As local blogospheres around the world grow, many blogging communities are organizing meetups and competitions to reward bloggers and build a better sense of community. The Syrian blogosphere, which is quite active and centered around Arabic and English, has recently joined the realm of competitive blogospheres, with a competition for the best Syrian blogs launched by blogging community Almudawen, and sponsored by several Syrian organizations.
Syrian blogger Omar Mushaweh, writing at AlMarfaa, announced the competition [ar]:
The competition has not been without controversy. Abu Fares, a Syrian blogger who writes in English, expressed frustration at a clause in the blogging competition's rules, stating:
This is a commendable effort on their part if it's indeed intended to honor outstanding Syrian blogs, encourage and support a blogging culture and expose the role of blogs in the making and shaping of a civil society in Syria. However, if you read the 5th and last condition for blogs to be accepted in the competition, this is what you'll find (translated word by word): the contents of which [the submitted blog] must not dissent from the accepted mores and morals (i.e. sex through videos or photos, hostility to religions, cussing, swearing and bad taste). Do I take it that it is acceptable for a blog to attack trans-dressers but not Sheikhs and priests? Or, for the sake of argument, is a photo of a random cloud in the sky in the shape of an eye and a comment underneath that this is the eye of God acceptable but not another photo of a woman's perfect behind with the apt remark that this butt is an elegant example of the splendor of creation (if we're so inclined to believe)?
The discussion that followed was an interesting experience. After years at Wikipedia, I’ve learned to always start a discussion while assuming good faith, and this was very much inline with that. And while there was a major disagreement on the most fundamental issues, Omar Mushaweh, the Admin of Al-Mudawen, (and the only representative from the site in the contest, it should be mentioned), was quite courteous in understanding the reservations that I, and other Judges, had on said prerequisite. And he readily accepted to remove it.
Yazan, who will also be judging the competition, added:
It is interesting to note, that while there was no consensus on the issue itself, there was a consensus on resolving the issue. Not to make a big deal out of it, but it is a refreshing incidence in a blogosphere that is growing more and more apart, and more and more bitter.
Readers of Yazan's blog shared their reactions in the comments. Katia applauded the decision, stating:
The majority is not always right, that is a fact. In a pure democracy, both the majority and the minority each have common interests and that is basically the only rope holding them together. Once the cards get shuffled, the positions change and individuals whose interests do not match the group’s anymore, end up disappointed and bitter. Eventually, many of those who find themselves at the short end turn to extremes to show off their difference from the “evil” group and its “corrupt” stands. Now, if only the concepts of compromise and consensus were practiced as thoroughly as pure lobbying, we could see some sunbeams shining through again.
Another reader, Razan, noted that:
Nevertheless, this condition does not stand on its own when it comes to Almudawen’s problems. On AlMudawwen’s “add your blog” page, the same condition appears at the bottom of the “conditions” list to add a blog.
Musing on the blogosphere in general, she added:
It’s worth to note, that posts on intimacy and sex is another approach to understanding a given society. So if there is a blogger telling us about Hash and sex, I think it tells us a lot about a certain society that it exists in Syria and it’s marginalized by “our given morals”. By marginalizing these voices, we are to put it bluntly: censors, worst type of censors, since we advocate “free speech”. I don’t mind at all, for almudawwen to accept certain voices, but it should be clear about it, presenting itself as accepting like-minded voices, but i think it’s not right to say something and do otherwise.
Syrian bloggers have until August 22, 2009 to submit their blogs to the competition.