Is blogging forbidden by Sharia? Un-Islamic? If not, then why the restrictions in a culture that supposedly so highly values the free exchange of ideas? From William Fisher in the Lebanese Daily Star, via AINA, with thanks to Nicolei:
In democratic countries, personal Web sites known as Weblogs have grown exponentially over the past few years. In the United States, for example, there are literally millions of “blogs.”
Not yet in the Middle East, even though there are many parallels in the region with what has made the phenomenon explode in the United States. For example, blogging technology is available to anyone with access to the Internet, it is cheap, indeed free, and content can easily be created in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and other languages. While home-computer ownership is still embryonic, the deep suspicion of government-owned mainstream media has almost certainly helped spur the growth in the region’s Weblogs.
But there is at least one critical difference. In most of the countries of the Middle East, using a personal Weblog to express political dissent can land someone in jail as easily as taking part in an unauthorized political protest in a public square. For example, recently in Iran – one of the worst anti-blogger offenders – a blogger was jailed for 14 years for “spying and aiding foreign counterrevolutionaries,” after using his site to criticize the arrest of other online journalists. Despite the risks, an estimated 75,000 Iranians among the country’s five million Internet users maintain online blogs. Especially among middle class youth, they have become an important way of expressing dissatisfaction.
Mona al-Tahawy, a columnist at the London-based Saudi daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat, writes that bloggers in Iran and Iraq “have inspired others in the Arab world.” She also adds: “Despite working in an elite medium, requiring a computer and literacy, bloggers are the voice of the true Arab Street, especially the young.”
Like Iran, most countries of the region impose varying degrees of
restriction on Weblogs. Saudi Arabia, where authorities block some 400,000 Web sites, is among the most restrictive. It is unclear how many blogsites there are in the kingdom, but those that are accessible focus largely on political dissent.
Typical is a site called “The Religious Policeman.” One recent posting
“What reforms? There aren’t any reforms! The government promised to set up a higher commission on women’s affairs, guaranteed women participation in the recent National Dialogue Forum and in the National Human Rights Commission.”
It adds: “The National Dialogue Forum agreed to change nothing, the ‘team photo’ had no women in it, anyone with any sense left in
We know the feeling.