Facebook and the Face of Islam

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You can be my ‘friend’

14 years ago, I contracted with the Eritrean Liberation Army to help build their TV station, ERITV in Asmara, the capital of the newly independent nation of Eritrea.

Eritrea had fought a 30 years long war with Ethiopia to wrest independence, and upon winning it, set out to build a national TV network.

This might have seemed a strange first task for a new nation in which pretty much no one had enough to eat, let along TV sets or even electricity.

Never-the-less, I was soon off to Asmara, where we encountered a massive transmitter atop the highest mountain, powered by a generator and hooked to a VHS machine for output. It was an interesting job.

After a few days, I started to wonder why they were doing this, so I asked the man in charge. The bills were all being paid by the USIA, (which he told me I could also read as CIA) and that the interest of the CIA was not so much TV Eritrea, but rather the fact that the signal we were sending out dropped over nearly half of Saudi Arabia – in particular, Mecca and Medina. And what was USIA providing EriTV with to broadcast with their enormous transmitter? Baywatch, among other things, which apparenly was very very popular in the Islamic Kingdom.

About 6 months ago, Jeff Jarvis convinced me to get on Facebook.

Everyone is doing this, he said.

Little did I know.

But it was true. It turned out to be a great tool for making contacts. I got lots of new ‘friends’ from the founder of AOL to the publisher of The Washington Post. It was all pretty cool. How far and how deep did this new network go? Who could I find?

A few days ago, I typed in the name al-Sudari. This is the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, the direct descendants of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, the country he named after himself. Well, lo and behold, there are lots of members of the Saudi Royal Family on facebook! Lots of princes.. and princesses. Go do it yourself. Now, if you start to follow the links and check out ‘friends’ of ‘friends’ it starts to present a fascinating look into the ruling family of the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are more than 100,000 ‘friends’ in the ‘Saudi Arabia’ group alone. And there are lots of other ones.

The first thing you will notice is, it is not very Islamic.

There are lots of scantily clad girls in the family and their friends. Some bare bottoms. Some bare breasts. There are shots of fast cars and guys with shades and bottles of scotch. In fact, the deeper you go, the less it looks like The Islamic Kingdom and the more it looks like Beverly Hills 90210… on steroids.

Now, I am no CIA analyst, but I think there is something here worth paying attention to.

Something very strange is going on in The Kingdom.

My guess is that there are not too many CIA operatives on Facebook, or who even know what it is.

A little more than a year ago, we met Bill and Hillary (yes, them) at a fundraiser dinner (don’t ask). Given the chance, we took at shot.

“The videos on your website suck” we told Hillary.

She showed an immediate interest. (I am always looking for business).

“You should be on Youtube” we said.

“What?”

“Youtube”

She looked at her media director.

“You???? Youtube?” she asked.

I wrote it down.

“Check it out. You should be on it”.

The CIA on Facebook?

Naaah…… probably not.

But if you want to fight ‘Islamic fundamentalists’, this is probably a better place to start.

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