Thursday, July 06, 2006

For Ramadan Viewing: A TV Drama Against Extremism

NYT reported Yassin al-Bach never returned home after bomb blasts tore through London's Underground. Since he was a religious Muslim, with a beard and a small white skullcap, he was immediately presumed by the public and the authorities to be a terrorist. But Mr. Bach was a victim — albeit a fictional one.

Whether he is a terrorist or a victim depends not on what he wears, but what he does. Did he cheer the bomb blasts, or did he stand up and say they were wrong, and non-Islamic?
His demise is the twist in the plot of a coming television series as obvious as the message of the show. "Those terrorists are killing Muslims, too," his mother, Mona, sobbed on camera. "How come in the name of Islam they are killing Muslims? I am calling all faiths, all religions, to join together and defeat terrorism."
Would you issue this call if they had not killed Muslims? Is it bad that they are killing anyone in the name of Islam, or is it only bad when they also kill other Muslims?
This is the time of year when Syria's producers and directors prepare shows for broadcast during Ramadan. The holy month, which this year begins in late September, is a time when Muslims fast during daylight hours and often gather with family and friends at night to feast and watch television. Mr. Bach is a character in a series called "Renegades," which is part of a growing trend in Arab countries, where leaders are eager to address social taboos and religious extremism but are reluctant to confront them more directly.
I would prefer the confronted them more directly, but this is better than nothing.
"This is an attempt to promote a discussion of these problems, to bring them out of secrecy," said Hatem Ali, one of Syria's top directors. "But the solutions are not in the hands of artists like us. We are contributing to a discussion which has begun in Syria.

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