Salam Browser: Putting the world’s first ‘halal’ web browser to the test
SAFE and secure browsing, no annoying pop-up adverts and easy navigation of the treacherous, often-haram waters of the internet – these are the promises of Salam Browser as it makes its foray into the tricky world of internet surfing, with some interesting results.
The latest in a growing list of halal or sharia-compliant products and services, Salam Browser claims to adhere to “adab”, which loosely translates as Islamic etiquette. According to the website, this means web browsing with Salam will “help maintain purity of your heart and benefits your values”.
Another significant feature of the browser is that it helps users “avoid haram online”, claiming to have alerts on over 1.4 million webpages with content related to pornography, gambling, “offense to religion”, and other harmful content.
“Haram” is the Arabic term for “forbidden”, and can refer to anything off-limits for Muslims such as pornography, gambling, pork, alcohol, and adultery.
The new browser, which launched this year, has gained popularity online, albeit from rather incredulous netizens:
Hipster holy browser. Yang aku tak faham, apasal mamat ni nak letak muka dia promo tu browser. pic.twitter.com/KMKjXqsxYc
— Erna Mahyuni (@ernamh) May 19, 2016
(Translated: Hipster holy browser. What I don’t understand is, what is this guy doing putting his face on the promo for a browser?)
We decided to put it to the test by installing Salam Browser and seeing what we could or could not access, barring the obvious porn sites.
The browser uses Google as its main search engine, but claims to use VPN services to filter the results and provide extra security. A Quran verse greets you when you first open the browser:
It was fairly obvious that certain words would be heavily filtered, but we weren’t quite expecting the word “porn” to come up with absolutely no results at all:
Searching for specific body parts shows up mostly the same results as Google Chrome does, such as anatomy information and Wikipedia pages. However, when searching for “breasts”, both browsers show results for a YouTube video titled ‘7 Types of Breasts’ but only Google Chrome features a thumbnail picture of the video, which includes a woman wearing only a bra.
Both browsers show results for a chicken recipe titled ’34 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Recipes’, in case one was wondering.
We also searched for “pork” and “bacon” to see if using Salam would block or filter the search – it doesn’t but the results do vary from Google Chrome’s.
“Bacon” on Salam’s top results show ‘vegetarian bacon’, actor Kevin Bacon’s Twitter account, and English philosopher Francis Bacon’s Wikipedia page.
The same search on Chrome however throws up similar results, except for the suggestion of vegetarian bacon and Francis Bacon. Instead, a popular web page appears to be a filler-text generator called “Bacon Ipsum“.
Upon request, we searched for the term “MILF” (Mother I’d Like to F**k) to compare the results between Chrome and Salam, and found that Salam throws up results for Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an independence movement started in the Philippines.
Chrome, on the other hand, shows the Urban Dictionary definition for the term, as well as a Wikipedia page and an X-rated website using it as a tag.
Interestingly, Salam and Chrome’s results for the term ISIS also differ. Chrome’s top result, shown on the right side of the page, is information on the Institute of Strategic and International Studies. Alternatively, Salam’s top result is information on the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
It is worth noting that both browsers come up with the most recent news items relating to the search, and do not appear to be filtered using any bias.
We also searched a whole hoax of other rather rude words (fun fact: the word “cum” on Salam shows results for the Latin phrase ‘Cum Laude’, as well as a Christian bookstore called C.U.M. Books. Go figure), but overall our experience on Salam was actually quite positive.
Having said that, we have suspicions that Salam does not actually use a VPN service as it claims to do on its landing page – rather, it uses a series of extensions to filter results and provide security for the user.
The extensions we found include Salam Protect, Salam Safe Browsing, and Salam Search Safeguard. The extension that appears to hide a user’s geolocation, Salam Safe Gate, is nowhere to be found. We have reached out to the developers for clarification on this matter.
To further determine whether or not we could be geolocated, we used IP Tracker.org to find out and we were successful – right down to the Asian Correspondent‘s postcode.
So what can be said about the world’s first “halal” browser? Overall, it’s not bad – although it is essentially a Chrome duplicate and takes longer to load than other browsers because of all the filters the results go through.
We would probably recommend it for parents who don’t want their children accessing potentially “harmful” content, or at least explicit content.
Extra note: We couldn’t resist trying to access just one porn site, just for peace of mind. Suffice to say it did not work: