ‘financial crisis’ or ‘immigration’ are involved.” Through this study, Abdel-Fadil suggests that online conflict may be seen as entertainment and enjoyment for some users.

Abdel-Fadil notes that her research demonstrates the difference between believing vs. belonging in Christian culture. Her conclusions portray that one can both, “strongly believe and perpetuate an exclusionist reading of Christianity that is also very much about belonging.”