OCSAB: Not My Thing

So I met Mohammed Al Mesa’ed, aka Green Tea, or simply the man I have been referring to in recent conversations with some friends as the OCSAB Guy. Few days ago, he called me pretending to be a reporter for Al-Riyadh newspaper. He gave me a false name, and asked me for an interview, which I agreed to do. We decided to meet in a nearby coffee shop, and only when I met him and he gave me his business card I discovered that he was lying. I was puzzled over how he got my mobile number, but then realized that it was not something really impossible to do, especially that I’m not a privacy freak of any kind. However, the method he used to reach me was disrespectful, unprofessional, and immoral. I considered walking out on him, but I thought that if the guy was willing to lie in order to meet me, then probably he had a good reason to do so. We talked for about two hours, interrupted many times by the ringing of his mobile phones.

OCSAB, an acronym for ‘the official community of the Saudi bloggers’ (btw, I think the second “the” in the name should be removed), was co-founded by Al Mesa’ed, a law student at KSU, earlier this year, and I read about it for the first time on his blog when he announced their first meeting. My initial impression on OCSAB was not very positive. For me, they looked excluding, and their tendency to label others does not go with what I know about building a community. According to their website, blogs that want to join OCSAB must adhere to four guidelines; three out of these four did not make much sense to me.

The first one reads: “The blog must not insult Islam at any level, and therefore it must not call to liberalism and secularism.” It seems like OCSAB believe liberalism equals secularism, and therefore it is against Islam. Well, I don’t think that being a liberal contradicts with being a Muslim. I’m a liberal, and I’m damn proud of it. In the same time, I try to be a devoted Muslim, and I don’t feel any contradictions between the two. The second is for a blog to be Saudi, and that’s totally understood, but I think it should have come first not second. The third one says “the blog must be in Arabic, except for blogs that call to Islam.” If OCSAB think those who blog in English do it because they can’t blog in Arabic, are not proud of their culture and religion, or have some kind of an identity crisis, then they are wrong. And if they think they can this way overcome the leadership of Saudi blogs written in English, then they are so wrong. Content is king, and it does not matter in what language it is written. The last one says the blog should be on a certain topic, and they “apologize for not accepting blogs with personal content.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for blogs that specialize in a certain topic, but I think blogs are basically a medium for personal publishing, and if we took the personal touch out of blogs then what’s the difference between blogging and traditional journalism?

Al Mesa’ed and I have our differences. We agree on some stuff, we disagree on many stuff, and apparently we have two very different definitions of freedom, but I think that no matter what, a certain level of mutual respect is there and it should be maintained. Thanks to his connections, he provided a good exposure to OCSAB early on: there are already several mentions of them in the local press, and he will be on TV next week on two different channels to talk about their work. During our meeting, he tried to make me say what I don’t like about him, but I refused to say. I think that he also wanted me to announce my support to OCSAB by the end of the the meeting, and probably join them, but I did not do any of that either.

OCSAB might gain some success, but due to their current nature, I don’t see them creating a big fellowship. People would be either with or against them, and this is not always a good thing. If you want to attract people to a community you should give them space to create, practice their freedom, and be themselves, not to restrict them with your own set of rules. One of their goals is to spread blogging in Saudi Arabia, and I absolutely share this goal with them. That’s why I think their biggest success would be to convince influential people and good writers to start blogging. If they could accomplish this, then I would for sure give them the credit they deserve. I’m skeptical, as always, but for the time being, they have just started, there are too much they have to do, and it is still very early to give any review on their work.


13 thoughts on “OCSAB: Not My Thing

  1. the very nature of this person seems like he is a devout Muslim whose subconsious aim by forming this saudi blogger group is to spread the message of Islam. Issues like having a blog in Arabic, except Islamic ones are kind of tricky for people like you. However, the funniest thing I have seen through your post is how this guy got your number, used a false alias to meet you, did not respect your presence amidst his ringing mobile phone etc etc… yet wants to maintain his “islamic” agenda through thee blogs…somehow I am glad you did not join the group. I am sure someone else out there can do a better job in trying to set up a blogger community!

  2. Hmm interesting… just wondering, what is it that makes the OCSAB “official” as they claim? Is it supported by a govt body? Or did they just feel like using it in their name?

  3. first i would like to say that i agree with you in al you said but i noticed that you arised an intersting issue at by saying”Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for blogs that specialize in a certain topic, but I think blogs are basically a medium for personal publishing, and if we took the personal touch out of blogs then what’s the difference between blogging and traditional journalism?
    jsu recntly i was wondering about this taking aa way the personal touch of blogging u can read about it in my blog and please your feedback http://www.abudhabievents.blogspot.com/

  4. You’re right, if blogs are stripped of its personal touch, then what’s the difference between blogging and traditional journalism? After I read what you wrote about OCSAB, I am not liking them one bit. They seem to be more on the conservative side of the spectrum. Saudis like that have already gained momentum in the Saudi journalism scene, should we have them take over our last hope of freedom to write whatever we want on whatever we want? I say a blog community should be “unofficial” and informal, that’s how you win the people’s support. I, personally, will never yield to any “guidelines;” my blog is my creative space, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

  5. the very nature of this person seems like he is a devout Muslim

    Really? I doubt I’d call somebody who lied to me and practiced deception by pretending to be somebody they weren’t, and manipulated me in the process, a devout Christian! In fact, I’m sure that I would not! Are these things acceptable in Islam?

