New television shows are fanning the flames of cultural progression in the Middle East, showcasing new & radical social norms and confronting taboos considered to be punishable by death in many hardline Islamic countries. Reuters columnist David Rohde takes a look at the changing face of Arabic television in this edition of Decoder.
Across the Middle East and Islamic version of America's culture war is unfolding on tens of millions of television screen. And he's Turkish so congress of the season. And -- and. In -- studio in Turkey's largest city Islamic world's version of America's culture war is unfolding. Turkey is a Middle -- most liberal secular country and and its latest soap operas are breaking taboos and angering hard line Islamic clerics. Yeah. The thing. Emotion debuted in 2005. And became the first Turkish soap opera to become a sensation across the Arab world. -- sent around a young woman who grew up poor and married into wealthy family the final episode drew an estimated 85 million viewers including more than half. Of the total number of adult women in the Arab world. That figure rivals the ratings of nearly every Super Bowl broadcast over the last twenty years. The show portrayed career driven Muslim couples the men and women on equal levels. Also violated numerous Arab cultural taboos. Characters drink alcohol. Engage in premarital sex one had an abortion. The Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia's highest legal counsel for sale of the series. And announced that it was permissible to excuse the owners of stations that broadcast indecent material. Another hardline cleric there urged Muslims not to watch it. It's. Plus it's. I think it was a century is the current rage in the region. It's a soap opera about -- on the magnificent. When the sixteenth century ruled the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power. He sees vast portions of Europe and the Middle East. The show focuses on -- -- and his -- is mistress turned clean and includes his tolerance for members of other states. The -- artistry and production values are among the highest in Middle Eastern television. -- actor who plays who in mind that was a success in the region to another Turkish show 1001 nights which proved enormously popular well. Beyond breaking cultural taboos shows displays something else Turkey's phenomenal economic growth. Today Turkey has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. To his supporters Turkey represents a country that is modern Muslim and prosperous at the same time. That makes it attractive to viewers but also a target for conservative clerics. The Turkish actors and directors involved in the -- insist. They're not intentionally putting political messages in their work. They say they are simply trying to create compelling programs that contain human drama. The weather is intentional or not. After he so promised or creating new roles new heroes and new cultural norms for rapidly changing regions.