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Syria: A Blogosphere Divided

The Syrian blogosphere has been embroiled in a heated debate over the weekend. It is a debate that is quite reflective of some of our modern disagreements as Syrians, over a wide range of basic issues: identity, religion, state and personal freedom.

The casus belli came in the form of a post, by Syrian blogger Ahmad Edilbi, that called for professional hackers to destroy Syrian blogs he deems are “immoral” [Ar]:

فمنها ماكان همها الشاغل التعبير عن حريتها الشخصية (الغير أخلاقية) والتنفيس عن سرائر النفس بإسلوب لا أخلاقي وحتى يصل لمرحلة الشذوذ و الكفر “و العياذ بالله”
[…]
فاسمحوا لي إذا بتوجيه دعوة لك شخص قادر على اختراق المواقع والمدونات بأن يقوم بمراسلتي لإعطائه بعض المواقع التي تحتاج إلى تدمير ..
Some of these blogs were insistent on expressing their personal freedoms (of the immoral type) and venting out their thoughts in an immoral manner, and even expressing homosexuality and infidelity (God Forbids).
[…]
So allow me to invite those who are able to penetrate websites and blogs to mail me so I can send him a list of some of those sites that need to be destroyed.

The post itself caused outrage, and many of the commenters were highly opposed to such means.
The incident, until yesterday, was mostly unknown in the English part of the blogosphere – as language is one of the many lines of divide in the Syrian blogosphere.

The real debate exploded when Razan Ghazzawi quoted the post, and used it in a comparison between Syrian Expatriate, and Local bloggers [Ar]:

اخيرا اود ان اقول, وبصراحة, ان عالم التدوين السوري باللغة العربية يعاني من اشكاليات لا اراها في التدوين السوري الاغترابي. كنت اقرا التدوين السوري باللغة الانكليزية لثلاث سنوات, تدوين الاغتراب, ورغم انني انتقلت الى العربية نتيجة غربتي عن تدوين الاغتراب والمحلي على حد سواء, لكنني لم اقرا اية تدوينة من المغترب السوري -عدا عن مدونة ميسلون -نطقت بهكذا منطق الغائي من قبل, مما يستدعي السؤال التالي:

ما معنى ان تكون اول مدونة سورية تدعو الى الغاء زملائها في التدوين السوري مدونة محلية باللغة العربية وذات خطاب ديني؟

Finally, I would like to say, frankly, that the world of Arabic bloggers in Syria suffers from problems that I can’t see in the expatriate Syrian blogging scene. I have read English-written Syrian blogs (diaspora blogging) for three years, and even though I moved to blogging in Arabic because I felt myself a stranger to both the diaspora and local blogging, I have not read a single blog from Syrian expatriates – except for Maysaloon- that advocated such a dismissive logic before, which begs the following question:
What does it mean to have the first blog that calls for the dismissal of its fellow Syrian blogs a local, Arabic blog with a religious narrative?

The post was picked up by a number of bloggers, and each discussed the incident from a different perspective.

Dania, of My Chaos, discussed what she feels as a religious fever sweeping the society, and in turn, the blogpshere:

I don’t mind it, after all it is freedom of expression, but some of them are sending messages of not respecting the “other” freedom of expression, and more dangerously to attacking other's freedom of expression. Can any one help me out in here to figure this thing out? Is our society heading toward the religious mentality to hypnotize itself out of a miserable reality? Is it systematic? Chaotic? A normal result of giving the freedom of religious organization to move after decades of firm controlling? is it a type of defense system against the global media hostility against Islam?What is it?!

Abu Fares, expressed his own observations on the state of the Syrian blogosphere:

The Syrian blogging movement had started as a secular/liberal outcry in the face of political totalitarianism. The early writings addressed individual freedom and liberty, attacked the unilateral decision making process of the political establishment in Syria and advanced pluralism. Generally speaking, they were mostly written in English. The recent trend, mostly expressed in Arabic, is best characterized as a sweeping current of religious zealotry. These newcomers may or may not openly oppose the political establishment but they share the common vision/dream of Islamic Revival to right what is presently wrong in this country and the rest of the world.

His post attracted a large debate, and around 37 comments, so far.

The debate was further expanded by different perspectives on the matter shared by Dubai Jazz, Abu Kareem, and Ayman Haykal [Ar].

The heated exchange clearly highlights some of the most pressing, and controversial issues that divide the Syrian society. The internet and the implications of such open mediums like blogs, the definitions of personal freedoms, and the concepts of Law and State, between the different ideological currents roughly representing a Secular and Religious outlook for the future.

