One of the Islamic world’s leading clergymen and educators has lashed out at “excessive” and “immoral” reprogramming on the TV menu in Egypt during the holy month of Ramadan when sunup-to-sundown fasting is enjoined on Moslems.
The Grand Sheikh (rector) of Cairo’s prestigious, 1000-year-old al Azhar U., Dr. Ali Gadul-Haq, says that round-the-clock TV shows aired in Ramadan “distract people from religious devotion” and “encourage vice and corruption.”
Al Azhar is Islam’s leading center of theological studies and the Grand Sheikh’s voice carries considerable authority on religious and moral matters among many Moslems.
In Egypt, Ramadan tends to be a month of daytime self-denial followed by nighttime indulgence – including heavy meals just after dusk and much nocturnal TV watching. This year Ramadan falls Feb. 1 through March 2, according to the Islamic Lunar calendar.
It is during Ramadan that Egyptian TV traditionally trots out many of its new shows – soaps, sitcoms, variety and quiz shows, religious serials and kiddie programs.
The Ramadan programs are a major money-spinner for the state-run TV, both in advertising revenues and program sales to other Arab and Islamic countries. Egypt is the Arab world’s largest producer of TV entertainment shows.
Egypt’s national channels I and II both broadcast from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. during Ramadan – far too much for Sheikh Gadul-Haq, who in a rare press interview told the weekly Cairo magazine “Akher Saa” that TV overload “damages economic production by encouraging workers to stay up much of the night and then arriving at work late and exhausted next day.”
He also blasted some of the Ramadan shows as containing “obscenities and immorality (thereby) encouraging vice and corruption.”
At a time of increasing religious militancy in much of the Islamic world, Sheikh Gadul-Haq is generally considered a comparative moderate – though he has been criticized by some Egyptian secular intellectuals for attempting to bring the religious influence of al Azhar to bear on such matters as film, TV and book censorship, which under Egypt’s secular government are the prerogative of the state.