Our beloved Middle East/North Africa editor Haitham Sabbah was recently interviewed by Italian journalist Paola Caridi, who writes for news agency Lettera22. Their conversation focuses on some of the deep questions of the Middle Eastern blogosphere. Why do people blog – are reasons personal or political? Are blogs a method for avoiding media censorship? Why do so many arabic speakers blog in English? In answering this last question, Haitham discusses the key role bridge blogs have in connecting the Middle East with the rest of the world:
I believe English blogs of Arabic bloggers has different objective than those written in Arabic, and that is the reach to the west in most, and the first language of some for those who live outside the Arab world.
For decades, there were no open channels between the East and the West. Blogs was and still is a great opportunity for Arab with bilingual skills to reach other around the world. To start a process of “learning to unlearn” on the non-Arab mass, so that the old believes and values perceived about Arabs, their culture and society are corrected and/or updated, and to represent an alternative point of view than that presented by local and foreign official views. It is very essential mind opener tool.
One of the interesting characteristics of the Middle Eastern blogosphere is the wealth of bloggers like Haitham who blog explicitly to challenge perceptions of the Middle East in North American and European media. (See Mahmoud Al-Yousif's “about” page on his blog, Mahmoud's Den, for a mission statement on this subject: “Now I try to dispel the image that Muslims and Arabs suffer from – mostly by our own doing I have to say – in the rest of the world. I am no missionary and don't want to be. I run several internet websites that are geared to do just that, create a better understanding that we're not all nuts hell-bent on world destruction.”)
The whole interview is very much worth a read if you're interested in a better understanding of blogs from the Middle East.