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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 17:41 GMT
Arab Big Brother show suspended
Female protesters chant against Big Brother show
Protesters say the show flouts Islamic values
The Arabic satellite TV channel MBC has suspended its version of the reality TV show, Big Brother.

The series, which began on 22 February, caused a public outcry in Bahrain where it was being filmed.

On Friday 1,000 people protested against the show and a group of Bahraini MPs threatened to question the information minister on the issue.

A spokeswoman for the station told BBC News Online that the show was unlikely to be put back on air.

"We don't want to be the cause of differences of opinion, so MBC decided to suspend production of the programme Big Brother from the kingdom of Bahrain," said an MBC statement.

This programme is a threat to Islam - it is entertainment for animals
Shahnaz Rabi'i
It added that the decision had been made "so as not to expose the network to any accusations that it is offending the virtues and traditions of the Arab world".

Following Friday's demonstration, several Bahraini women's groups protested against the show outside the information ministry on Saturday.

"I have watched the show and it must be stopped," said 34-year-old teacher Shahnaz Rabi'i, who helped organise the demonstration.

"Our religion has strong values which say boys and girls should not mix together," said Ms Rabi'i.

"This programme is a threat to Islam. This is entertainment for animals."

Segregated sleeping

The Arab version of Big Brother, which has been renamed Al-Ra'is (The Boss) in Arabic, put 12 housemates - six men and six women - from around the Arab world in a purpose-built house on Amwaj Island in Bahrain.

Europe: Netherlands, UK, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, Hungary
Americas: US, Brazil and Argentina
Asia-Pacific: Australia
Africa: South Africa
Middle East: Bahrain
For the first time since the show's inception, men and women were barred from each other's sleeping quarters.

There was also a prayer room, a separate women's lounge and a mixed-sex communal area.

But these modifications to reflect Arabic customs did not go far enough for some protesters.

"It is normal for males and females to mix, but not to put them together in the same house for a long time," said 21-year-old student Maryam al-Sayrafi.

Dating game

The controversy over Big Brother came as another Arab reality TV show ended.

Al Hawa Sawa - which means On Air Together - paraded eight women from across the Arab world before suitors in a luxury apartment for 24 hours a day.

The men could contact the woman of their choice to propose marriage.

The show was criticised for being too liberal.

It ended on Monday when one of the last two contestants said she refused to get married.

The BBC's Richard Forrest
"It was due to run for the next couple of months"

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