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Manal – The bold and the beautiful Moroccan blogger

Manal, author of Carpe DiemDo you remember Jyllandsposten? The newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet (PBUH)? Representatives of the paper refused to meet with the BBC, CNN or the Danish TV, but agreed to meet Manal!!

Yes, Manal is a student-doctor who blogs and wants to make a difference. Her blog Manal Carpe Diem (fr) is a very special one with original posts that show authenticity but also boldness. I was curious to know more about her trip to Denmark (fr), so I asked her some questions. Her answers were so simple yet so inspiring that I decided to share this interview with you.

I read in your blog that you went to Denmark to make a difference, tell me more about it..

I went to Denmark to participate in a week of dialogue between Muslim and Danish youth. I wanted to give them an other image about Islam rather than burned flags and embassies, because this is not Islam. Unfortunately, the image conveyed by the media is totally wrong, and I’m happy that I could change some of the prejudices about my religion and I could prove to the Danes that Islam calls for peace and tolerance, calls for respect and freedom not for violence and terrorism. Thanks to God, I could read in the eyes of many of them a lot of amazement and surprise, and I’m sure that they won’t be influenced anymore by the wrong ideas spread about Islam.

Was it a personal initiative ?

Well, the week in Denmark was an initiative taken by Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke , to deepen the relationships between Danes and The Muslim world. The program was a combination of cultural meetings and exchanges of views with politicians, media and opinion makers. There were about 42 young Muslims from different countries, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Kenya, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Palestine… The experience was really great, and the Danes showed a real will to mend this big wound that is still bleeding, and to repair this big mistake. Of course, no official apologies have been made, but all of those who were with our group, politicians and the average Joe citizens were sorry about what happened. They were all preaching the freedom of speech but they also realized that publishing such cartoons was a big mistake. I believe that respect should be a rule if we really want to live peacefully.

What about the visit you paid to Jyllandsposten?

One of the most important steps of the week was the visit to Jyllandsposten, the newspaper that published the cartoons. They refused to see the BBC, the CNN, the Danish TV, but they agreed to meet us. It was a good point, even if we had a unilateral dialogue. The media convey some of the truth but not the whole truth. The media didn’t show to the Muslim world that there are some Danes who protested against the publication of the cartoons, and they showed to Danes that Muslims only burned flags and embassies… this is not the whole truth…
Fortunately, they’re some Danes who took some concrete initiatives like creating a website anotherdenmark or inviting some young people to get to know more about the Danish culture and promote dialogue, I believe that misunderstanding is the result of ignorance.

Now, let's try to know more about you. Why do you blog?

My blog is a space where I can express myself freely and spontaneously. It’s a great experience since it allows youto meet people from different backgrounds. It also gives you the opportunity to talk about many issues and share your opinions with the whole world without censorship and with only “a click”. I don’t like to share my intimate life with the others, I prefer to talk more about my daily life in the hospital or about my different experiences with NGO’s but from time to time I do post about private matters.

What do you think about the Moroccan blogosphere?

I see it as an extraordinary melting pot, exactly the way the Moroccan society is. Every day, we “witness the birth” of more and more , from different backgrounds and fields. Each space is unique and each blog brings a fresh air to the blogosphere. I had the opportunity to meet many bloggers and I was really amazed, some became very close friends…

How do you explain the fact that most of the Moroccan blogs are in French instead of Arabic or Moroccan dialect?

Most of the Moroccan bloggers have a high educational level, there are a lot of university students. The Moroccan universities teach in French, then the majority find it easier to express themselves in this language. One other reason that can explain this fact, is that we blog to transmit a message, and the choice of the language shouldn't really be an issue, it is only a tool! The most important thing is that my readers get my messages..

What do you “hope” from your blogging experience?

Learn more and more, meet new people and enjoy the experience of sharing…

Who reads your blog?

Lots of people (laughing) bloggers and non bloggers. Actually many readers send me e-mails to encourage me and congratulate me for the choice of my subjects, or sometimes to express their disagreement. I know trough the statistics that a lot of visitors come to see me…

—–

Well, I do know that I am a regular visitor of “Carpe Diem”, and she amazes me everyday for the choice of her subjects, and many times, for her boldness. So good luck Manal and thank you.

That's it for today. See you next Wednesday, Inshallah.

28 comments

  • Excellent interview! I am very impressed with Manal’s proactive involvement in bridging the gap of understanding between the Danes and the Muslims.

