“We will teach you what it is important for every Muslim to know”, this is what the imams Rachid el Jay and Abdelmonaïm Boussenna promised, in the launch video of their Dini TV platform – my religion in Arabic -, with a Koranic psalmody in the background. On this family platform with a refined graphic charter, inspired by Netflix, various content is offered, from fiqh – jurisprudence in Islam -, sira – the biography of the Prophet -, passing through the dogmas and nutrition in the light of the Koran.
There are teachings on “purification of the soul” or “modesty in all its splendor” on the adult side and on “invocations for young and old” on the child side. In the series “Your big brothers are talking to you” dedicated to teenagers, the speakers discuss topics such as “marriage or sin” and offer live question-and-answer sessions.
These influencer imams are not at their first attempt. Rachid el Jay, 42, has had several lives. A former Salafist who achieved notoriety thanks to sermons violently condemning rock music, he did an about-face after 2015, moderated his remarks and subscribed to the tradition of the Malikite school, which is the majority in Morocco, from where he is native. With more than two million subscribers on YouTube, 2.6 million on Facebook and 790,000 on Instagram, the imam speaks on the web. He also runs an online pilgrimage agency.
Equally popular and connected, his Franco-Moroccan sidekick, Abdelmonaïm Boussenna, former imam in Roubaix, has sparked several controversies, for having promoted a brand of burkinis intended for young girls or for having supported Tariq Ramadan, accused of rapes.
Withdrawal into the social field
Specialized in online sermons, both have a conservative and normative discourse, focusing concretely on what one can or cannot do: use toothpaste or perfume during the month of Ramadan, perform ablutions on a bandage, pray barefoot. “These preachers operated a partial withdrawal from the political field and a withdrawal into the social out of pragmatism”analyzes Haoues Seniguer, lecturer at Sciences Po Lyon.
It is this same speech of the haraam and halal – the illicit and the licit – relayed by Dini TV, where about ten speakers are present. “People are looking for simple answers. The more precise the stated rule, the more it creates the buzz”says Benjamin Hodayé, a researcher on Islam. “There is a reassuring side to the prescriptive discourse. You just have to follow the rules to be a good Muslim and avoid cross roads. Observance of the rules leads to a successful life”adds Haoues Seniguer.
“Religion does not escape the globalized and deterritorialized logics of our time. Dini TV is part of this globalization of belief, offering atomized individuals conservative contentfurther believes the researcher, it is the paradoxical convergence between individualism and moral integralism”.
A welcome new French-speaking offer
A winning formula, it seems. The platform, launched in 2020, records around 68,000 visits per month and reaches an audience of almost exclusively French Internet users, with sufficient means to afford a subscription at €29 per month. “ These imams have a loyal following that has followed them for years. They are now in their thirties, young parents who are also looking for content for their children »analyzes Benjamin Hodayé.
” This is the kind of initiative that allows us, non-Arabic speaking Muslim parents, to teach religion to our children in the correct way and in the order of priorities al hamdoulillah”reacts Oum Nora on the dinienligne forum, where requests for phonetic transcription of the suras flow. “They are people with knowledge. May God reward them.”writes for its part an instagrammer, about the imams intervening on the platform.
Outside of this community of devotees, the two designers of Dini are difficult to reach. Rachid el Jay, victim of an assassination attempt in front of the Brest mosque where he officiated in 2019, now lives in Dubai. Reached by telephone, the latter hung up after hearing the term “journalist” and did not answer thereafter. Public figures and stars of the web in the connected Muslim sphere, preachers see no interest in being publicized in circles that would be less acquired by them. They prefer to stick to their primary mission: “transmit, explain and continue to propagate Islam in depth”. Or more exactly their rigorous vision of Islam.
The Dini platform is
A launch in September 2020.
Two founders: Rachid el Jay and Abdelmonaïm Boussenna
A subscription of 29 euros per month or 290 euros per year.
Nearly 70,000 visitors per month, of which 96% come from France, 2% from Belgium, 1% from Italy.
Over 50 hours of video content.