Throughout the May 12-16 work week, Arab social media discourse was fueled by a variety of debates, and for the third week in a row, the pan-Arab vocal talent competition Arab Idol continued to capture the interest of tens of thousands of social media users. The topic, topping the Art category, generated a total volume of 76,337 comments. The top discussed category, however, was politics.
Politics was the leading category throughout the past week as explosions reported in the Libyan city of Benghazi accumulated 18,176 posts. Booby-trapped cars detonated at security buildings, car dealerships and a hospital, leaving scores killed and injured. Some social media users said the blasts were a warning letter from Qatar to Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 Libyan uprising.
“To sum up… Qatar tells Libyans that they either relent to its moderate Muslim Brotherhood, or it will unleash the fighting Jihadists to detonate the country…” Some others believed that the Gulf state had first threatened Libyans with the “moderate Islamist” Muslim Brotherhood, but plans to unleash the extremist Salafists and Jihadist groups against the people. Hundreds of users condemned the blasts. Libyan social media user Eman Elzawi, commented on Facebook: “Our silence and compliance to what happens in Benghazi makes every Libyan man and woman responsible for the atrocities that happened and will happen. This is the beginning. Four explosions in the same week. What a shame!”
Arts appeared as the second most-discussed category on Arab social media platforms. The May 11 episode of Arab Idol 2 was the not only the most attractive topic to thousands of users, but also the only subject in this category for the week. Thousands of users showed overwhelming interest in the 15th episode of the vocal arts competition, posting a total of 76,337 posts related to Arab Idol. Many commented on the judges’ use of the show’s only Wild Card to keep a contestant safe from elimination. Social media users attacked the judging panel, especially Emirati singer Ahlam, for lobbying for the use of the Wild Card to keep Saudi contestant Fares al-Madani in the show despite low audience voting. Users say Ahlam is favoring Madani against the other contestants who are “real singing talents”. A Facebook user commented on the Wild Card saying: “I can’t believe that Fares is back with the only Wild Card in the show. Many other better contestants will miss the chance to remain in the coming weeks. Anyway, next week, there will be no Wild Cards and he will leave. If you agree, press like.”
For the second week, Religion remained the third most discussed category. The top news in the Religion category was driven by the increasing social media activity of Saudi preacher and cleric Sheikh Salman al- Odah. The Saudi preacher has noticeably spiked, following increased engagement with fans. In one of the posts, Sheikh Odah urges fans to cling to hope, even if they lead a miserable life. In another post, the cleric urges fans and followers to abandon fear of the future which, as he says, kills people’s souls.
The majority of users commended Odah’s advice, yet they criticized him for generalizing all ideas of the Arab World. A Facebook user addressed the Sheikh: “God bless you Sheikh. At this time of temptations and lust. This is the time of open internet links. How can we teach virtue to our children?” Other users argued with the sheikh’s advice, with Abu Abed writing: “Dear Sheikh, you live in a safe society, you didn’t experience life in a turbulent Arab Spring country where no-one can plan their next move.” The topic has generated a total volume of 14,070 comments, the majority of which appeared on Twitter.
Unlike last week, the Society category excelled over Sports with regards to volume. Ranked as the fourth most-debated category, Society made up about 6 per cent of the total volume of the Top 5 discussed categories. News about the Egyptian officer who was killed in Port Said drug bust led the topics debated in the Society category. The topic, which counted 6,448, comments, mostly from Egypt was notably active on social media. Officer Karim Wagih, who an Egyptian Special Forces captain, was killed in a shootout during a major drug bust in the city of Port Said. Sadness permeated Egyptian social media networks over Wagih’s death.
Many prayed that God would rest him in peace and regard him as a martyr. Many, however, attacked the Egyptian interior ministry for failing to protect the lives of its officers by not providing them with bulletproof vests. Facebook user Miro El Amoor said: “The blood of those martyrs is the responsibility of the interior minister. If the officer were his son, he would have made it his mission to secure him better than busting a 100 thugs or outlaws.” Many others expressed solidarity with the police, who do their jobs despite the lax security conditions in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Finally, Sports was the least discussed among the other four categories last week. Accumulating around only 4 percent of total volume, the most discussed topic in the Sports category was news of Egypt’s two most famous football rivals, Al-Ahly and Zamalek, playing in the 2013 CAF Champions League in the same group. Many social media users expressed their hope that the two teams would excel in their group. Other users were afraid that riots would erupt during the games that are set to be held in Egypt. Facebook user Islam Salah al-Din referenced the 2012 Port Said stadium riot in 2012 in which in which 79 people were killed and as many as 1,000 injured: “Football now? If you enter a stadium, can you guarantee that another massacre will not take place?” Some other users expressed their concern about the recently observed poor performance of Al-Ahly, believing that the team might pull the entire performance of the group to a lower standard. Mems Love said on Facebook: “Speaking of teams’ performances, Al Ahly must work harder. We can’t win by optimism only.”