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August 17, 2006


Carsten Agger

During the Muhammad cartoon controversy, some members of the extreme right wing Danish blogosphere (think Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin) started blogging in English due to a tremendous increase in visits from abroad on their blogs.

And most of them took an "upright" or "righteous" position, claiming to represent the "Scandinavian view". Where, of course, such a "Scandinavian view" obviously didn't exist, and the extreme right which continue the old European anti-Semitism with Muslims substituted for Jews actually only represent a rather small part of the Danish population (fortunately!).

Which I only say to remind of the obvious point you are making here: Never assume that because a blogger from country XXX says YYY, then people in XXX also think YYY.

Every blogger always speaks for himself, and all good bloggers make that explicitly or implicitly clear.

However, that being said, I actually read a lot of English-language Arab blogs myself, but I do it for two things: The personal viewpoints of people who are closer to what's going on in the Middle East than myself, and the analyses. You can really get quite a lot of information about what's going and what (some) people think, and that may be worth quite a lot *as long as you remember* that it's not representative and is normally written by a member of a well-educated and well-off elite.

Still, for a European like me, the opinions voiced and sources cited in the Arab blogosphere often present opinions and analyses I couldn't (easily) have found in the "normal" media.


I've only got more anecdotes for you (at least for the moment), but at least here in Syria those social networking programs are extremely common, especially among that young, decently-off and plugged-in set. As far as I can tell (which is a big caveat), the primary use for them is for finding members of the opposite gender.

Omar Arabi

Hi Abu Ardvark. Just wanted to note that this http://arabblogcount.blogspot.com/ was the first effort to list Arab blogs and announce the new ones and occasionally encourage those who stop blogging to come back. The contributors there are from several Arab countries.


ya AA,

you didn't say anything about the lebanese blogosphere, which probably is the one most tied to local/regional politics and directly grew out of the participation of many of its "members" in the spring 2005 events.

there are a number of cross-border exchanges like the syrian-lebanese one in josh landis' blog's comments section and the commenter debates between lebanese & israelis during the war on both lebanese & israeli blogs. there are literary blogs that span the peninsula, which in my mind are also relevant if one wants to truly understand local/regional politics.

but in general, i agree - there is no such thing as an "arab blogosphere".

ya omar,

you do NOT list "arab" blogs. you list "arabIC LANGUAGE" blogs. there IS a difference.



Omar Arabi

Thanks for correcting me Raf.

Omar Arabi

Thanks for correcting me Raf.


On the language choice, in many cases I would guess that choosing English is because the author went to an English-language school most of his life, and feels more comfortable writing in English. That's certainly the case w/ many Egyptian bloggers I know.


I know a lot of Arabs (and Iranians) are oil-wealthy, but I was reminded today of the old "50% of the world's population has never made a phone call" saw, and I worry that we may be focusing on 1% of 1%. Blogs can be a useful peek into what an average person thinks of their society, but it's important to remember not only is each blogger not necessarily representative, as Carsten points out, but they are a self-selecting group. Do any of you remember that old story about the survey that predicted that Alf Landon of the Republican Party would win the 1932 election against FDR? This prediction was based on surveying people who had telephone connections - not at that time a representative sample of Americans.

Similarly, I have trouble believing that Arab bloggers are representative of Arabs at all. Whereas, Australia has something like 99% literacy and 50% of the population are internet users. If not now, then quite soon, a blogger from Australia will have a reasonable claim to be an average Australian. If you have similar figures for Kuwait or Qatar or Jordan, by all means share them.

I often worry that when the US administration tries to target opinion makers, they target people that they themselves would deride as "latte liberals" at home. Personally, I'd like to help the "shiraz socialists"* (my focus of study at the moment is Iran, and frankly it's pretty heartbreaking), but if we don't consider the needs of the sort of people who voluntarily voted for Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, we may not get very far.

*Just to check, do Americans call claret/syrah Shiraz?

The Lounsbury

Blogging at least in English in French is clearly a young elite phenomena. I do business across the region, from the Maghreb to the Machreq, and it strikes me that only the young, technically educated ever mentioned internet communication. Anectdotally as well, I note that its the below 30 crowd I see in internet cafes (or Cybers as they are known in the francophone zone) who are online chatting and the like.

Mistaking blogs for "public opinion" then is dangerous.

On the other hand, the foreign langauge blogs also select for the kind of profile that tends to be elite, potentially opinion-leading (although they also tend to select for secularised left liberal or right liberal political views at present).

Ostensibly these are the profiles the US and the UK are worried about.

I confess I don't bother with the Arabic blogs, only so much time in the day, and my Arabic reading is largely old-media.

The Lounsbury

Ah, I missed this item from Schwa: I often worry that when the US administration tries to target opinion makers, they target people that they themselves would deride as "latte liberals" at home.