The exchange also highlights how divided the Syrian blogosphere is, and how isolated each group is. This debate was almost exclusive to the bloggers who are associated with the English-language Syrian blogosphere (except for some comments on Ayman’s post [Ar]), just like the debate that took place around the first post [Ar], was almost exclusive to the Arabic-language bloggers.

While the bloggers may not represent a true quantitative image of the dynamics of the Syrian society, they do represent many of the colors and currents that are flowing, and clashing in that society.

24 comments

  • […] The Syrian blogosphere has been embroiled in a heated debate over the weekend. It is a debate that is quite reflective of some of our modern disagreements as Syrians, over a wide range of basic issues: identity, religion, state and personal freedom. [link] […]

  • Dania, yes I said this wish, but never meant what you said , on the contrary, I’m always happy to read Syrian discussions, I always feel upset about bloggers ignoring each others’ comments, and i think i’ve mentioned this on many occasions. I believe that disagreements is a healthy thing . and if u noticed i started the first comment by saying “i;m happy to see this here” coz i really felt happy to show the “world” that syrians do disagree and agree with each others. not as the syrian media picturing us , the people who never “disagree”
    I actually never been to the post you mentioned and not intending to.
    All the best.

    Yazan,
    i can not stop my hands from writing this,
    I’m really sorry to read that the one who started syplanet and the first guy -who was only 19 – to join all Syrian bloggers under one roof , would use this term of ” the smell of excrement to describe a Syrian blog’s arguments, which to remind you , your own fingures have moved to add its link on the list so everyone can “smell” it with you.
    I wouldn’t even allow my brain to get shocked reading these words by any blogger , but you yazan?? this needs a long stop.
    Secondly , I checked ahmad’s post for the first time today , and I actually opened my mouth after reading it like this :0..
    I can’t believe you Syrian bloggers, how come no one saw that this post is a vivid example of Syrians bloggers debating : TALKING + LISTENING + WITHDRAWING positions.
    for god sake , if this is not a healthy picture of youths debating , exchanging ideas, excepting the other , what is debating then????
    Thirdly, I honestly don’t know what to reply to your comment. I wish to stop here.
    Thank you for your time.

  • Omniya, we’re getting a bit angry here aren’t we? :)

    First of all let’s all agree that there are no sides here, every one of us has a unique set of ideas. If we are really divided between the religious and the secular, then two blogs would have been enough to represent Syria, the rest would be cheer leaders (actually now that I think of it, Wassim (Maysaloon) would make a perfect cheerleader, he shouts loud but make little sense, a cheerleading skirt would fit him nicely, preferably with a jockstrap since I am about to kick his butt….)

    So we’re not really divided, ‘continuum’ is a perfect word truly spoken by Abu Kareem. What shot the hair on the back of my neck straight is a PRECEDENT. One Syrian blogger calling for the destruction of blogs that, according to him, are anti-religious (or immoral). As far as I know, he sat a precedent by discussing this matter openly. But you on the other hand said that since he didn’t really do it, and was convinced at the end of the discussion to retract, that he didn’t deserve to be reprimanded. Omniya, I think you’re wrong here. Are we supposed to wait for him to do the deed so then we’d talk about it? Actually, discussing this subject in public is kind of dumb/arrogant of him. It’s sinister and it’s ominous.

    Take my own case for example if you will, I rarely read Syrian blogs or interact with others bloggers than Abu Fares and the rest. Even Razan’s blog for that matter, there are gazillion things that me and Razan don’t agree upon, and we actually had our fair share of fights before. And I think I neglected her blog recently and she reciprocated, and I could have done the same for Ahmad’s blog should the matter have been about anything else, well, Ahmad’s suggestion was like an inter-continental missile which, if in case it got activated, it will be a source of concern for everybody (combined with a perceived committee for assessing moralities or the lack of them for each and every blog). I might wake up one day and see that a group of die-hard hackers are calling for my blog to be shut or destroyed. This is what made me angry ya Omniya. And I don’t speak for Yazan but I think it’s the same reason he’s angry too…

    Again Omniya, I respect you and I value your input very much. And in case you felt offended by whatever I said, please accept my sincere apology. Thanks

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself (and I did try!) DJ. Thank you for weighing in on this.

  • Forgive if I am repeating what has already been said…I’m having a little difficulty following some of the arguments. For me, the “outrage” in this situation is that the blogger in question did not simply state an opinion, he made a threat. If he had simply said that he did like to see secular or (what he deemed as)immoral posts on the Syrian blogosphere and that, perhaps, he would avoid them, that would have been one thing. But he suggested an action of destruction of personal property with the sole purpose of censorship of that which he did not agree. I fully support open dialogue whether or not I agree with the opinions expressed. I do not support personal insults or threats against person or property or freedom of speech.

  • I agree with Yazan and DJ and Razan … and Wassim (Maysaloon).

