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Internet Forums: From Sarah to Ahmadinejad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is a half-hidden universe aside from the world that ordinary people know. And by ordinary people I am referring to those who only use the internet for simple purposes, such as browsing news and services and checking email.

However; away from these people there exists the world of internet forums, blogs and message boards and creatures who live their lives fully immersed in a virtual community made up of people they do not know and most likely will never meet.

I try to avoid getting sucked into this universe despite its compelling nature; it opens up an infinite universe of reality and fantasy. Blogs have spread worldwide so that there are approximately 70 million forums; every two seconds an internet forum is created on a computer in some part of the world.

A blog is a personal online diary where bloggers record their daily events or ideas. Although I think blogs are a waste of time, I could not resist browsing a forum entitled “a tribe called Sarah”. The forum led me to a number of other blogs until I ended up on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forum.

The Iranian president has joined the convoy of young bloggers after launching his own forums three months ago  when I thought he was busy launching nuclear sites only.

So I visited his website to see if the man who had preoccupied the world would say anything different or new. It is not my intention to discuss what the blogger president has written; it would suffice to give a brief glimpse. The Iranian president has made the forum available in four languages: English, French, Arabic, and Farsi, of course. On it, he records some daily events as one would in a diary and bloggers worldwide comment on what he has written with their opinions.

However; there is greater freedom in the English version of the forum and the bloggers say what they please whether they are with or against the president. Sometimes they are rude while the president remains both tolerant and democratic on the English version. As for the Arabic forum, the comments column is only comprised of praise and appreciation for the Iranian president.

Ahmadinejad wrote briefly about his history and life as a villager and about his political experience. He was frank about what he disapproved of and hurled copious criticism against his Western rivals.

In one of his entries, he wrote expressing his disappointment over what had happened in his meeting with an American institution. He said:

“The other day, I promised to provide the public, the detail of meeting that I had with the members of the US foreign relation council. The purpose of the issuance of the detail of this meeting is to inform the public and also to brief the mass media.

The detail of the meeting with the council  which is introduced as an independent council and NGO  can help the people of the world to realize and recognize the way of thinking & also the mental level of the so called the elite and those who impress the US policies.

In this meeting, I was waiting for some specialized and key point questions. But the level of the questions did not go beyond those that are raised in a regular news conference which have been answered many times.” [sic]

Notwithstanding the fact that I am certain that the president does not have the time to read the replies, he has still succeeded in attracting fellow bloggers and solitary creatures that can appreciate his participation.

Despite the zeal bloggers have for their ideas, they nonetheless remain loyal to fellow colleagues. And because he is a very busy man, I hope that his forum could open up a platform for discussion among the Iranians and other bloggers where they can all freely discuss issues of fundamental concern in Iran and the world; weapons, war, and international and human relations.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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