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When Television Becomes Food for Thought - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Every now and then, a controversial television series is produced, which opens the door for debate on a range of issues, inspiring those in favour, and provoking those against [such issues]. During Ramadan this year, two separate television series, each with interesting subject matter, attracted an abundance of controversy and uproar, and thus deserve to be analysed in further detail.

The first series portrayed the life story of a great Companion, namely al-Qe’qaa’ Ibn Amr al-Tamimi. The show faced a barrage of criticism for numerous ‘errors’, the most prominent of which was in emphasising and re-introducing the role of the [pre-Islamic] tribe, and glorifying pre-Islamic kinship. This is an issue that Islam has warned against, as piety towards God Almighty is considered to be the sole criteria of excellence [rather than pre-Islamic blood ties].

There were also instances of strange sentiments, slipped in to the dialogue of the series’ main characters, such as Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, and al-Hassan al-Basri. Both were portrayed saying words that clearly seemed to serve the ulterior motive of the series; words that might not have actually been said by the two historical figures. Furthermore, there were many contemporary and current-event projections made by characters throughout the show. Thus the plot seemed to serve a kind of ‘political role’, which devalued its impartial and objective presentation of history.

The second television series that created major controversy and uproar was entitled “al-Jamaa’t” or (The Brotherhood). The show details, in a fascinating and beautiful style, the history of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, the reasons that led to its creation as well as its ideologies and principles. The series was presented using high quality cinematic techniques and a refined standard of directing. It convincingly shows that the Brotherhood’s ideology is in fact a continuation of existing hardline thought. However, the [Muslim Brotherhood] ideology evolved over time to become more structured, with a discourse better suited to our age. This ideology was originally intended to inspire the youth of the nation, and it relied upon infiltrating the entire education sector, transforming it into a giant incubator for the future Muslim Brotherhood youth, where they would be ideologized and carefully moulded.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement is built on a simple hypothesis to the effect that one is capable of changing the course of humanity and the entire world through their own hands. In my opinion, this is a gross transgression against the power and will of the Almighty Creator. The Brotherhood have consistently interpreted the Holy Verse : “Allah does not change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts” as an open invitation to effect change, regardless of the means used to achieve this, whether it be peace, murder, intrigue, violence or secrecy. The Brotherhood have also overlooked another Holy Verse which says: “Because Allah will never change the grace which He hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls and verily Allah is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things).”

The Brotherhood rhetoric, especially the hardline current, adopts a damning stance [towards current society], and focuses on the idea that the nation is ignorant and misguided, and that the only way for its salvation is to follow in their footsteps and embrace their doctrine. The Brotherhood has promoted a catchy and inviting slogan, namely “Islam is the solution”. However, this is wrong of course, because faith, not Islam, is the solution. Faith constitutes a much higher rank and a more refined level of understanding, acceptance, and compliance with the ordinances of Almighty God. One should abstain from ‘claiming’ to have the power to change, that equals or surpasses the power of the Creator.

To immerse oneself in this ideology explains how television programmes, which are deemed as ‘religious shows’, can be used to perversely sell the commodity of change. This trend has even spread to those who recite the Holy Quran. During the spiritual nights of Ramadan we find some Imams including their personal agendas within their recitations of the Holy Quran, whilst leading worshippers in prayer. They raise their voices as they recite certain Holy Verses, and stress certain punctuation, as if the worshippers praying behind them are compelled to listen to these ‘highlights’! As a result of politicization, extremism and personal desire, religious discourse has become worn out and exploited.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement is a great temptation, yet also a major affliction that caused a defect in many of [Islam’s] concepts, which it has promoted in secret meetings and within unknown and mysterious cells. Those concepts were founded on a platform of extremist ideology which confined itself to specific readings and names, in order to interpret religion and the spirit of the Islamic Shariaa Law.

“Al-Jama’at” and “Al-Qe’qaa'” were two important television series broadcast during Ramadan this year. We can add to them a third series called “Ma Malakat Imanukum” which deals with the problem of extremism, a lack of constraint and moral depravity in society, from a religious and social perspective. These three series failed to escape criticism, yet they added rich cultural and dramatic material for which they deserve to be saluted. This material can be built upon in the future, to cast light on the dangers existing in religious discourse today.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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