MBC expands soap opera shows despite Mufti fury

TV company launches new Turkish dramas, with more in the pipeline despite protest.
By Andy Sambidge
Tue 21 Oct 2008 06:51 AM

Saudi-owned TV broadcaster MBC is planning to add four new Turkish soap operas to its programming - just months after a religious leader condemned them as "un-Islamic and subversive".The television company, which broadcasts the popular Noor and Sanawat al-Dyaa (The Lost Hours), confirmed to Arabian Business that the new Turkish dramas would be added to the lineup this season.

"Turkish drama is now an established genre," Mazen Hayek, MBC’s marketing director, told Al Arabiya.net.

In July, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, condemned Turkish soap operas and ordered people to stop watching them.

The religious leader said the programmes contained evil and destroyed people's ethics and values.

He added that the “malicious” Turkish soap operas corrupted individuals and spread vice in society.

Al-Asheikh was referring to MBC programmes Noor and Lost Years, which have become extremely popular in the Arab world over the last couple of months.

The soaps are dubbed in colloquial Syrian Arabic and have proved such a big draw in the kingdom that many people plan their day around the programmes.

Now, Lahzat Wadaa (A Farewell Moment) and La Makan La Watan (No Place No Nation) have been launched on MBC4 and MBC1, respectively - with plans for more Turkish dramas in the pipeline.

Noor, originally 'Gumus' in Turkish, told the story of a young woman who married a powerful yet romantic and loving man named Muhanad. The way the show portrayed women and men in a Muslim family was unconventional by Arab standards and aroused the curiosity of millions.

The show first aired in Turkey in 2005 to reasonable ratings. In 2008 Saudi-owned MBC group dubbed the soap into colloquial Arabic and gave it a prime time slot on its popular channel MBC4 and the show took off, becoming a television phenomenon.

The show became a socio-cultural phenomenon as three to four million people tuned in to Noor every night, making it the highest rated show ever in recent Arab television history.

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