    Your opinions today are only one frame in a long movie … who knows, maybe Wassim will become a communist two years from now and Yazan will cut his hair and grow his beard.

    Razan el-3azeemeh … I would love to know what she will be advocating few years from now.

    DJ will not change : )

    And I have not read everything above, but I think I understand more or less what you are arguing about.

    My opinion is that younger Syrian bloggers (most of you) are much more tolerant of diversity than older Syrians I got to know.

    Don’t be too harsh on each other.

  • DJ:

    I will go back to the first comment I left on your blog, two faces for the same coin. I wasn’t talking about “do I support his call or not” , coz defiantly no one would support it, It’s out of the question , I was talking about that this call is one form of deleting the others, which of course was direct and has reached the red line, but at the same time there is a wave among the Syrian bloggers doing another forms of deleting the others, indirectly , but at the end, at least for me, they pour in the same category. so you do not have the right to lecture in this issue since you yourself is doing this .
    But it seems that you or yazan do not identify these indirect behavoiurs and the direct call under the same category, and that’s why you disagree with me. But I simply see it this way .

    And believe me even those ideas which you think they are “outrageous” precedent or what ever, should and must be spoken out , must see the light and breathe the air,
    لأن ضوء الشمس لاتعمل فقط على القضاء على الأجسام الغريبة في الهواء و التراب الذي نقف عليه، وانما تعمل أيضا على القضاء على الأجزاء الغريبة في فكر الأنسان.

    excuse me to ask why I should feel offended?
    Regards

  • أعتقد أنه وبعد كل ما قالته أمنية.. الامر لا يحتاج إلى توضيح أكثر من ذلك..
    والوجه غير المباشر لإلغاء الآخر أخطر بألف مرة من ذلك المباشر الساذج الذي أقيمت الدنيا ولم تُقعد من أجله

  • Dear Omniya,
    You accuse me of lecturing when I was simply stating an opinion. : ) You also accuse me of trying to ‘delete the other’ indirectly without putting up evidence. Would you care to tell me in what form was my attempting to silence others? I didn’t deny anybody their right to say WHATEVER THEY WANT on their blogs. And of course Mr. El Edilbi had the right to post that particular post. It’s the consequences of his ridiculous proposition that had to be addressed prudently.

    So what’s the alternative in your opinion? You want me to stay silent in case I read something that disturbed me deeply? No. I am sorry I can’t. And you can’t deny me that right!

    And who’s generalizing here, me who said that each one of us has his/her own unique set of ideas or you who said that all of us (me, Razan and Yazan…and probably others) are trying to indirectly delete the other?

    Again, I am not trying to silence anybody. Let Ahmad post again about hacking. It’s his right, I will simply respond to him once again (I don’t know about Yazan and Razan, they might have gotten bored by that time). Let him post about hacking and destroying other blogs thousands times. I will still respond to him through virtual channels and it will never occur to me to ask for his own blog to be hacked in to.

    It’s a shame that you can’t really make the distinction.

    Now with regards to your last statement about alien ideas and how exposing them to sunlight will help to purify and sterilize them. I couldn’t agree more! However, I personally feel that as a responsible adult I should try and exert some self control and ward off bad ideas when they occur to me… but that’s only me, I don’t ask anybody to conform to me…

    Best regards

  • DJ
    i wasn’t accusing YOU. i said there is this wave among most of the syrian bloggers, particualry the “old” ones to turn their back … to repeat this statement of ” YOU DIDN”T READ WELL , TRY AGAIN”…you can visit each blog and see how .. and i don’t know if yazan did agree on this partially ( in case i “missread” him, then i take it back”… i repeat : they are free to do this..but i JUST categorize it under a form of deleting the other , which the whole issue is about.. i also put deleting the comment section as a form of deleting the other.. this is my openion, you might or might not agree.. i see it this way..

    to answer your question: the other alternative which i belive should have happened was exactly what had happened on the guy’s blog: DEBATING. not lecturing -NOT YOU- about the ideas he holds on his mind…

    and to elicit something as well, you said “Actually, discussing this subject in public is kind of dumb/arrogant of him”, i think the opposite, i think we are lucky that he did open his mind and talked about it..now if he didn’t speak his mind PUBLICALLY, and OPENLY .. how could we know that such an idea does exist??

    beside saying :”that he didn’t deserve to be reprimanded”?? reprimanded? i don’t agree on this particular thing of reprimanding any blogger , whatever he says. whatever he writes. i believe “debating” is the only right we have to use among each other.

    this is what i belive. i’ve got nothing more to add,
    and to write about what i believe in doesn’t mean i’m denying any blogger’s right in anything.. i’m JUST stating an openion as well in what had been written. you might take it, you might not.

    Best Regards

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