JEDDAH: The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, has condemned Turkish soap operas, which have charmed millions of people across the Arab world, and prohibited people from watching them, Al-Watan daily reported yesterday.
“It is not permitted to look at these serials or watch them. They contain so much evil; they destroy people’s ethics and are against our values,” said the mufti during the closing ceremony of a forum, which took place in Riyadh on Friday. He added that these “malicious” Turkish soap operas corrupt individuals and spread vice in society.
“Any TV station that airs them is against God and His Messenger (peace be upon him). These are serials of immorality. They are prepared by people who are specialists in crime and error, people who invite men and women to the devil.”
Al-Asheikh was referring to two Turkish soap operas, “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 are currently being shown on channels run by the MBC Group.
The soaps are proving such a big draw in the Kingdom that many people plan their day around the programs, which have also become popular dinner table conversation.
According to mbc.net, “Noor” has become “a turning point in the lives of its Arab audience and the way Arabs view Turkish dramas.”
“The TV series is awaited daily by millions of eager Arab viewers from the Atlantic to the Gulf who follow the latest developments in Muhannad and Noor’s love story. It has opened the door for Arab viewers, especially since it contains an area of romance, which Arabic dramas have recently lacked,” says MBC’s webpage.
Sana, a 25-year-old mother of two, is crazy about the Turkish family, their culture and their love story. “What infatuated me with ‘Noor’ is that, unlike other love stories, we get to see what happened after the happy ending when the couple got married,” said Sana, adding that she feels the dramas have much in common with Saudi lifestyle.
“I love the portrayal of human feelings, and their everyday struggles in life,” she said.
As a result of the soaps, Turkey expects the number of Saudi tourists this year to top 100,000. “From 41,000 (tourists) last year to 100,000 this year — the same year this soap became phenomenally successful,” said Turkish diplomat Yasin Temizkayn. “It’s more than just a coincidence.”
But do people know what it is that attracts them to watch soap operas everyday?
Nisreen Bukhari, a family therapist and marriage counselor, said that the producers of such programs succeeded in invading the minds of their audience and getting them addicted to them.
“Watching soap operas brings the viewer some mental contentment... Women who have an emotional void find fulfillment in watching this romance on a daily basis. It makes them run away from unhappy realities,” said Bukhari.
“Another factor that draws people to their favorite soap opera is that in the real world, they acquire a sense of self-existence and self-awareness, while they are able to experience the characters’ every different emotion: joy, fury, sorrow, or happiness,” she added.
Bukhari said that in recent counseling sessions, women complained to her that husbands compare Noor’s attitude and problems to theirs. On the other hand, women accuse husbands of not being like Muhannad who is sensitive and loving.
Maha Al-Hujailan, a Saudi columnist and a medical researcher at King Khaled University Hospital in Riyadh, wrote that the women’s attachment to male characters in “Noor” and “Lost Years” cannot just be attributed to their good looks.
“What really attracts women and gets them attached to these characters is the romance and the way they show their genuine love to their loved ones... Saudi women miss something important in their men: the feeling of love and security,” wrote Al-Hujailan.
A Saudi grandmother in her mid-70s told Arab News that, although she usually watches Arabic dramas, “Noor” has turned her life upside down.
“I couldn’t sleep the night when Noor was kidnapped. Her image haunted me. I just want to see what is at the end,” she said.
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