The Weekly Top 5 report highlights the top five subjects from five different discussion categories that generated the largest volume of discussion across Arabic language social media platforms on a weekly basis. The report is derived from crawling the web and indexing hundreds of thousands of Arabic-language, user-generated results on a daily basis. A more thorough explanation of our methodology follows the report. The Weekly Top 5 represents data collected throughout the Sunday-Thursday work week in the Arab world.
Politics returned to the forefront of this week’s top five, as the buzz surrounding Saudi preacher Salman al-Odah’s calls for political change in the Kingdom reached a whopping 53,368 comments. In a series of 64 tweets, the prominent preacher and Islamic Scholar called for political change in Saudi Arabia, focusing his discussion on political prisoners and the power of the media while warning authorities not to deny Saudis their rights.
While some users supported al-Odah’s calls for reform, others asked him to study thoroughly the problems he mentioned before suggesting solutions. Khaled Addoweesh tweeted: “His initiatives deserve to be scrutinized.”
On the other hand, some users categorically rejected al-Odah’s calls for reforms and accused him of being an agent of foreign regimes that seek to incite people against the Saudi rulers. User Ati al-Mediany wrote: “So now this salacious, licentious, hypocrite who calls for foreign intervention in our country has come to represent us.”
In the art and entertainment world, the second season of the Arab Idol talent competition once again stole the number one spot with 15,551 comments. Arab users reacted positively to the second episode of the season and were particularly pleased with the second season’s new judge, Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram. Users admired Ajram’s beauty and delicacy, while UAE singer and judge Ahlam was admired for her laughter. User Ahmad Jarad Al-Shikhli commented: “Nancy is the sweetest flower!”
On another note, users commented on the contestants, particularly praising the Iraqi talents and commending the show for holding auditions in the Iraqi city of Irbil. Some, however, suggested that upcoming auditions be held in less privileged Arab countries like Sudan. User Bhram commented: “Iraq is the hub of talented singers with outstanding vocals, better than the rest of the Arab World and North Africa.”
Some contestants’ funny auditions also created a lot of buzz, particularly that of Libyan contestant Radhi Azzab, who was favored by most Arabs yet slammed by Libyan nationals. User ÃĦmãd Ḟǿũãd said: “You make us Libyans look bad. You’ve shamed us.” Users also mocked a Tunisian contestant who performed a song in poor English.
Meanwhile, in the media category, users discussed a different type of show; the third episode of the second season of Saudi satirical show “Yatbaoun” (They Print). The episode, which was aired on the Sahi YouTube Channel and hosted by Hadi al-Sheibani, garnered 8,125 comments. Al-Sheibani criticized the rising unemployment rates, the housing crisis, as well as African infiltrators into the Kingdom.
Though sentiment towards al-Sheibani was generally positive, a number of users criticized the show’s host, commenting that his over-acting was killing all the jokes. Some even went as far as to ask for al-Shebani’s replacement with another host. User Calm and Tornados wrote: “The show’s production is perfect, but it needs someone better than that wretched Shebani.”
Nevertheless, the larger proportion of users lauded al-Shebani’s criticism of social problems in the Kingdom, some lamenting the fact that Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, yet its people still struggle with unemployment and corruption. Tweep Khalid Saleh said: “I hate that I am Saudi. If I lived in a poor country, we’d accept this!!! But not in a rich, oil-producing country.”
The society category this week was topped by Algerian infuriation with a rising number of child abductions. Residents of the Algerian city of Constantine—the site of a recent case of child abduction—held rallies to protest the rising rate of child abduction in the country, generating a buzz of 7,345 comments.
After the rallies turned into violent clashes between protesters and security forces, user sentiments towards the Algerian regime were generally negative. Some users commented that people were growing impatient with both the Algerian police and the regime on the whole, urging the Algerian government to act with transparency, honesty and respect for the public. User Algerian said: “We’ve had enough. You either be more transparent, or you let the people take control.”
Others called on the government to apply the penal code and execute all those proven to have been involved in such crimes. User belwazdad20 wrote: “A Killer must be killed – A Killer must be killed – A Killer must be killed – A Killer must be killed. Vengeance – Vengeance – This is the solution.”
The residents of Constantine also received praise for taking action and users encouraged all Algerians to do the same to put an end to child abduction.
Finally, there was only one topic this week in the religion category, garnering a total of 1,894 comments. Tunisian thinker Mohamed Talbi’s controversial statements about God and religion during a TV interview generated the most buzz in this category. Talbi had commented that he does not believe in the torture of the grave, a deeply-rooted Islamic concept, and that he does not fear God, but still loves Him.
In spite of the controversy, sentiment towards Talbi was on the whole positive, as many users commented that they love and respect his free thinking. These users also supported his views of Islam, which reflected the faith’s emphasis on love, mercy and tolerance rather than excommunication, terrorism and extremism. User Dev Mabrouk wrote: “Islam is a religion of morals above all… May God bless you, Dr. Mohamed Talbi.”
On the other hand, a number of users lashed out at Talbi and accused him of senility and divagation. Some recalled the thinker’s earlier writings, in which he reportedly insulted Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Mohammad, and said that liquor was not forbidden by Islamic law. User Mohamed Rahali Mohamed said: “Poor man who doesn’t know the truth at this age. He will learn it soon.”
Others criticized pro-Ennahda Facebook pages, which took Talbi’s statements out of context by removing the parts in which he said he loves God, for example. User Blabzy warned that these pages were a source of sedition in Tunisia: “You miswrote the title of this article. I do not agree with Talbi, but he didn’t mock torture of the grave… sedition is tougher than murder, people!”
These results above are extracted from thousands of social media sources such as blogs, microblogs, forums, message boards, readers’ comment sections on news websites, etc, which are continually updated. A team of Arabic social media researchers and Arabic social media analysts use Arabic Natural Language Processing and data mining tools to analyze the data and to extract the list of top five subjects, based primarily on keyword repetition.
The Weekly Top 5 displays results of the common Sunday-Thursday work week in the Arab world, and is solely focused on Arabic language user-generated results, classified by volume of comments/discussion.
Data is captured primarily from 17 Arab countries in North Africa, the Levant, and the Arab Gulf region, and when relevant, the five other Arabic speaking countries belonging to the Arab League (Sudan, Somalia, Comoros, Djibouti and Mauritania).