The First Arab forum of international stature

Category: Life & Society Topics: Internet Views: 1467

The Arab world has been the object of focus and attention since time immemorial. In the 19th and early 20th century, it was part of the "great game" - the struggle between Britain and her so-called allies for supremacy in the region.

After the World War II, many Arab countries gained their independence and thus they were then able to control their own destinies. There remained, however, the thorny issue of occupied Palestine. This problem was exacerbated after the 1967 war when Israel captured the West Bank which it still occupies; since then, all UN resolutions calling for Israel's withdrawal have failed to arouse any response other than a Zionist campaign designed to dupe the world.

The campaign took the form of a media blitz which utilized modern methods of communication to transmit messages everywhere. The blitz naturally gathered momentum with the advent of late 20th century satellite communications.

This new form of communications has made the world a truly "global village." CNN became virtually the world's only source of news. Other companies were set up to challenge its dominance. We thus had SKY, BBC World Service, CFI and dozens of smaller regional operations.

While all this was going on, a new entrant to the world of communications began creeping in - the Internet. Basically, the Internet is computers all over the world talking to each other. It thus became a powerful tool, cutting across frontiers with impunity and transmitting billions of words. Suddenly people living tens of thousands of miles apart felt they could talk to one other, exchange ideas, find out more about themselves and discover new horizons.

People then began to set up Web sites where they could visit, browse and discover things first hand. By visiting Web sites, one could walk through the streets of London, could order a pizza, do medical research, gain access to the Library of Congress and even look at President Clinton's daily schedule.

Many countries, organizations and individuals made effective use of this medium.

Unfortunately, the Arabs were slow to react. While news and views flashed from computer screens all over the world, we lacked a strong presence on the Internet. Primarily perhaps because its language - English.

[They] decided to set up the which would be a strong Arab site on the World Wide Web (WWW). Once it was established, the site gained popularity and won 9 international awards for excellence.

It was then decided by the same group to promote Arab views and opinions to people who were hungry for information.

Thus Arab View was formed. It was a collection of articles, opinions and analysis by leading Arab writers, the majority of whom wrote in Arabic. Their articles were translated, edited properly in crisp English and then beamed across the world. The response to this was terrific. The site began to get mail from all over the world. The Arab media thus became a major player on the Internet. This interaction brought in queries from a large number of people who were interested in the region, its politics, culture, religion and social mores. Arab View also brought the world into direct contact with Arab leaders. The interview by OKAZ Editor-in-Chief Dr. Hashem Abdo Hashem with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz caused a sensation as it was the first time an Arab leader's interview had appeared on the Internet. The openness of the whole interview and the stature of King Fahd added a new dimension. We are still receiving tens of hundreds of responses on the Internet.

The Internet is a dynamic organism and thus it must be developed and used to the Arabs' advantage. Arab View is also being expanded to incorporate more writers and add more features. A system has been set up where the writers receive e-mails directly at their stations. Views and counter views are also published. So Arab View has become the world's first Arab forum of international stature.

It is expected to grow further and play a pivotal role in giving the Arab version of events. The beauty of Arab View is that it is pragmatic and not propagandistic in nature. And because of this it has won acclaim as a source of free Arab opinion and expression. Many people were alarmed at the rapid spread of the Internet. They were worried that it would engulf the Arabs with its values.

But on the contrary, Arab View is a reminder that with proper planning and determination we Arabs have added our values to the Internet.

Let us be optimistic.

  Category: Life & Society
  Topics: Internet
Views: 1467

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