Google, the number one search engine on the internet, has published its list of most searched keywords in 2013. In breaking with the tradition of usually a hot female actress or singer topping the list, this year “Mohammad’s mother’s name” has come up as the most searched term throughout the world. “Miley Cyrus VMA” has come up a close second followed by “Edward Snowden” at number three.
Sociologists across the globe have described the emergence of a character in a religious figure’s life featuring in a 21st century web search as a ‘disturbing trend’. They could easily put forward their theories on why a certain Miley Cyrus twerking and putting out her tongue like a panting dog would collect the maximum eyeballs and hence the most searched item. If there is one thing that unites the internet-searches of both the developing and developed worlds, it is something that borders on porn. While an underdeveloped country like Pakistan (the Land of the Pure) topped the list of countries searching for all kinds of “sex”, one could expect a developed nation like the USA putting up “Miley Cyrus twerking” as its most searched term. The most outrageous the videos or photographs, the better the chance that they would make it to the top of the most searched list.
One could also rationalize why people standing for a cause such as Anna Hazare against corruption or Baba Ramdev against black-money would always come a distant fifth or sixth to the likes of Sunny Leone, Katrina Kaif et al in our desi context. This is again reaffirmed in the global context where an Edward Snowden will always lag behind a Miley Cyrus. This is, after all, a reflection of people’s priorities. Think of your college campus. Did the blood-donation camp there attract more crowds or the fashion show? Does your fb post regarding an anti-corruption rally gets liked and shared more? Or do your beach-holiday pics with bikini-clad women in the background?
But what has baffled all experts is this fact that the emergence of Mohammad’s mother’s name at the top of the most searched list is not in keeping with this trend. The data in Google Trends for the first half of 2013 was, but not the one thereafter. The terrorist attacks in a Nairobi mall in September 2013 changed the way people searched on the internet. This is after initial reports that the terrorists weeded out the Muslims from the non-Muslims by testing their knowledge on Islam. Among the questions the terrorists asked was this one: “What was Mohammad’s mother’s name?”.
Deciding to investigate this further, our Faking News reporter asked a professor (who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter) at the newly created Department of Global Media, University of Harvard : What do the top web-searches in 2013 (1. Mohammad’s mother’s name 2. Miley Cyrus twerking 3. Snowden 4. Boston Marathan bombing) indicate? Have people across the globe really started caring about issues like terrorism, global warming, human rights, alternate energy, right to privacy? ?
After thinking for a few minutes, the professor shook his head vigorously. This was his response: “You see, the task of analyzing Google Trends or social media trends is not so simple. Somewhere deep down I wish it were, but unfortunately it’s not so. There are different reasons for different people searching for different things on the web. I have tried to categorize some of them. So here are my conjectures for these different groups of internet-searchers who made Mohammad’s mother’s name the top one this year:
1. The fundamentalist Muslims: They searched for Mohammad’s mother’s name to verify that their own knowledge of Quran and Prophet Mohammad(pbuh) is correct. You see, they are constantly looking to increase their knowledge and interpretations of Quran, Mohammad’s life and times, Hadith, Suras and so on. It is natural that for this group of knowledge seekers, the search for Mohammad’s mother’s name will be followed by Mohammad’s father’s name, his wives’ names (in proper orders), Mohammad’s disciples names, Mohammad’s enemies’ names and so on.
2. The non-Muslims: This is a no-brainer. The Theory of Evolution states that the fittest will always survive. What will you do in a life-and-death situation? You’ll definitely do whatever is needed to save your and your offsprings’ lives. So if you’re confronted by terrorists asking what your religion is, there are limited options. Pretend to be dead, or pretend to be a Muslim; actually recite the Shahada when asked, or even better, rattle off all the names mentioned in 1 above even before being asked by the terrorists.
3. The liberal Muslims: This is the group that is mistrusted by both 1 and 2 above for obvious reasons. But why they would care for Mohammad’s mothers name was difficult to imagine even for a Harvard professor like me. The main reason I could come up with is guilt. That’s right! Guilt at not knowing enough Quran to be able to rattle off all those names in 1 above. Guilt at being able to do so little to change the worldviews of group 1. Guilt at being alive when group 2 was being slaughtered in the mall and elsewhere. They need to maintain a delicate balance to be in the good books of groups 1 and 2 above.”
Meanwhile, beating global trends, India threw a surprise with its top 3 searches being: 1) IRCTC 2) IPL 2013 3) GATE 2014. “This is what keeps folks like us employed”, the Global Media professor signed off.