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Facebook campaign to ban Ramadan dramas | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Just a few days before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a number of Facebook groups have started a campaign calling for Muslims to boycott a number of television drama series set to be broadcast on Arab satellite television during the Islamic holy month. A number of users on the popular social network have established Facebook pages and groups calling for Muslims to boycott 4 television drama series that are scheduled to be broadcast during Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; it is the Islamic month of fasting during which all Muslims refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, in addition to performing more prayers, and spending more time in religious contemplation.

The Facebook campaign calls for the boycott of the television drama “Samara”, starring Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Razek; this television series was written by Mustafa Muharam and directed by Mohamed al-Naqli. Around 23 thousand people joined a Facebook group calling for the boycott of the “Samara” television series, criticizing Abdel Razek’s performance, including a number of scenes featuring the actress performing the belly dance. The Facebook group stresses that the broadcast of this series is unsuitable during the Muslim holy month. Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Razek is no stranger to controversy, and she was one of the Egyptian entertainment figures who came out to defend the Hosni Mubarak regime and criticize the 25 January revolution.

In addition this, another Facebook group was established calling for the boycott of television series “Keed El-Nesa” [The Deception of Women] for similar reasons. According to the Facebook page, this series contains a number of inappropriate scenes and should not be broadcast during the holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian belly-dancer and actress Fifi Abdou, along with Egyptian actress Somaya El-Khashab, star in this television series that was written by Hussein Mustafa and directed by Ahmed Saqr.

The Facebook page calling for a boycott of “Keed El-Nesa” is divided between those who comprehensively object to the series on religious grounds, and those who have taken a more moderate tone and do not object to the television drama on principle but believe that it should not be aired during the holy month of Ramadan.

Just a few days following advertisements of the “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein” television series on Egyptian satellite television channels Haya TV and al-Nahar, 13 Facebook pages were set up calling for this TV series to be banned. “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein” attempts to take a look at the life of the Prophet’s grandsons, and the schism which led to the Islamic Sunni/Shiite divide. The Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy also filed a lawsuit against all the satellite channels intending to broadcast the series, calling on them not to broadcast this series, or any other “religious” television series that depict members of the Prophet’s family.

The Facebook group participants believe that the “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein” series may lead to sectarian unrest between the Sunni and Shiite communities over conflicting interpretations of the historic events depicted in the series. The Facebook youth called for all Muslims to boycott this television drama, and indeed all programs on the channel broadcasting “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein”, claiming that these Arab satellite television channels are trying to utilize religion in order to make financial profit.

The “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein” television series will reportedly depict events of the early Islamic community. The series will begin with the political unrest seen during the rule of Caliph Othman Ibn Affan and which ultimately led to his assassination, and end with the martyrdom of Al-Hussein at the Battle of Karbala in a battle with the forces of Muawiyah I.

As for the final television series that many Arab Facebook users are calling for a boycott, this is the television series “Adam”, which is due to be begin broadcast in just a few days. However unlike the television series mentioned above, the campaign to boycott this series has nothing to do with religion, but rather politics, namely the fact that Egyptian actor and singer Tamer Hosny is playing the lead role.

Tamer Hosny famously defended the Hosni Mubarak regime, calling the former Egyptian president a father figure for all Egypt. He was later forcibly expelled from Tahrir Square at the height of the 25 January Egyptian revolution. He remains a divisive figure in Egypt, despite penning two pro-revolutionary songs following the collapse of the Mubarak regime, with many in Egypt loath to forgive him for his conduct during the youth revolution.

Film critic Magda Khairallah commented on these campaigns, saying that “this type of campaign calling for the boycott of works of art is not suitable for cinema or television, because going to the cinema or watching a television program is a personal decision.” She added that Ramadan television dramas are a traditional form of entertainment in the Arab world, and it is difficult for such campaigns to be successful in convincing the public to boycott a television series, let alone an entire satellite channel. Khairallah also drew attention to the fact that such programming is particularly popular amongst housewives, who generally will not take such a hard-line religious stance on an entertainment program.