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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Arabic Literature & the Internet: Debate opens Dubai festival

Writing in Gulf News, Abbas al Lawati reports from the Dubai literary festival on two sides to a debate about how the internet has affected Arabic literature:
It is often argued that the advent of the internet led to an evolution in Arabic literature that is unprecedented.

While some argue that the internet weakens the Arabic language, others say that it has enabled Arabic literature to reach an audience much larger and farther than ever.
The panel members at the debate included Samuel Shimon, who commented that:
"Arabic writing was isolated and geographically restricted until the internet came along. Now an Arabic writer in Abu Dhabi can have an audience from Casablanca to Australia," said Shimon, who is also the founder of the Banipal online magazine on Arabic literature.

He said that he was also introduced to many new Arabic writers courtesy of the internet.

"We can actually call it Arabic literature now because it can finally reach all parts of the Arab world," he said.
The article concludes in favour of the internet's global reach, with an interesting point about its liberalising effect not only on readers who can now access books from around the world, but also on writers.
The writers said the internet helped Arabic writing free itself from political and social restrictions that had plagued pre-internet era Arabic writing, saying it was a platform for free thought and the unrestricted exchange of ideas.

They also credited the internet with introducing Arab authors to the non-Arab world and helping globalise Arabic writing.

It was also argued that the internet had even helped promote gender equality.

"We all know that women aren't afforded many opportunities in Saudi Arabia. The internet has helped introduce the Saudi literary scene to more women, who now constitute 60 per cent of Saudi writers thanks to the internet, as opposed to the previous 40 per cent. They can become writers sitting at home now," said Turki Al Dakhil.

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