Arab TV dramas kindle debate on roots of militancy




 
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Arab TV dramas kindle debate on roots of militancy
 
November 1st, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Arab TV dramas kindle debate on roots of militancy


Arab TV dramas kindle debate on roots of militancy
By Heba Kandil
DUBAI, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Exploding buildings, booby-trapped cars and
bloodied victims are making their debut on Arab satellite television in
daring dramas that deal with Islamist militancy in al Qaeda's main breeding
ground.
The shows' producers say they are another battleground in the war on
home-grown religious zealotry, which many Middle East governments are
confronting by crackdowns and media campaigns.
"Al Tareeq Al-Waer", or "The Rugged Path", and "Al-Hur Al-Ayn", or
"The Beautiful Maidens", have been airing during the Muslim fasting month of
Ramadan, a time of peak viewing in the Middle East.
They both deal with intransigent interpretations of Islam, such as
the one espoused by Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and the
social problems that push some to extremism.
Ali al-Ahmed, head of Abu Dhabi TV, which produced "The Rugged
Path", said that extremists had the loudest voice today so it was vital to
give moderates a channel to air their views.
"This is everybody's problem and as Arabs we have to talk about it.
We can't consider it as just a passing phenomenon that will quietly end
after some time," Ahmed said.

SHOCKED AND PUZZLED
Millions of Arabs and Muslims were shocked and puzzled that the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States were carried by Arab nationals,
born and bred in the Middle East.
After al Qaeda turned its attention away from the West to attack
Arab and Muslim cities, the need to understand the roots of radicalism
assumed extra urgency in the region.
In "The Rugged Path", a community is torn apart when some members
wage a violent campaign to remove their "infidel" rulers and install "just
Islamic rule", in a reference to insurgencies against pro-U.S. governments
in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
The story takes place against a backdrop of actual events. As in
real life, the Arab-Israeli conflict, U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and U.S.
jailers' mishandling of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay prison camp affect the
characters' lives and feed their anger.
"There is real suffering in the Arab world and we need to expose
it," said Jordanian Jamal Abou Hamdan, the show's writer.
"There is rage in Arab and Muslim societies but it is being
channelled in a wrong way. This repression builds up and explodes and youth
have become susceptible to brainwashing."
"The drama is...a call for resisting, not only violence and military
occupation of land, but also an occupation of souls with injustice and
oppression.

GOAL OF JIHAD
Analysts say lack of free expression, high unemployment and poverty
are fuelling discontent and militancy in the Arab world.
"Al-Hur al-Ayn" is based on an al Qaeda bombing of a housing
compound in Saudi Arabia, which killed mostly Arab and Muslim expatriates.
The title refers to the Koran's mention of beautiful maidens in
paradise. Some Islamists believe that, if they die as martyrs, they will be
rewarded and meet such maidens.
Syrian director Najdat Anzour says his show aims to wipe out any
support for militants' calls for jihad among viewers who might be
sympathetic towards al Qaeda's anti-U.S. agenda.
"It is speaking to all generations and especially hesitant people
caught at crossroads. The programme can't affect those who have already
chosen their paths," Anzour said.
In one scene, a moderate cleric tells worshippers, including a
would-be militant, that the goal of jihad is to protect society in the case
of a clear threat against it.
Another character says jihad is not the killing of civilians, but
the struggle to become a better Muslim.
The soaps have received acclaim from some viewers.
"By discussing extremists' views on religion, they've exposed them
as terrorists who have nothing to do with Islam," said 31-year-old Nermine
Zohdi, an environment specialist.
However, their controversial content has raised the anger of others.
A Saudi newspaper reported that some actors in "Al-Hur Al-Ayn" received
death threats.
Last year, Hamdan's series "The Road to Kabul", which dealt with
Afghanistan's radical Taliban, was pulled off air after militant threats.
Channels at the time said it was cancelled for technical reasons.
Al Qaeda researcher Fares bin Houzam said the dramas were unlikely
to reel back militants, but could accomplish their aims and win over a few
al Qaeda sympathisers.
"It is a mistake to think these soaps will change the minds of al
Qaeda militants who won't even turn on the infidel TV and watch women on it.
But the message may affect people in their 20s whose views are still being
shaped," he said.