Controversies surge over Arab drama

Sheiks demand halt to 'Sa'adoun al-Awaji'

LONDON — Although the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has barely reached its mid-point, the controversies over the big-budgeted dramas, or “musalsalat,” which traditionally dominate TV skeds are already in full-swing.

Abu Dhabi ruler Sheik Khalifa al-Nahyan has ordered execs at Abu Dhabi TV to stop broadcasting the drama “Sa’adoun al-Awaji,” in spite of the fact that the program is only a few episodes into its 30-part run. The sheik reportedly received a personal request from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who claimed the skein had earned the ire of conservative tribal chiefs.

The Bedouin skein tells the story of tribal leader and poet Sheik Sa’adoun al-Awaji of the Unaiza tribe in the 18th century. Chieftains from the Unaiza tribe from which the Saudi royal family hail, as well as the rival Shammar tribe, are said to have been unhappy with their depiction in the Syrian-made show, which detailed a famous war between the two.

Leading pan-Arab satcaster MBC also decided to pull one of its Bedouin dramas, “Finjan al dam” or “Cup of Blood,” before even airing a single episode due to fears it could stir tribal rivalry. That show, set in the 19th century, also looked at tribal conflict in the Arabian Peninsula.