JEDDAH: A fatwa issued by Egypt’s top mufti saying that buying “likes” on the social media network Facebook is prohibited under Islam because it is a form of fraud has stirred controversy in Egypt.
Grand Mufti Shawki Allam posted on the Facebook page of Dar Al-Ifa, the Sunni Muslim institution in charge of religious rulings, earlier this week and said it was “religiously prohibited” to pay someone to click a “like” on a promotion.
He said in a statement carried by local media that buying fake Facebook likes was tantamount to fraud. The mufti was commenting on a growing trend among young entrepreneurs who use the network to market their businesses.
“If those ‘likes’ are coming through ads or paid promotions on Facebook so that the ad can reach as many users as possible for a certain amount of money, then this is religiously permitted,” Allam said.
“But if those likes are fake and do not reflect the true number of users who saw the ad, then it’s religiously prohibited. The latter case is a sort of fraud that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stressed is haram when he said ‘He who deceives is not of us’,” Allam said.
While the religious decree has not resonated with ordinary social media users, it drew mixed reactions from ambitious youngsters who rely heavily on Facebook to promote their products.
The platform has emerged as a powerful promotion tool in recent years, given its huge popularity across society. It is also less costly than other means of promotion, such as ads on television and in newspapers.
“I personally agree with what the mufti has said. I think this case is clear-cut,” said Somaia Wael, a makeup artist who is creating a Facebook page to promote herself.
“I’m just about to start and I clearly cannot afford at this stage any sort of unfair competition. I would be crushed by the established makeup artists who buy fake likes on their pages. So I really hope the mufti’s fatwa will convince many to abandon this action. Otherwise, I will have no other option but to follow suit and buy fake likes myself, although I really believe that it’s haram,” she said.
A tech-savvy youngster who helps companies to buy Facebook likes to increase his reach said his job was an essential part of the social media world.
When contacted by Arab News, he said he would never give up what he was doing. “I respect religion and the mufti but it’s not really a big deal. Who would get harmed if a Facebook page gets more likes? No one,” he said.
Facebook ads in Egypt can reach more than 30 million users, the majority aged between 25 and 35. According to experts, there are millions of Egyptian Facebook accounts that are fake and have been used to drive “likes” or manipulate interest and demand.