    Also I would like to comment on Manal’s answer regarding the use of the French language in Moroccan blogs– my preferred subject ;-)

    I think the language of the message is as important as the message itself. When you blog in a foreign language you automatically exclude a large chunk of the population from your audience.

    In Morocco, the French language is not as widely mastered as the Arabic language. Even at the university level, liberal arts and law students use Arabic most.

    Larbi, the famous Moroccan blogger, recognized this fact and started writing some of his posts in Arabic since last week.

  • Don’t know what to say to thank you sweetie.
    It was a great pleasure working with you lady. Another interview? Hahaha.

    Ahmed (blafrancia) >> Thanks a lot for your words :-), I’m happy that I could change some of the wrong ideas about Islam.
    I would like also to comment your point about the language, ;-). Actually I do agree with you, when you blog in a foreign language, there is a big audience excluded, but that’s not my aim at all!!
    You said that French is not well mastered as Arabic, do you think this theory concerns internet users in Morocco?
    I read with big pride the Arabic post of Larbi, and I’m conscious about the importance of the language in conveying messages, but I still consider it as a tool.
    I’ve already posted in Arabic, and I’m planning to do it again…
    The most important thing is to communicate…
    Thanks a lot for your words…

  • John Arthur

    You can prove that “Islam calls for peace and tolerance, calls for respect and freedom not for violence and terrorism”?

    Well, that is strange, because I can take the Quran and prove to you that Islam calls for war and oppression, teaches hate and anger, and promotes violence and terrorism. Of course, I have current events on my side, so I guess my understanding is the more accepted.

    Furthermore, I can take the hadiths and show you that Islam’s great prophet did so many vile and dispicable things.

    The fact is that Muslims such as Manal are in denial about their religion. Yes, Morroco is one of the more tolerant (or better, less repressive) of the Muslim nations, but it still limits freedom of conscience and Islam in that country still persecutes other religions.

    Things will not get better (if ever) until Muslims take a good hard look at their faith. They cannot continue to make excuses and blame others. If there is a “gap” in understanding, it is on the Muslim side. Would not it be better if Muslims learned “respect” and “tolerance” from the West instead of the West having to learn to “understand” Muslim sensitivities? How dare Muslims demand others not speak their opinions because it hurts Muslim feelings. How dare they criticize the Danes when so many Islamic societies are built on repression? How dare they criticize the media about cartoons that show disrespect when Muhammad himself committed so many evil deeds. I will not go into details, but you can be sure that I know what I am talking about. Perhaps this is the key to what makes Islam so violent – it is just a matter of Muslims doing the same things their great leader and moral example did. Think about that.

    Bad times are coming. I blame our leaders for not having the courage to speak up and say the things that need to be said. I even blame people like Manal – obviously a kind, sweet well intentioned soul – for closing her eyes to the reality that surrounds her and not asking the questions that need to be asked. Manal, please think about these things. Your idea of ‘understanding’ is basically one group imposing their ideals on another – and, worst of all, those ideals promote intolerance, hate, and even violence.

    I wish I could have written something nicer, but somebody has to be honest about these things.

    John Kactuz

  • Thank you Farah, this is really a good initiative.

    Soumiaz

  • Wawwwwwwww
    En plus la photo est superbe !
    Ce n’est que justice rendue à notre adorable Manal ! Franchement une fille qui parcours le monde pour prêcher la bonne parole, qui s’engagent dans l’associatif, qui trouve du temps pour faire un million de choses et qui est belle et charmante en plus … ce n’est pas une déesse ?

    J’avais l’honneur de rencontrer Manal à Paris. Tout ça n’est que la face visible de son personnage. Mais il y a quelque chose en plus : sa sensibilité et son grand cœur, son sens d’écoute, son sourire … (la liste est longue et je trouve pas les mots) ! Mon Dieu Manal je te lance pas des fleurs, mais vraiment rien à dire parfaite et adorable.
    Maaah aalik à Manal
    Et merci à notre cheville ouvrière celle qui fait tant de choses en toute discrétion j’ai nommé la fée Foulla.

  • Hi from Malaysia. I’m very far away from Europe and Global Voices Online has been quite a pleasant discovery. Only found out about it from http://freeexpressionasia.wordpress.com/. Great testimony to the borderless nature of the Internet.

    Congratulations to Manal and all the others who’re forging ties with the Europeans and educating them on the true nature of Islam. The violence that now plague us has nothing to do religion — Islam or any other — The violence is the result of world politics and the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people. Only when there is peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, will the violence stop. Unfortunately the US in particular have no understanding of this.

