We are not the enemy

Menassat.com's founder and manager, Samer Mohdad, considers the reasons behind Syria's decision to block our website.
By Samer Mohdad
So Menassat.com has been banned in Syria.

It was not unexpected. And for a start-up website like ours it is even something of a badge of honor. You are nobody if you haven't been banned in Syria.

Still, we wish they hadn't.

So why did Syria ban Menassat.com? Is it further proof of what Syrian writers have been saying in articles on our site, that a new campaign is underway at the Ministry to ban any website promoting freedom of speech in Syria, even if it is a social networking site like Facebook? Or is it a misunderstanding of the meaning of freedom of speech by some in Damascus?

Granted, we haven't been very nice to Syria in the past few weeks.

When we at Menassat.com decided to publish the point of view of these Syrian writers it was with the idea to give a platform to Syrians living inside Syria who are defending the rights of civil society, including the right to freedom of expression.

When a Syrian citizen, based on real facts and after a thorough field study, comes to the conclusion that there is a problem with freedom of speech in Syria, we at Menassat.com cannot but welcome this and offer to publish the results.

This doesn't mean that we are trying to interfere with the internal affairs of a neighboring country. It is done with the hope that freedom of speech will one day be an ordinary fact of life in Syria.

From our point of view, these people who take the risk to speak out are "nobles" in the truest sense of the word. They practice their citizenship with only the national interest at heart, proud of the country they were born in. Therefore it is our duty as a media organization and as human beings to support their cause.

They - and by extension, we - are not the enemies of the states we live in. We are not extremists. We are not terrorists. We do not dream of bloody revolutions or plot military overthrows. We are humanists, averse to all kinds of violence.

We are perhaps a minority of thinkers who believe it is our right to critique our governments in a constructive way, and who want only to overcome the very tensions which lead to the banning of websites.

To try and suppress a modern human being, and to stop him from expressing his point of view about the services rendered to the people by the powers that be is to invite more tension. It will also lead the idealist to become ashamed of the very country he considers his own.

If only the people in power would be prepared to consider the constructive point of view of the free thinkers of the Arab world, it could lead to the building of a healthy civil society based on our own Arab traditions and our own Arab cultural heritage, without recrimination or reproach.

Perhaps you will think my point of view to be overly idealist or even simply naive. But the time of change is coming, and this time it is coming from deep inside the Arab world.