Ramadan TV drama on Islamic State stirs mixed reactions, Entertainment | Lebanon – BEIRUT, Ramadan

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June 13, 2017 5:01 am Published by

RamadanTVdrama on IslamicStatestirsmixedreactions, BlackCrows, ISIS

Ramadan TV drama on Islamic State stirs mixed reactions, Entertainment | Lebanon - BEIRUTA scene from the “BlackCrowsTVdramashows Lebanese actors Joe Trad and Samar Allam.

Ramadan is traditionally peak season for television viewing across the Arab world with stations offer­ing a large variety of new productions, mainly comedies and romanticseries. This year, however, large audiences are hooked on a no-easy-viewingdrama — Al Ghara­beeb Al Soud (BlackCrows), de­picting the life of womenunder the IslamicState.

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Based on accounts of IS survi­vors, the 30-episode program on Saudi-owned Middle East Broad­casting Centre has been hailed as an attempt to hit back at terrorists’ networks that have honed propaganda skills and media out­reach to spread IS’s deadly agenda and to entice the gullible into their ranks.

“The series does a wonderful job of revealing life insideISIS recruit­ment camps and the ways the radi­cal organization follows in bringing in recruits from all corners of the world,” said Egyptian cinema critic Tarek el-Shenawy.

“In doing this, it shows view­ers the realities of such extremist groups, which eventually scares viewers away from these groups. It is so convincing that some of the he­roes and heroines of the series were threatened by ISIS.”,[catagory] ,Ramadan, BlackCrows, ISIS

In Iraq, where IS is fighting to keep its last main stronghold of Mo­sul, the series sparked controversy, including accusations that it de­famed Sunni Muslims and encour­aged people to turn to secularism.

“The series distorts the image of Islam. It drawspeople away from religion. I believethere is a blunt attempt to promote liberalism and secularism in Arab societies,” said translator Walid Khaled.

Government employee Omar Mo­hamad criticized the series for de­picting Muslim women as a “cheap commodity” consumed by greedy extremists.

“Showing this series is an insult to Sunni Muslims as it defames a par­ticular sect that is accused of sup­porting the ideology of this criminalgroup who has no relation whatso­ever with Islamic religion,” Moham­ad said, adding that he and his fam­ily have stopped watching the show.

The series, which started on May 28, coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan, was expected to elicit strong and visceral reactions from audiences but MBC GroupTV Direc­tor Ali Jaber said “it was not meant to be that hard-hitting and contro­versial.”

“MBC as a media organization wants to stay relevant to the con­versation in the societies where our audiences are,” he said. “There is no point in burying our heads in the sand while this conversation is happening in everycountry, every home.”


“MBC represents the voice of moderation in the region,” Jaber added. “We need to tackle this issue in the way we believe in — with a bet­ter message, more progressive and compelling. ISIS is not just a terror­ist organization. There is a narrative and an ideology behind it. The only way to counter this was by putting out our own narrative and exposing ISIS for the evil it represents.”
Jaber said it took two years of planning and hard work to prepare the series, which was filmed in Leb­anon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia with three prominent directors involved and some of the top actors from the region in featured roles.

This is not the firsttime MBC has addressed the rise of extremism in its productions. The Saudi satirical showSelfie, which was popularduringRamadan for several years, used dark humor to mock the militant group in sketches featuring characters played by Saudi come­dian Nasser al-Qasabi. He and MBC received death threats from IS be­cause of the skits.

BlackCrows actors have not been spared from IS’s wrath, ei­ther.

“We have all received threats, which we take seriously,” said Syrianactor Ahmad al-Ahmad who plays IS Emir Abu Talhat al Yakouti. “The whole region is in danger. The existence of humanbeing is threat­ened by such extremists and we are part of this place and this region.”

“We had to do something about it. That is why our objective as actors is to convey a messagethrough our work. Drama is sometimes a tool to confront danger, just like the weap­on in the combat field. The seriesshows that ISISchampions system­atic terrorism that is annihilating and destroying the whole region,” Ahmad said in a telephone inter­view.

Although he played down the ef­fect of the program in shifting deep-rooted beliefs, Ahmad said he hoped “it mightstrengthen immu­nity [to extremism] and clarifyideas and misconceptions.”

Judging by the reactions — both supporting and attacking BlackCrows — the series is proving to be very effective.

Ahmed Sayed, an Egyptian civil servant is among the keen audience. “I like it because it is based on the actual experiences of some of the women who joined ISIS and man­aged to escape. The eventsshow that such radical organizations have nothing to do with Islam but are there to destroy every place they settheir foot in,” he said.

Iraqi homemaker Balkis Kazem said she preferred to watch comedy and entertainmentshows. “Watching BlackCrows is an additional tor­ture for Iraqis as we try to switch from bloodyevents and violence,” she said.

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