    BTW, didn’t he violate one or more of his own rules with the conduct Saudi Jeans describes?

  6. جميل للغاية ..
    شتّــان بين ما أراه مكتوبا الأن ، وبين من كان جالسـا أمامي ذلك اليوم .. حسـنا ، هناك العديد من الأمور الغريبة التي ذكرتها أنت ، هناك العديد من الإنتقادات على ما كتبت ، ولكن هناك نقطتين ذكرتها هي التي شدتني ..
    بالنسبة لدعوتك إلى أوكساب ؟ هل عرضت عليك أنا ذلك ؟ أعتقد أن من شروط الإنضمام إلى أوكساب عدم التعرض للإسلام أو الدعوة للتحرر والعلمنة ، بينما أنت تشير إلى أنك ليبرالي صرف ..
    من ناحية أخرى فهناك شرط اللغة العربية ، أنت مخالف لـ نصف الشروط فكيف أسعى لـ ضمك ؟ النقطة الثانية هي مسألة إنكارك الشديد لـ طريقتي في مقابلتك ، حسـناً أنا معك أنها قد لا تكون الطريقة المثلى لذلك ، ولكن دافعي كان أنني أحترمتك ولهذا بحثت عنك ووجدتك .. على أي حال ..
    جميع شروط أوكساب وضعت بإهتمام كبير ، وليس هناك شرط وضع إلا من أجل تحقيق هدف ومصلحة كبيرة من وراءه ، ولو أنك حضرت أحد لقاءات اوكساب المتعددة ، أو قمت بالتركيز خلال حديثنا ، لـفهمت الفكرة بشكل أوضح ..
    حســناً ، ها أنا أعرض عليك أمام الكُل وبإسمي الحقيقي محمد المسـاعد ( شـاي أخضر ) أن نلتقي لـ نكمل نقاشنا وحديثنا ، هل ستقبل ذلك ؟

  7. صحفي يالمساعد؟؟
    هل هذه الكذبه تعتبر من اخلاق الرجال ايضا؟؟
    وماذا سيكون شعورك لو ان احدا استخف بك بهذه الطريقه؟


  8. I read your blog because you find cool stuff on the ‘net and I learn something about a place I have never been. Insight and understanding are important in this world. You are spreading that. If your blog was in Arabic, then I could not read it.

  9. Chanad:
    They are seeking to get a permission from the ministry of labor as some kind of association or society, but no luck so far.

    Green Tea:
    Being the shy person that I’m, then probably I did not know how to make myself clear to you the other day. But I remember exactly telling you that OCSAB won’t work out, and why is that. It is true that you have not invited me to join you, and I have not said that. I said: “I think that he also wanted me to…” This was my impression, and maybe it was a wrong one, just like my impression toward you. You say: “Probably it wasn’t the ideal way to meet, but my motivation is that I respected you, and that’s why I searched for you and found you anyway…” This piece has many contradictions that I don’t need even to reply to it; it replies to itself actually. I was thinking about meeting you again, but after your last call I don’t think that would be such a good idea (you know exactly what you have said in that call, and you don’t want me to put it here on my blog).

  10. I’m an American who has been in the Kingdom for only seven months. I do not live in a compound and I don’t work for the healthcare or energy industry. I think Saudis suffer from a self-esteem problem and overcompensate for this with a kind cultural narcissism. The result is a tendency to have a “holier than thou” attitude. And this is particularly noticeable in the Saudi view that there is only one interpretation and one school of Islam that is legitimate. It also seems that the folks from Nadj have a cultural monopoly on what it means to be “Saudi”. In any case, it’s not surprising that this “with us righteously or against us as our enemy” view is being taken to the Internet by some people in this country. Until these people begin to understand that they do not know everything and that self-righteousness is an evil habit of bad people Saudi Arabia will suffer from a kind of low-level civil conflict among its people. Self-righeousness is a sin, in my book, because it assumes the bearer of the righeousness is somehow more knowlegable and godly than the person being judged. It the devil’s tool used to divide people and make them enemies and, in the worse scenario, causes violence and civil conflict. And I find that incredibly amusing in a country that can’t function without a huge population of foreign nationals working in all sectors of the economy because the Saudis don’t have the skills or the humility to condescend to the values of meritocracy and a positive work ethos. (Thing that I am sure the Prophet Mohammed, pbuh, valued in his own life.) If somebody doesn’t have the education or skill to do a simple job, how than they preach to me about the righeous life when I’ve worked all my life to get where I am, and I strive to do the right thing without judging other people? I laugh at people like this OCSAB dude. What a joke. It’s soo 1960s USSR politburo stupidity.

    With that said, I am enjoying my time here and have found everyone here, including the Saudis, to be extremely hospitable and generous people. I am disappointe din my liberal colleagues in the USA who have fallen into the trap I am describing and have passed judgement on all Saudis based on 9/11. You see? It works both ways! The lesson is that tolerance is king.



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