For the third consecutive week in May, social media platforms continued to be animated by discussions of politics and the pan-Arab vocal competition, Arab Idol as a top discussed topic.
During the May 19-23 work week, the Politics category generated a total of 130,437 posts, driven in large part by news in Egypt about the recent return of seven soldiers kidnapped in Sinai. On May 22, President Mohamed Morsi and a number of senior officials have welcomed the soldiers at a Cairo air base. Thousands of users expressed bitterness at the obfuscation of the details of the abducted soldiers’ release. Scores considered the government’s tight-lipped approach an insult to Egyptians in general, while others contended that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had had their hands involved in the story.
Following the news of the soldiers’ release published in an Egyptian newspaper, user Mohamed Hesham commented: “It is a military secret, so you shouldn’t reveal details about how the soldiers were freed because you have long been partners to the terrorist groups. You use them to frighten the people off.” Other users questioned the fate of the other Egyptian officers, who were kidnapped from Sinai two weeks ago. Facebook user Bassem Taha asked: “What about the officers who have been missing for two years? Where are they? Or were those kidnapped for real?”
The Arts category came second this week with a slightly less percentage. As competition on Arab Idol intensifies each week as the pool of contestants shrinks, the topic captured the attention of some 112,137 users. The last episodes aired on May 17 and 18 have stirred controversy on social media platforms. User comments show that voting has become more “national”, with Palestinian users supporting Palestinian vocalist Mohamed Assaf and the Kurds of Iraq throwing their weight behind Parwas Hussein. Many users slammed the Emirati judge Ahlam for supporting Saudi competitor Fares al-Madani before he was eliminated from the show. Sharbel Hanno wrote on Facebook: “Ahlam is a perfect racist judge. She must be eliminated from the show because she doesn’t fit in it. Farah performed supremely well.” Egyptians were observed voting for their country’s Ahmed Gamal, while Syrians appeared to also support Farah Youssef. User Sandy tweeted: “Hopefully Ahmed Gamal will win the Arab Idol 2 title.”
The Sports category came third. The Spanish Atlético Madrid celebration of its 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the latest football game was the top topic in this category, generating up to 32,328 posts. The team, which won the Copa del Rey Cup, for the tenth time pushed thousands of users, especially from the Arab world, to condemn Real Madrid coach José Mourinho for failing to score any titles for the Spanish football giants. Many requested his dismissal from the club. Facebook user Sameer Shdid wrote: “He fell into their trap. They knew how to provoke him. Congratulations. Mourinho made us lose the game…” Zico General agreed, commenting on Facebook: “He is supposed to pay a fine and not judge football games any more. FIFA must confiscate his whistle and prevent him from stepping foot in the play field.” Supporters of both teams engaged in heated debate on the results of the match. Thanks to the Spanish matches, the sports category was pushed up to the third ranks this week, after being the least discussed last week.
Meanwhile, the Society category amassed 23, 582 posts. The top topic was an update about the Islamic preacher Amr Khaled congratulating Egyptians on the kidnapped soldiers’ release. Khaled has offered his congratulations to the families of the kidnapped soldiers and to Egyptians in general following the news of the release of the soldiers. Many comments seen on social media concerning this topic appeared cheerful. However, posts made by mainly Syrian users have expressed sadness over the passive reactions of Arab countries towards the massacre in Syria.
Osama Alhajjeh addressed Khaled and wrote on Facebook: “Mr Amr, what about the Syrian blood? Isn’t it precious to you? I no longer believe in clerics, you are all loudspeakers for your rulers…” Some user were surprised that Khaled extended his thanks to the Egyptian Armed Forces without mentioning President Mohamed Morsi at all. In another post, Khaled prayed that God let him and his followers live through the coming holy month of Ramadan. The latest A Smile of Hope episode addresses the issue of loyalty, through a true story from Algeria. A user from Algeria commented on YouTube after Khaled’s clip saying, “…Thank you Dr. Amr Khaled. I do miss my country Algeria, and I dream of it every day. I hope to return to Algeria soon and kiss its sand…”
Discussions in the Religion category also crept into the Top 5 again this week. The topic most discussed was Saudi journalist Mohamed al-Sheikh’s argument that some Hadith verses were unauthentic. Some 18,420 users discussed the journalist’s comments refuting the legitimacy of verses that call for using camel urine and fly wings as cure for illnesses. Shaikh’s comments sparked a harsh wave of criticism and dismissals by Saudi clerics. However, reactions on social media platforms were diverse. Some users denied the journalist any right to question the authenticity of Hadith credited to Prophet Mohammad in the books of Bokary and Moselm; others contended that he had been brave to openly question part of the Hadith. Tweep Abdullah al-Asmary said: “Many people do not believe Prophet Mohammad ever said those things, because they are illogical and unnatural, but they never speak up because they are afraid of the stupid mobs.” Some other users believed the journalist triggered the debate merely to seek attention. “Believe me, he is after fame,” Cu1l commented on a news website.