As Muslims around the world celebrated the end of Ramadan last week, Egyptian religious authorities were still fuming over a host of titillating talkshows broadcast during the holy month on state-run TV.
Actors confessed to extramarital affairs. Actresses bared their souls — and bodies — under a barrage of provocative questions.
Some critics saw it as a blatant attempt by the government to counter the growing influence of conservative Islamists. Others saw it simply as a sign of the frayed morals of the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ramadan is traditionally a time for the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims to reflect on their religious devotion, observing a daily fast — and, typically, abstaining from sex — from dawn until dusk. But Egyptian auds breaking the fast this year were treated to primetime discussions of taboo topics like divorce and abortion, alongside eyebrow-raising exposes of celebrity sex life.
Outraged religious officials slammed the racy programs, condemning their broadcast during the holiest month of the year.
“We should boycott all this absurdity and obscenity and read the Koran” said Mahmoud Ashour of Al-Azhar U in an AP report.
Ramadan TV programming is a highlight of the holy month in Egypt, with producers unveiling big-budget entertainment and competing for coveted primetime slots. Many shows, like traditional Egyptian sudsers, offer light entertainment and serialized dramas featuring some of the country’s biggest stars. Others probe political and historical themes, often rooted in patriotic pride.
Ad rates soar during the holy month, prompting some pundits to liken Ramadan to a monthlong Super Bowl for broadcasters.