Iranian Muslim Bloggers
Hamid Tehrani is a researcher,blogger and journalist. He is Persian editor of Harvard Global Voices and is the founder of "Sounds Iranian," a community for researchers on Iranian blogs. He has published in various Persian, English, French, and Italian magazines. Hamid Tehrani has been interviewed several times by international media such as BBC.
Iranian Islamist blogs probably provide one of the best places to learn information and news about power and state-related issues in the Islamic Republic, because some of their writers have close ties with Iranian leaders and some of them even are leading figures in the regime.
By studying and reading the Islamist blogs, we get an insight into the dynamism and evolution of the Islamic Republic's power structure, its ideology, its interests, and its conflicts.
Islamist blogs are not monolithic and, like many other non-Islamist blogs, provide us a window into Iranian civil society, daily life, and ideas.
An Islamist blog is a blog on which Islamic or political Islamist values or beliefs play an important role.
In the last two years, Islamist bloggers became much more active and organized than before. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory played a key role in mobilizing these blogs in different ways. Reformist bloggers found themselves out of power and started to use the blogs as instruments to get votes. Government itself supports—directly or indirectly—organizations such as the Office for Religious Blogs Development (ORBD) (1). This office has a project to help every religious student get a blog.. But we should emphasize that Islamist bloggers existed before the Ahmadinejad era.
Unfortunately the Western media has ignored Islamist blogs. Maybe one of the reasons of this ignorance is the lack of available sources in English or probably “pro democracy” blogs are more attractive than Islamist blogs.
Some Islamist bloggers have started to organize themselves to extend their influence and promote their ideas both in virtual and real world.
Muslim Bloggers Association: Yes to Hezbollah, No to Hamas
The Muslim Bloggers Association (MBA) is a conservative association that launched less than a year ago, but its first post went back to January 2005. The founders of this association are very young, and one of their leading figures, Mohmmad Masih Mahdavi, is only 19 years old. The roots of this association goes back to two years ago when at least some in the MBA tried to organize a committee for Moslem bloggers.
A short time before the existence of MBA, the Muslim Bloggers Committee was launched by several Islamist bloggers, including two key members of MBA, Bouzar Monatezr Ghaem, whose blog name is Pasdar (means guardian), and Mohmad Masih Mahdavi, who writes Esteshhadi (means martyrdom Seeker). They have launched this Muslim bloggers’ committee to fight against secular bloggers and to promote their ideas. To become a member of this committee, you must be a Shiite Muslim and you must believe in the Islamic Republic.
The Muslim Bloggers Committee transformed into the MBA, and conditions of membership are not mentioned as before. Interested people are invited to read the principles of the association and judge for themselves if they fit in the group or not. The MBA has five members on its general council who write in their own names. The collective lists, on which the names of several Islamist blogs were mentioned, can be considered the first organized efforts of Islamists.
Hezbollah blog list (3) was launched three years ago; 150 names are mentioned, divided in two groups, men and women.
Many of these blogs don't write about politics. Some of them include prayers to God or to saints or just poems.
MBA is a conservative Islamist association whose many characteristics originated in the first decade of the Islamic Republic’s existence, when Ayatollah Khomeynie, Founder of the Revolution, was alive. MBA positions itself on two fronts: Iran and the rest of the world.
MBA opposes secularism and liberalism in Iran. It wants to export revolution and it is extremely anti-American and anti-Zionist.
MBA follows two main objectives:
1-Promoting activities of Muslim bloggers and Islamic values
2-Fighting enemies and causes such as secularism, feminism and atheism. In other words, it believes that “anyone who is not with us is the enemy.” The only additional notable characteristic in regard to Khomeyni’s era is MBA’s anti-Semitism.
The first post is relevant to their ideology and their emotional ties with Ahmadinejad. MBA says: “We offer you a cultural product and it is the negation of the Holocaust”.
MBA is very internationalist and it wants to launch a Global Islamic Front, a Hezbollah virtual base in the near future. MBA is very interested in learning about the outside world. Their interest can be understood in the realistic context of marketing. The members of this association want to export their revolution — and when you plan to export something, you should learn about your markets.
I had a conversation with Mohammad Masih Mahdavi, one of its founding members. He says to me that there are different tendencies within the association. Although some are focused on foreign issues such as Palestine, Lebanon and fighting against Zionism, other members want more focus on Iran and social justice. Mohammad Masih Mahdavi states: “We support Hezbollah and we are very interested [in the] Moslem Brothers in Egypt but we do not support and like Hamas because it is a Salafid group and it kills innocent civilians. It is something that distinguishes us from some other Islamist bloggers who support Hamas.”
Moslem bloggers are participating in the virtual world, and in the real one MBA relies on its memberships and/or alliances.
Members: According to MBA, 100 bloggers became members. About 1000 people showed interest in MBA, but did not join the association due to desire for anonymity.
Alliances and Ties
MBA has developed relationships with Conservative politicians and other fundamentalist associations.
One of the main political figures who is in very close contact with MBA members is Mohamad Ali Ramin, adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is the man who was behind the infamous Conference on the Holocaust in Iran. Mohmad Masih says that Ramin, because he does not have any official position, has much more time to spend with members of MBA.
He adds that Ramin is not anti-Semitic and even wants to encourage research on the Holocaust. But reality is far different than this claim. Ramin has already said: Historically, there are many accusations against the Jews. For example, it was said that they were the source for such deadly diseases as the plague and typhus. This is because the Jews are very filthy people. For a time people also said that they poisoned water wells belonging to Christians and thus killed them. ..(4)
He also mentioned in an interview that Hitler was Jewish himself.
He commented regarding 9/11: “When the Islamic Revolution of Iran succeeded and attracted many people around the world, including Christians, the AIDS epidemic came about, and fear again overtook the world. After the September 11 attacks, the deadly epidemic broke out, which was destroyed when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) illness broke out, but disappeared after the invasion.”
He is the director of the International Foundation of the Holocaust and he has launched his personal site/blog named The Future World.
MBA has ties with several key members of the Iranian conservative establishment including Emad Afrough, MP and former head of the Cultural Commission in the Iranian Parliament. He has been critical of Ahmadinejad’s policies. Another MP is Said Aboutaleb, a filmmaker who had been arrested by Americans in Iraq. MBA members are in contact with Mehdi Chamran, a leading conservative figure in Tehran’s Municipality and head of the Council of the City of Tehran.
MBA has developed close ties with other conservative associations and groups, such as the Islamic Students Association in Imam Sadegh University and Edalatkhah (“Edalt” means justice and “Edalatkhah” =Justice Seekers) Islamist Students. This movement started in different universities about 3 years ago. The members’ main goal is social justice. They are against negotiations with the U.S. in Iraq and believe Latin America is important.
Actions and Members:
MBA has been active on two fronts: virtual and real. This association has called for condemnation of Zarinkelk, a famous academic, for his comments regarding one of his students’ hairstyles. If we look at the personal blogs of two founding members, Aboozar and Masih, we can read a lot of posts against liberals, feminists and secular bloggers.
MBA is active in the streets too. Its members took part in a demonstration against Nestle Company in Iran, calling it a Zionist organization.
MBA is in solidarity with Lebanese Hezbollah and it displays that by putting related logos on the blog.
Even though they do not support any political group in their blog, on their news site they consider Ahmadinejad the most successful President in the last 3 decades. This is a statement with which many will disagree.
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chris flores - 6/21/2009
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