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Syria: A Week Against Everything and Anything

The oft-divided Syrian blogosphere is at it again this week.  After a post [ar] from Syrian blogger Fadl decrying the practice of masturbation and encouraging bloggers to join in his campaign against it, the blogosphere exploded in a flurry of opposition toward the idea, creating their own campaigns.

In the original post, Fadl encouraged bloggers to re-post information which explained the perceived evils of the act of masturbation in an Islamic context.  He wrote:

اخوتي في الله لقد قمنا بعمل حملة للقضاء على عادة وما لها من عادة قبيحة انتشرت بين الشباب كما ينتشر النار في الهشيم ونحتاج اليكم في مساعدتنا في القضاء عليها ليبذل كل واحد منا جهده حتى نقضى عليها فلنضع التوقيعات كالصورة وفلننشرها حتى يتعظ الشباب هذه هي فرصتنا الكبرى ونحن في شهر رمضان المبارك
هيا يا شباب
My brothers in God, we have started a campaign to eradicate a nasty habit that has spread amongst youth like a forest fire. We need your help so each one of us would do their best until we eradicate it. Let's all sign a petition and publicize the campaign so youth would take note. The holy month of Ramadan is our best chance. Let's go Guys.

First to oppose Fadl‘s initiative was perennial blogger Abu Fares, who wrote a farcical post regarding the problem of masturbation in Syria.  In the post, he mocked:

According to one informed source who has confided in me after recently returning from a trip to Syria (the new enlightened herd very much likes using this phrase or something similar) the bathroom is the most likely crime scene for these psychotically sick and abnormal boys and girls. While unsuspecting parents are watching Bab El Hara, the boys are spanking their monkeys and the girls are beating their beavers.

He then prompted a new initiative, inviting the Syrian blogosphere and its friends to take part:

Let's all use the comment section to reach a consensus. We, the bad guys and gals (the Ze3ran) [Editor's note: "naughty people"]  of the Syrian Blogsphere and our regular guests need to initiate our own Week Against Something. All ideas are welcome and the stupider the better. This is activism at its best. How about a few days of lobbying before we start our valiant attempt at draining this septic pool of stink and shit. Let's move ahead, forge our destiny and join forces together in beating our meats or around the bushes to reach an unprecedented Syrian Orgasm against absurdity, hypocrisy and sanctimony. I leave it literally in your hands ya Mala3een.

Abu Fares’s own foray into the campaign was a tongue-in-cheek proposal for a “week against anal orifices” in which he explained his very real opposition to certain behaviors and kinds of people.  The blogger wrote:

1.There are men who think they are inherently better than women by virtue of their sex. I don't like them.
2.There are men who walk a step ahead of women believing it's only normal due to their twisted sense of morality or their sick understanding of modesty. I don't like them.
3.There are men who discuss the attire of women. How they should or shouldn't dress. What they ought to cover and what they are allowed to reveal. I don't like them.
4.There are men who boss women around and who strongly believe its their god given right to do so. I don't like them.

His post listed four other types he avoids, and also linked to numerous other blogs participating in the campaign.

Another participant was Dubai Jazz, a UAE-based blogger who grew up in Syria.  In his post entitled “A Week of Blogging Against Tribalism” (اسبوع التدوين السوري ضد القَبَلية), the blogger eschewed the idea that sexual activities were the biggest problems facing Syrian society, instead railing against tribalism with examples like this one:

-The first incident occurred in the early 90s. I was probably in the tenth grade. I remember it being a spring evening, and me and the family were out sitting in the balcony. Our house was on the top floor and the balcony was expansive and had a great view of our neighborhood. Except for the cool westerly breeze, the sporadic honks of cars and the distant effeminate voice of Hani Shaker bleating from a distant cassette player, the night was quite and relaxing. We’re probably having tea or cracking nuts.

But all that quiet changed in an instant.

All of the sudden, there were animal shrieks and wailings from the street below. We jumped in our seats and rushed to see what was happening. And our balcony, as I said, afforded us a great view. From the entrance of the building across the street from us, there were dozens of people shuffling around, at first I thought they were escaping a fire, but then it turned out most of them were hurrying inside.