The answer is yes. Indeed. Especially the American right [I see this as a person of the Right side of the spectrum], not having had a colonial experience, etc., to bring a bit of realism, is all aflutter about secular liberals in the Arab region, whether Right or Left liberal. They don't stop to ask themselves where said persons are placed relative to the society they're thinking about.

Over at Aqoul I've commented on this frequently, that whatever me sympathies for Arab liberals (more so for the rare liberal on the Right), I full well realise they are marginal and will remain marginal. Rather like the frequently derided East Coast / New York Liberal that the American right whinges on about so frequently.


Well speaking about the Kuwaiti Blogosphere I can say you are right that we are a certain demographic that blog. We are 20 something, and have some western education or influences either by schooling or the friends we have. So it has made the Kuwait blogosphere in to a social network of sorts.

The Kuwait aggregator is our extended social network, we are able to know what is going on in Kuwait in terms of politics, restaurants, music and even just daily life. This is all written my the demographic I mentioned earlier, but the readers aren't limited to that, except that they know English. I knew my aunt read blogs when she mentioned a restaurant review my friend did just a couple days ago in her blog. I knew my father and uncle read blogs when they sent me links of political posts. It is really is fascinating how many people read blogs in Kuwait for pleasure and information

Also for the Arab Blogosphere, it is on its way. You have to build up a local base and from there it will expand. We can relate this to the Arab music scene. Each Arab country has their own local artists, but then you have some that able to reach a wider audience in other countries. So as the local blogospheres get more defined and certain blogs will be transversing to other blogospheres. Going back to the social network aspect, I personally try to visit bloggers when I travel. I have met Saudi Jeans when I was in Riyadh last time, and met a couple Jordanian bloggers in my trip to Amman.

The Arab Blogosphere will come sooner other than later. It is already in its foundation as long as countries create a strong blogger base with listing and aggregating of the local blogs to make it easier to keep track of the establish bloggers, and introduce new bloggers.

There is also a Lebanese aggregator at http://lebanon.rampurple.com/


blogging is activism and is not always done, obviously, by progressives. I read many Iraqi and Lebanese blogs and am not so excited by the amount of conservative blogs that pretend to be political but are just navel-gazing and talkng about domestic minutia that no one cares to hear. I am a Chaldean, detroit-born Iraqi, and created a blog because I am politically marginal in my community of right wing Catholic fanatics who are pro-Bush and pro-Israel (suddenly these days) as a way to create a wide abyss between our community and the Muslim community. sad but true. Islamaphobia is big in the Arab Christian world, and it resonates in the blogs I have visited such as Faiyrouz in Beaumont & Sandmonkey & the likes of Ken joseph of Assyrianchristians.com. yuck to all three of these folks & there's more of them. if you know of any Chaldean blogs that are left wing, please do let me know. I am not only interested in Chaldeans, but I am trying to meet bloggers/activists with left leanings--it would be nice!


dear nayj,

fyi: sandmonkey is a (sunni) muslim egyptian.



Rod Amis

Great job! Having looked at this topic at my own site (http://www.g21.net/midE20.htm) I found your commentary informative and worth sharing with others.

Best regards,

Arab Blogger

Arab-language blogging is the place to say what is highly suppressed in discussions within the home country. Since speaking of Arabism and general, vague principles is not suppressed (it is fluff talk), no one comes online to speak about it. But since speaking of Minister so and so is suppressed, people come online to speak about it.

In a way, people are speaking about issues in the territory that allows it.

Also, Arab bloggers view blogging as an extension of 'socializing'. Bloggers greatly enjoy visitors and comments, and go around commenting on other blogs in order to receive a reciprocating visit - e-courtesy basically.

Moreover, Arab blogging seems to be for the pariah. Anyone with feet on the ground, i.e. present at the grass-root, doesn't rely on blogging because more suitable modes of mass communication are available. Only outsiders go online.

Sandmonkey is a case in point. This blogger holds views that are diammetrically opposed to the group he belongs to so much so that his visitors/commentors are mainly Zionist Americans. I wonder if you can classify this blog as 'Arab' anymore given the visitors' profile.

I wonder if any surveys exist that can categorize blogs according to following: liberal, religious...etc. My expectation is that some segements are very over represented in the Arab blogsphere in general in a way that magnifies their influence beyond their real numbers. This is misleading because, at the end of the day and when push comes to shove there is need for people with presence on the ground, and this over represented segment will prove useless.


From the trolling one might do in many blogs, most bloggers writing comments are socializing not just Arab bloggers. Folks are looking for community and yes, some are on the margin of their community, but that is a good thing. Salam Pax's discoures is not the dominant Iraqi discourse, but he reaches outside of his Baghdad sphere to let non-Iraqis know what is going on. In this case, all bloggers, are pariah.

