Al-Sheikh condemns Arab TV

Saudi Arabian religious leader calls shows 'evil'

Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh has issued an edict against the hottest shows on Arab TV, condemning them as evil and ordering auds to stop watching them.

Al-Sheikh’s comments were aimed at Turkish melodramas “Nour” and “The Last Years,” both of which air on leading pan-Arab satcaster MBC dubbed into colloquial Syrian dialect, which have become smash hits with Arab auds since they debuted on the channel earlier this year.

“It is not permitted to look at these serials or watch them,” Al-Sheikh said over the weekend. “They contain so much evil; they destroy people’s ethics and are against our values. Any TV station that airs them is against God and his messenger. These are serials of immorality.”

Execs at MBC offered no official comment on the cleric’s attack and insisted that the shows would continue as usual.

“Nour,” in particular, has proved a phenomenon across the Arab world. Skein is about a young Turkish woman who marries a rich businessman who may be in love with another woman. Interest in the show has been so high that execs started airing it during primetime just after “Oprah” on MBC 4, their majority English-language femme-skewing channel, in addition to flagship Arabic-language channel MBC1.

MBC even launched a pay TV channel in partnership with Showtime Arabia entirely dedicated to “Nour” that allows viewers to watch the sudser around the clock.

MBC has fallen afoul of Islamist criticism in the past.

It was forced to yank its costly local version of “Big Brother” after only a week in 2004 following an outcry from conservative lawmakers in Bahrain (where the show was being lensed), who opposed contestants of both sexes living in the same house.

Another Ramadan headline drama, “The Road to Kabul,” was shelved midway through its run because producer Qatar TV received threats from an Islamist group over the portrayal of the Taliban.

Regardless, MBC execs say they are determined to keep “Nour” on the air and ensure that millions of Arab viewers retain their daily fix of romance, intrigue and improbable twists.