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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Ramadan TV soaps tackle militancy
By Amani Soliman 
Middle East Media Analyst, BBC Monitoring

Still taken from Al-Mariqun soap entitled 'They killed Jasmin'
Al-Mariqun is filmed in many different locations around the world

Once again during the month of Ramadan, Arab broadcasters are tackling the thorny issues of Islamic militancy and the US-led "war on terror" through TV soaps and drama.

Al-Mariqun (The Renegades) on the Lebanon-based LBC is a series of 10 three-part episodes dealing with terrorist attacks that take place in several locations including Syria, Egypt, Morocco, London and Iraq.

The first episode, entitled They Kill Jasmine, depicts how Muslims are treated in the UK in the wake of the July 2005 London bombings.

Jasmine is a young Muslim woman of Syrian origin living with her family in the UK, though her boyfriend is an Englishman and an atheist.

One of her brothers, the religious Haji Hassan, disappears after the London bomb attacks and Jasmine and her mother are arrested.

Police interrogate them for days, until it emerges Hassan was actually one of the victims of the bombings, not a perpetrator. His mother urges Muslims to unite against terrorism.

We should realise the size of the danger that engulfs the Arab nation
Najdat Anzur
Syrian director

Meanwhile, Jasmine's other brother, Yassir, represents the trend of Arab Muslim men depicted as losing their identity under Western influences. He lives with an Englishwoman who owns a pub and is expecting his child.

Another story, The Flock of Illusions, tells the story of a woman whose husband is killed in a dummy run for a terrorist attack.

A member of a militant group comes to her to ask her to hand over her five-year-old daughter for a real suicide operation.

"She will go to heaven, just like her father," the man tells her. The mother asks him to leave, screaming: "It's not enough that you took away my husband! Now you want my daughter too?"

Death threats

Syrian director Najdat Anzur said he wants Al-Mariqun to drive home the message that Islam is a religion of tolerance and dialogue, not of violence, as it depicts terrorism as a global threat that hurts Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

He told the Associated Press news agency at his studio in Damascus: "We should realise the size of the danger that engulfs the Arab nation."

However, Anzur has received death threats both this year and after his Ramadan series last year, Al-Hur al-Ayn.

I don't mind giving it for free to foreign and even Asian countries - to show them how open we are and how we think
Najdat Anzur

In fact one previously unknown militant group posted a threat to kill anyone involved in producing Ramadan programmes that dealt with Islamist militancy, and to attack employees working for broadcasters of such programmes.

Anzur said he made another series because he felt that terrorism was not handled thoroughly enough in the previous series, and that something more was needed.

"I don't mind giving it for free to foreign and even Asian countries - to show them how open we are and how we think," he said.

Anzur calls terrorism "an American product", a reaction to US foreign policy in the Middle East, including the invasion of Iraq and support for Israel.


Another series, Preachers at the Gates of Hell, on Abu Dhabi TV, highlights the fact that terrorism has no nationality and no boundaries.

The series, filmed in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, London and Moscow, concentrates on a group of men who fought in Afghanistan.

On their return, they try to resurrect their activities, but this affects their lives negatively. One loses his newborn son, another abandons his family, a third is unable to have relationships with women.

Preachers at the Gates of Hell goes deep into the minds of the recruiters in the group.

It shows how they target young boys who go to the mosque to pray. They are then taken to training camps in the desert where their brainwashing begins with a demonstration of how to slaughter sheep.

The drama's Jordanian writers say their ideas developed as a result of the Amman hotel bombings in November 2005, and highlight many related aspects such as "takfiri" violence (takfiri is the belief among militants that Muslims who are not like them are non-believers or not true Muslims).

The series also deals with sons of Muslim families living in the UK, who according to their militant parents have strayed from the Muslim way of life.

It shows the fallout between father and son and the destruction of the family.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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