It was the Lebanese bloggers inside Lebanon who were writing diary blogs and giving us poignant and honest updates as to the Israeli aggessions. They were the realy cyberactivists who pushed folks to mobilize and act up. The graphic pictures, the UTUBE pieces, etc. were all on the web, so that is the new 'ground' these days.

btw, Sand Monkey is not an exception since (some,many?) Christian "Arabs" are silent on Israel and/or supporting US policy;they are more anti-Arab than many non-Middle Easterns. who knows what SMonkey is? I didnt' stay in his blog long enough to figure him out, and I don't want to waste my time. Raf says he's a Sunni Muslim Egyptian, but what's the verification? how do we really know if he is or isn't?


ya nayj,

i MET sandmonkey. i KNOW the guy. i know who his family is, i know friends of his.

what's wrong with you?

where did you get that idea "blogging is activism" from? bloggers are not all "activists" and there is no rule that says only political activist blogs are acceptable. stop trying enforce your political agenda onto the whole blogosphere.

can you please define what "anti-arab" means? can you give an example of what, in your point of view, the "dominant iraqi discourse" is? (while you're at it, could you please also cite your sources?)

you seem to be grappling with issues that are very specific to your own situation as a (self-styled) "left" person in a sea of "right-wing", "anti-arab", "anti-muslim" chaldean iraqis in the detroit area.

but you have no clue about the mideast blogosphere(s) and/or political activism in the region. why don't you just go live in the region for a while? it's really complicated to get a good idea of the region from afar ...

ahlan wa sahlan, ya khayya!




What's wrong w/ me? a 'self-styled' left person? I wonder what that might mean. You don't know anything about me other than what you are reading here. I have been an anti-war, pro-justice activist for 20+ years.

I do know about blogs and have been reading them for a couple of years although I just started my own blog a month ago. I teach college English and if I had to submit a paper to you, I would give you sources. I was just commenting on a blog and did not see sources sited on your comment section. I wonder why your word is good to go, but others are expected to site bibligraphical information.

I just came from Palestine and Jordan and visited Lebanon six months ago. I am involved w/ a number of activists inside Palestine and know many ISM folks who went to the region to do solidarity work. I, however, went as an academic. I was part of a group of professors who do american studies and arab american studies, so we were connecting w/ professors of Al-Najah, Hebron University, Beirzeit U, and other Palestinian U to see how we can have intellectual exchanges and support one another's political and academic work & programming.

see my comments here on Chaldean identities, protesting, and dissenting views:

I don't want to take up too much blogspace here, but I was not talking about a particular scenario with which I ALONE have to grapple. Look at Iraq and the civil violence that has gripped my parents' home country. If you look at those Chaldean bloggers, they identify as a Christian minority, and the only concern they show is for the Christians in Iraq. You know exactly what I mean by anti-Arab. There is a discourse that is ant-Islamic and runs very strong among Coptic, Phoenicians, and other minorities in the Arab World. Even here in Dearborn, Michigan, the Lebanese are very Shiite or Sunni identified. Now, with this new Israeli incursion, the Lebanese communties here are very unified. Would there be civil war and sectarian violence if Arab was not fighting Arab in Iraq? Do I have to be in and from the region to do that analysis?

I would argue that the US media,academics, popular culture,etc. depict the Arab world as sectarian and prone to violence because of it, but in fact, The US and Israel are hiding their own sectarianisms.

The US has civil violence in the form of racial wars & antagonisms, and we are a fractured society when it comes to race, gender, class differences. Israel is an Apartheid state w/ so much internal racism --Palestinians are not the only marginal peoples who have to survive in this state.

Anyway, I wasn't looking to antagonize anyone;I was trying to join the conversation and get a better feel for the blogger scene. Thanks to all for your insights.

I maintain my contention that bloggers are on the cyberground when it comes to political activism and mobilizing folks. Go to Kabobfest, no words, ibnbintjbeil, and many others listed on their sites for vibrant Detroit-based activist Arab work.

salamat & shlamma(in aramaic),


from Mazen kerbaj
to all the lebanese bloggers:

"we are writing our future's collective memory."

on a different note from arab bloggers but about blogging as activism and a way to influence social change, see NYTIMES today about the DUKE U Rape case.

"Whether the woman was in fact raped is the question at the center of a case that has become a national cause célèbre, yet another painful chapter in the tangled American opera of race, sex and privilege. Defense lawyers, amplified by Duke alumni and a group of bloggers who have closely followed the case, have portrayed it as a national scandal — ...."
**feminist bloggers have been really on this case.

EVEN IF THESE RECENT BLOGGERS DO NOT REPRESENT the majority, they are speaking out in public and getting their messages out. when did writers or artists or activist or feminist especially represent the majority views anyway?

I am working on a conference paper about bloggers for MESA and for a conference at Syracuse in October and am trying to wrap my mind around your ideas.

Appreciate the above posts. Plan to quote from you folks for the presentations. Thanks!

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