  • Hi from Malaysia. Good work in forging understanding Manal.

  • >>Manal, the number of non-French speaking who are using the internet is growing due to the adoption of ADSL by many households of the middle class. I saw people using the internet who have never finished the their Chahada (fifth grade).

    However, you always have the right to choose the audience and the language you like ;-)

    Keep up the good work!

  • >>John Kactuz/Arthur:

    You are just repeating blunt accusations heard in racist media of Islam as being a violent religion. I doubt that you have ever read the Quran or any authentic Islamic text. Because if you did, you would know that Islam is much greater than the two misquoted verses that Islamophobics are spreading.

    Muslims are angry because of what some of the Western countries are doing, namely in the Middle East.

    In addition, modern history shows that more wars and violence came from the West through colonization of America, Africa, and Asia; the two great wars (I & II) have left tens of millions of people dead or wounded; slavery and the holocaust; these all were products of western ideologies of white supremacy (mixed with some religion).

    I am not saying Muslims are all good. People are people; they can do bad and they can do good regardless of what their religion says.

    Finally, I hope you will take time and read the Quran for your self to find out why a fifth of the world’s population adheres to the religion of Islam.

    God says: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” [Quran 49:13]

    Peace

  • John>> Of course I can prove that Islam calls for peace not for violence…You know, the first thing you should say in Islam when you meet someone is: Assalamou Alaikoum, which means “Peace be upon you”. This is only a start…
    Reading the Quran, I can also prove that Islam calls for peace and not for War! How come the religion that asks people to treat the others as they treat themselves, how come the religion that calls for loving and respecting each other can be considered as a religion that calls for hate and anger! This is not true.
    When I was in Denmark, one of the things that really shocked me is the fact that Danes have a lot of misunderstandings about Islam. Let me give you a concert example; one politician told me that they can not accept Muslims in their country because they can not accepted to see women forced to marry men they don’t wanna. He said, Denmark is a free country, and such a behavior is against their democratic spirit. I was really surprised to hear that, because Islam can never allow something so! Islam gives the woman and the man the right to chose their partners. Unfortunately, some Muslims don’t behave as they should do, and do that in the name of Islam.
    When I talked about peace, I wanted to share with the Danes – especially concerning the cartoons issue- that reactions such as burning embassies and burning flags are not acceptable at all in the religion. I don’t know if you know much about our Prophet, but he never called for violence, he never riposted to violence violently and history can prove that. These behaviors are made by some Muslims in the name of Islam and unfortunately this is the image conveyed by the media about the religion, a false image.
    Back to the point about Morocco! You said: “Islam in that country still persecutes other religions.” How dare you say that about a country where all religions live harmoniously? What do you know about Moroccan history to say something so! I’m sorry to tell you that it’s totally wrong. And there are a lot of Moroccan Jews who can prove the opposite of what you said.
    You talk about tolerance in the West? Do you think that the French law asking Muslim women not to put their scarves is a tolerant law?! Do you think persecuting and humiliating people only because they’re Muslims is respect?? Do you think, making fun of the emblem of Islam and showing him as a terrorist is respect? Do you think refusing to give equal chances for people to get a job only because they’re Arabs or Muslims is tolerance!!
    The West is not the perfect example to follow, have a look at what’s happening in Palestine and in Iraq and you will see what’s Violence and what’s War!! If murdering babies and innocent children is what you call Democracy and Tolerance, then we must be speaking different languages…
    If there are some people to blame, then it must be those who are against dialogue and openness, be it in the Muslim or non-muslim side! As you’re asking me not to close my eyes, and I do thank you for your advice, I ask you to open yours and discover the real face of Islam. Religion is a choice, a personal choice. Everybody is this world must be treated as a human being, no matter if he is Jewish, black, atheist, tall, fat or whatever…we’re all the same, and we must all have the same right to live in peace in a respectful world.
    You may know a lot of Muslims, but I don’t think you know much about Islam. Think about that.
    You said: “Your idea of ‘understanding’ is basically one group imposing their ideals on another – and, worst of all, those ideals promote intolerance, hate, and even violence” My idea of ‘understanding’ is one peaceful world, where every one has the right to live decently, where respect and tolerance would be the light that will guide all human beings.
    I don’t know whether you’re John Arthur or John Kactuz, but anyway, thank you for your words.

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