Month: May 2013

Buzz Report: Weekly Top 5: May 19-23, 2013

May 26, 2013

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?”

PoliticsThe 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.”

ArtThe 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…”

sports, society, religionDiscussions 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.

Buzz Report: Weekly Top 5: May 12-16, 2013

May 19, 2013

Throughout the May 1216 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.”

ArtFor 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.”



Weekly Top 5: April 28- May 2, 2013

May 7, 2013

At the beginning of the week of April 28-May 2, Arab social media users discussed the previous weekend’s episodes of Arab Idol. Like last week, political discussions took the lion’s share of social media activity, although the top topic was in the Sports category.

The four-month conflict in Iraq evolved into armed fighting, which many critics believe will eventually become a civil war.  Some users said Iraq was at a crossroads and would head towards “the obscure” unless PM Nouri al-Maliki’s government acted to end violence. Others demanded Maliki and his government resign to spare the country more fighting and bloodshed. Reader Mohamed al-Sawi wrote: “Who bears the responsibility of this disaster? All the Iraqi politicians, headed by Maliki who only looks after Iran’s interests.” Users stressed that the four-month protests had been peaceful, but the Iraqi troops raided Hawija city and killed the peaceful protesters camping there. Others slammed the government’s approach to Hawija massacre as conflicting, since they hail the soldiers who attacked the protesters as “heroes”, yet describe the victims as “martyrs”. Other users supported Maliki’s crackdown on the protesters, arguing that the clashes in Kirkuk were a blatant breach to a ceasefire deal, and claiming that the protesters want to control the oil fields in Kirkuk. Some claim that protests started as peaceful demos, until Qaeda members infiltrated them to ignite sedition among Iraqis. On the other hand, some slammed foreign countries as interfering in Iraq’s affairs. Reader Yasir said: “America and Iran know from the very beginning that Maliki supports sectarianism. True Iraq is made up of moderate Sunnis and moderate Shias.”


Arab Idol was discussed twice this week, generating 83,491 comments. The first episode of the eliminations round of the show debuted last Friday, putting the fate of the contestants in the hands of the audience. Some expected Egyptian contestant Ahmed Gamal to reach the finals after performing a cover of Mohamed Mounir’s “Younes”. Egyptian users called on each other to vote for Gamal and Sabrine Negeily. Palestinian users also lobbied for Mohamed Assaf and supported him until the finals ended. Facebooker Aseel Omari cheered: “Thanks to all the Arab countries from the Maghreb to Qatar for supporting Mohamed Assaf. He has a Palestinian voice, with an Arab note. We thank you for supporting Assaf, the voice of Palestine.”

Some users said the contest executives rigged the votes, especially after Lebanese Wael Saied was eliminated from the contest following low audience votes. Many slammed judge Nancy Ajram for keeping Saied in at the beginning despite low audience votes, then refusing to flash the Wild Card for him to stay. User Njoud A protested: “Are you saying that people voted for Fares and Hanan more than Wael? Of course not! They have altered the results.”

Iraqi users supported their nationals Mohannad al-Marsoumy and Kurdish-Iraqi contestant Parwas Hussein. Some others commended Syrians Farah Youssef and Abdul Karim Hamdan and wished one of them would win the title. Many said they missed judge Ragheb Alama who didn’t appear at Saturday’s episode for committing to other plans.

ARTUEFA Champions League semifinals attracted Arab football fans who are usually divided between Spanish giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. None of those teams, however, advanced to the last leg of the championship’s finals, held later this month. Users lamented that their favorite teams didn’t reach the finals, although they were the forerunners for the title, but they were beaten off by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund advanced to 2013 Champions League final, after Bayern routed Spanish FC Barcelona 3-0 on Wednesday, and Dortmund won over Real Madrid 4-3 on Tuesday. Some social media users commended the German teams for their powerful performance throughout the tournament, while others cited bad luck and referee mistakes as the cause of Spain’s defeat. Barcelona and Real Madrid fans fought over their losses, and each party gloated at the other’s defeat. Real fans attacked their Barcelona rivals who earlier mocked them for losing to Dortmund.Essam al-Shawali said: “Where are the Barca fans who dressed the Real down yesterday? At least the Real won yesterday and performed like men. Ronaldo was injured but Messi? No comment.”

Barca fans were disappointed ahead of the last leg of the semifinals, as they knew it would be difficult to catch up a gap of 5 goals. Reem contemplated: “The Germans deserve to win, no doubt. Neither Barca nor Real deserved it. But Borussia and Bayern played very well.”

Real fans attacked the team’s coach Jose Mourinho and accused him of depending on the referee mistakes to win Champions League games.


In Saudi Arabia, users were mesmerized by the flash floods caused by the heavy rains across different provinces of the kingdom. The wave of heavy rainfall that hit several Gulf countries led to the temporary closure of some schools in Saudi Arabia. Some social media users demanded the closure of all the kingdom’s schools as a precaution lest the bad weather conditions inflicted hazards the school students. Others lamented that people were not aware of risk management, and the civil defense workers were not properly trained to face rain and floods. Rashed al-Jadou criticized: “They must create emergency levels in different colors (red, orange, yellow) as the case in developed countries. The civil defense, hospitals, and the public must learn about them.”

Others said that the rainfall was not heavy in all the kingdom’s provinces, and argued that schools did not need to shut down unless necessary. A Smile of Hope said: “It’s just a drizzle, but the people are too spoiled to resist a slight shower of rain or dusty winds.”

Others claimed that the rainfall was part of a prophecy by Muslim Prophet Mohammad who – allegedly- predicted that the Arabian Peninsula would witness climate changes that would turn the desert into green lands. Huskun wrote: “Doomsday will not arrive before the Arabs lands turn green with rivers flowing in them.”

Discussions on Religion composed approximately 1% of the total volume, and were mainly generated by conversations on Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled’s posts. Khaled asked followers to focus their attention on the afterlife instead of this life: “You care for life, the afterlife flees your heart, if you care for the afterlife, the love for your life flees your heart.” Users prayed that God make this life the least of their concerns. Khaled started posting well-known supplications on the social media networks, attracting users to comment and share them.

In a new episode of A Smile of Hope, Khaled asked followers to combat difficulties by quashing the term “impossible”. To support his argument, Khaled mentioned a story of an Afghan man who fled the Soviet war on his country and moved to London to start a new life. Users commended Khaled’s advice and focus on moral and spiritual values. Faeha Sham lauded the preacher: “Wonderful! You have planted hope, wisdom, Islam in our hearts. Here you infuse hard work and will power to our lives. God bless you!”