People are getting used to seeing women on TV--and they're starting to think their message of personal freedom makes sense."People are also seeing women in a huge array of roles previously occupied only by men.Flip through Arab channels and one sees a complete range: veiled female scholars working on their Ph.More than half of Arab women are illiterate, meaning TV, rather than books or newspapers, serves as their window on the wider world.
This is indecent."Two years ago, Islamic conservatives, shocked at the fact that male and female contestants were sharing the same house in the Arab version of Big Brother, forced the program off the air.The harrowing politics of the region have proved a dubious boon to one makeover show: Labor and Materials fixes up houses that have been destroyed by bombs or grenades in Iraq.Meanwhile, talk shows like Kalam Nawaem are gently nudging viewers to speak out."These four kind-looking mommies, sitting and chatting on a warm yellow couch, have tackled the most difficult issues, from homosexuality to incest, from abuse to murder," Abu Sulayman wrote in a recent article for the Middle East Broadcasters Journal."We make them watchable, believable and understandable." It's not the first time pop culture has revolutionized society: after Soviet block kids of the 1980s glimpsed the outside world via Mc Donald's, Levi's, and western ads, eastern Europe's Velvet revolution was born."Talk shows are raising people's consciousness," says Myriam Sfeir, an editor at the Beirut-based Journal Al-Raida, which focuses on women in the Arab world.
"They're reaching women who are stuck at home, or who think being liberal means wearing short skirts and going to the beach.But Dominique fends off the criticism, saying the video exemplifies her motherly devotion: how else could she have resisted her husband's caresses while caring for her baby? talks about Middle Eastern democracy as a matter of toppling dictators and totaling ballots, a quieter revolution is underway.It's soft daytime stuff, to be sure, but Kalam Nawaem, like a lot of new Arab shows available via satellite TV, is pushing its society to think in provocative, fresh ways. In the past three years, Arab satellite-TV viewers have more than doubled.The shows have attracted millions of fans--and controversy."These programs are in contradiction with our habits and with the principles of Islam," fumed Lebanese cleric sheikh Muhammad Hamdi."We are seeing youngsters kissing and expressing emotions on TV.Today, a generation of Middle Eastern youth is growing up on a diet of Paris Hilton and reality shows, pumped in through sat dishes, cell phones, and the internet.