In April of this year I posted Blogging Syria to mark the second anniversary of this blog. While commemoration was my primary purpose I have also used it to express a desire to read more Arabic written Syrian blogs. For the next seven months I did not explicitly refer to the subject again. However, don't reach the conclusion that I am a patient and tolerant reader. I am neither. Soon thereafter I lost interest and my enthusiasm dwindled. I reverted to my original list of favorites and pleasantly saw it grow in numbers. Most of the new additions, if not all, were not surprisingly English written Syrian blogs. There are exceptions to any rule and our venerably stunning Razan is such. Despite my deep rooted aversion to any word ending with "ism" I do value her Arabic Razanisms. She is adept at exploiting the unexpected and had managed to elevate her impulsiveness much higher in the last couple of years. Obviously her aggressive writing style has made her a preferred target for blinkered and bigoted minds. Whenever I read her I end up smiling. Whether or not I agree with her, I only have admiration for her courage and tenacity.
Among the exciting blogs I am regularly reading now are those of three beautiful ladies. You can not fault me for liking women more than men. As a matter of fact, I don't like men at all except to watch a football game with or as drinking buddies. Mariyah pervaded our senses like a gentle zephyr impregnated with scents of jasmine and magnolia. As a reader, I find her one of the most exciting and talented writers on the Syrian Blogosphere. Diana's Quiver is filled with arrows of superb craftsmanship. They are accurate, revealing and lucid. Besides, how can I not like her when she shares her precious name with my firstborn? It was my father who gave my daughter her name because of his affection, or infatuation perhaps, with the late Princess of Wales. Then there is Dania who calls her blog My Chaos. In fact she is not chaotic at all; sensitive perhaps, candid and fervent in defending her right to be free is what the reader will find in and between the lines of her hyper and intelligent posts.
I have paid tribute to four fantastic female bloggers not for the purpose of being nice to them but rather to use their writings as contrasting samples to the new breed of mainstream Syrian blogs. The one insight I gained out of my blogging experience is that this medium “blogging” is made by the people but not for the people. I think I should elucidate my point a little further. While the writings of most Syrian bloggers are direct reflections of life on the street they are not read by the Syrian Street. As writers and readers we have developed a severe case of a double personality disorder. I try, certainly without success at times, to be as down to earth as possible when I write. However, when I read and ultimately enjoy the work of other bloggers I am unwillingly becoming a member of a limited and restrictive fraternity/sorority. But here is the interesting part, at least as far as I am concerned. Despite the meager total number of Syrian bloggers, they all fall under two broad categories, secular or religious. 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. Along the way, and in between, a few politically ambitious and self promoting individuals hitched a ride but then decided that the end does not justify the means. After all the audience is too small and smart to gratify their inflatable egos so they luckily turned elsewhere to advance their Machiavellian causes. I am not aware whether there have been attempts at any time to glorify and support the political establishment (i.e. regime) in Syria or in other Middle Eastern countries by bloggers. The concept is plainly absurd. Blogging is dubbed as an alternative medium. Millions of dollars are being spent on maintaining a failing and archaic information system and thousands of employees are working in state controlled journalism institutions yet the quality and integrity of their output remain pathetic. Any involved reader can have much more accurate and relevant information about Syria by browsing less than a handful of Syrian political blogs. Let me emphasize an important point here, these few blogs are far more pertinent as a reference on Syria than the major international media giants as well. At least their biases are minute and rather individual in scope and magnitude.
I have failed to mention the crossovers so far or those blogs that are written in English for instance and carry an obsessive moral message or their Arabic opposites. There was one particular blog written in Arabic which appeared in 2007 for a few months then stopped called Esfarjel. I have no idea why Esfarjel did not continue blogging but his/her sense of sarcasm and wit was on a par by itself. It would be great to have him/her posting regularly again.
In closing I feel I must state the obvious. Syrian society is clearly divided along secular/religious principles and beliefs and so are Syrian bloggers. Each group is primary writing for its own inner circle and infrequently someone trespasses his/her turf with an uncalled for comment and tension becomes inevitable. Should we continue to avoid each other? Not at all but let it be agreed that dialogue is a two-way street. If we truly take for granted that we are 100% right and/or that God for instance is on our side then what is the point behind engaging ourselves in a conversation. This is the primary fuel for a sermon which by definition is a monologue. To convert the other, to register a win, to satisfy our vanity or to top our account of “good” deeds for the Day of Judgment, that is the role of a preacher and not that of a blogger.
*This post was inspired by Dania's post Religious fever.