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Thinking Bloggers

Syrian blogger Golaniya, formerly known as Sham in Ashrafiyeh, has nominated me for a Thinking Blogger award, which is an internet meme or thought virus that began here. The inventor of the award nominated five people whose blogs made him think, with the request that they each nominate five others, and so on. Since the award is designed to grow exponentially, the only question is whether the blogosphere is growing faster than the award, or whether every blogger in existence will one day be a Thinking Blogger. That’s possible because it only took two months for the meme to reach me. Now it’s my turn to choose five blogs that make me think, and introduce them to you, my readers. I apologize to those of you who never learned the language of Asterix and Tintin because three of my five selections are in French.

Let me start with the shining star of the Anglo-Dutch-Moroccan blogosphere, BO18, whose clean and articulate blog is a sassy mix of politics, culture and personal observation. I’ve already quoted him here several times, starting with his post about losing his cultural identity called The Moroccan Touch, through a discussion of homosexuality and Islam, and an ongoing debate about the possible dangers if Islamists win this year’s Moroccan elections. BO18 is an avowed procrastinator and book sniffer who once ate something really disgusting, but none of this detracts from his originality and charm. He’s active on Mideast Youth, is a student in swinging London, and can appreciate how a guy looks in a burka.

On a different wavelength we have Ibn Kafka, jurist and defender of Moroccan freedom. His posts are often long and full of references to the legal code, but they betray a fine sense of irony that makes them a pleasure to read. An example can be found in his self-description at the top of his blog, “un juriste en liberté surveillée.” “Liberté surveillé” means “on probation,” but translates more literally as “freedom under surveillance.” I take this to refer not just to himself, but to Moroccan society as a whole. In a few words he hints at what the rapper Bigg puts in harsher terms in his song “Al Khouf” (“Fear”). Ibn Kafka was one of the strongest defenders of journalist Aboubakr Jamaï when Jamaï was forced to leave Morocco so his magazine Le Journal could continue its work. Although his personal views are progressive, he has defended the right of Islamic conservatives to criticize the Moroccan system, so long as they don’t cross the line into violence. His response to the recent spate of Casablanca suicide bombings was to tell his readers, “Perhaps this will shock you, but I feel pity for these clueless kamikazes who came from the black misery of our Casablanca slums, at least today’s (two brothers!) who killed no one but themselves…. It’s terrible that so much determination and spirit of sacrifice wasn’t or couldn’t be used for more productive ends, for them and their country.” There are many excellent bloggers working the terrain of Moroccan current events, such as AbMoul, Nadia Lamlili and Larbi, but what distinguishes Ibn Kafka is his passion for justice and his principled humanism.

Kenza, a Marrakechi living in Québec, has inpsired me with her blog Murmures since I first began blogging. Like BO18 she combines political and social commentary with personal reflection, but in a more introspective style. Kenza first caught my eye with a post about wife-beating in Islam, in which she tore into the bigoted sheikhs who support this idea, while insisting on her right to interpret her religion according to her own conscience. “I know what’s written in my Qur’an,” she explained. Kenza is an avid reader, and often discusses the books she loves on her site. Through Kenza I met other bloggers who write in a similar style, such as Mon Massir, “a free and independent woman,” and Loula la Nomade, “exile by nature, rebellious by temperament.” They deserve your attention as well, but Kenza gets the prize because she was my gateway to the others.

Next I’d like to recommend the Antiblog of Yahia Chlyeh. I first discovered Yahia through the comments he made on blogs I was reading. I like to click on the names of commenters who interest me, because it draws me into the labyrinth of blogs and causes me to lose many hours of precious sleep. Once Yahia and I got to know each other, I asked him why his blog is called the Antiblog, and he said it’s because he doesn’t like to write about personal things like “My goldfish died today.” Instead, he chooses a theme like loss of identity, homosexuals in society, television or global warming and examines it in detail. His motto is, “Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress,” so check out his blog and disagree with him! His blog design is as meticulous as his writing. He also posted here on eatbees about God and destiny.

My only non-Moroccan choice is Egyptian journalist Hossam
el-Hamalawy, whose blog 3arabawy is essential for understanding the Egyptian reform movement. I’ve already linked to him several times, whether I was talking about police torture or Hosni Mubarak’s campaign to rewrite the Constitution. He covers the resistance in all its forms, whether it be activist conferences, labor unrest, political trials, or the issues of the greater Middle East. He was an early champion of blogger Kareem, who is now serving a four-year prison sentence for his criticisms of Mubarak and Islam. Unfortunately, a new blogger is now in the spotlight as the latest victim of Egyptian police repression. Journalist Abdel Monem Mahmoud, a crusader against police torture, was pulled off a plane at Cairo International Airport on April 15, while about to travel to Sudan to research a report about human rights in the Arab world. Monem has defended Kareem in the past, even though Kareem is an extremely harsh critic of Islam and Monem is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. This type of solidarity should now extend in the other direction. Monem has already been arrested and tortured once in an attempt to break his spirit, but it only made his commitment stronger. I salute 3arabawy for his reporting, without which stories like this would not be heard in the West.

To those bloggers I’ve named, BO18, Ibn Kafka, Kenza, Yahia and 3arabawy, nothing obliges you to accept the award. If you do, please write a post on your own blog highlighting five more blogs that make you think. The only condition is, they should be blogs that haven’t been chosen before. If you send me the link to your post, I’ll put it in an update here so my readers can follow the chain a step further.

The “thinking virus” seems to be sweeping the blogosphere, because in just the past few days I’ve come across two other blogs that were recently nominated, including Homeyra, whose blog Forever Under Construction I highly recommend. Congratulations Homeyra!

If you’re interested in supporting jailed bloggers Kareem and Monem, click on their photos in the left sidebar for more information.

UPDATE: Moving the Thinking Blogger award solidly into the French-speaking blogoma (Moroccan blogosphere), Kenza presents her five nominees in this post.