There were dozens of young men of various ages. Few seconds later the pandemonium moved out of the building and on to the blacktop, and only then it occurred to me that a big fight was underway. More and more people were now trickling out of the building, and it was impossible to tell who was on whose side. It was funny in a way, except for the blood that soon started flowing in the gutter. Glistening under the ancient neon street light.

No one died, though. The thugs from both sides had enough sense not to use knives. The police soon came and rounded up everybody like a herd. It turned out (and word on an Arab street travels faster than through a fiber optic cable,) it turned out that someone had lattash (verbally harassed or flirted with) somebody’s sister. And the tension was building up between the neighbors since. Both sides promised to mobilize their next of kin and attack the other side viciously.

Tribalism.

Blogger Ana Sourie (أنا سوري) [I am Syrian] chimed in with a bit of humor, proposing a week against the consumption of beans:

As per an agreement made with Abu Fares last week, I'm fulfilling my part by starting a blogging week against the consumption of all beans, Chickpeas and Fava beans in particular, in our beloved part of the world. We all know the popularity of such toxic elements in our daily diets. This popularity passed through all environmental, dietic, and morality censors in our society. We are a nation whose daily life is controlled by Fava beans and chick peas. In this twenty first century, it's about time someone raised a flag and protested this infiltration. In the next few paragraphs, I'll prove my point against this poison.

GV's own Yazan Badran gave his two cents’ worth with a post for, rather than against, moral decay.  The post offers an “activity” for each of the seven days of the week.  On day one, the blogger suggests:

On the first day of the Blogging Week for Moral Decay, you shall buy a rock and roll album (preferably Are You Experienced? By Jimi Hendrix), and one of them evil devil-worshippers heavy metal (Say, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath). Get your iPod on, let your hair down, make your red underpants very visible and then go have a little walk.

Not every blogger has chosen to participate.  GV's Anas Qtiesh, for one, isn't so sure that ridiculing bloggers is the way to go.  Of the original anti-masturbation campaign, he writes:

Some people were amused by the idea and tweeted the link of the article and a friend of mine wrote to me saying that the campaigner is likely to have a crowd supporting his campaign that you could fit in a phone booth. So, many people find – me included – that idea outrageous, But does that warrant the ridicule of the blogger? Does that make it ok to put aside all the great words and thoughts I’ve seen many Syrian bloggers write on each of their blogs to combine forces to fight this supposed “common enemy” called religiousness?

Abu Fares‘s comment on Qtiesh's blog is an apt conclusion.  He writes:

I agree with everything you said by the way but we’re humans, and Syrians, after all. A little bickering is part of our identity.

Meanwhile, Abu Fares is compiling a complete list of participants in the campaign here.

  • abufares

    Jillian

    Just to give credit where credit is due. Levantine Dreamhouse (Abu Kareem) spearheaded the campaign with this excellent article:

    http://levantdream.blogspot.com/2009/09/dont-touch-this.html

    then with

    http://levantdream.blogspot.com/2009/09/blogging-against-fossilized-thinking.html

    On a side note, while I might at times agree or disagree with the ideas and initiatives of other Syrian and international bloggers I have all the respect in the world for all of them. My farcical post was in response to an advocated notion and should never be misunderstood as mockery against a person.

    Thank you for your follow up of the Syrian Blogsphere and as we say here in Syria:

    “En Ma Kebret Ma Btezghar”… if it doesn’t get big it won’t get small :-)

  • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

    Thank you Abu Fares, and apologies to Abu Kareem; I didn’t realize that was where the initiative had begun. I’ve now read the posts and encourage anyone reading to do so as well!

    As for my comments on your post, I did realize that your intent was neither to mock nor to disrespect anyone and I hope that was clear to our readers as well.

    Best,
    Jillian

  • Pingback: دعونا نتواصل ولو لمرة واحدة « tajreed

  • http://levantdream.blogspot.com/ abu kareem

    Jillian,
    Thanks. I must say that this spiralled beyond what I anticipated or wanted and I hope Tajreed’s call for an initiative to bridge the divide in the Syrian blogosphere bears fruit.

    Abu Fares,
    My friend, you are such a gentleman!

  • http://sco.tt Scott Yates

    Boy, that Dan Ephron at Newsweek really did rip you off.

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