Saudi religious scholar deepens controversy over children’s channel

January 10, 2013

A Saudi imam has deepened the controversy over the status of an entertainment channel by claiming that an attack launched by a well-known religious figure against the channel had personal motivations.

Last week, Shaikh Mohammad Al Arifi lambasted the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)’s children entertainment channel MBC3, saying that it broadcast scenes that promoted atheism and corruption.

Parents should take care of their children and remove the channel from their homes, Al Arifi advised on his Twitter account.

The religious figure added that he would boycott all companies and products that advertised on the channel.

However, Shaikh Adel Al Kalbani, the imam of a mosque in the Saudi capital Riyadh said that Al Areefi’s motivations were not purely religious,

“If MBC is a scandalous channel, then what can we say about other channels?”, he posted on his Twitter account and named other entertainment, mainly musical, channels. “I hate it so much when personal conflicts are given religious dimensions,” Al Kalbani wrote, but without naming Al Areefi.

His remarks sparked the ire of Al Areefi’s supporters who attacked him in the blogoshpere.

Al Kalbani said that he was not disturbed by the onslaught.

“These supporters refer to the Islamic adage attributed to the Caliph Omar Ibn Al Khattab who asked people to rectify his [own] behaviour by the use of the sword if need be. However, the same supporters do hesitate to attack me when I try to rectify an attitude through the use of a post on Twitter,” he wrote, Saudi news site Sabq reported.

On Saturday, Al Areefi denied allegations that his remarks about MBC were caused by personal motivations.

“There is nothing personal in the issue,” he posted. “It has to do with religion and I have been warning against this channel for a long time. I am attaching here a clip that shows how I warned against the channel two years ago.”

MBC last week hit back and charged Al Arifi of posting claims that were “tendentious and remotely detached from reality altogether”.

“Most of those in charge of the channel’s programmes are mothers and experts keen on what their children watch as they are with all children of all ages,” the channel said. “We produce and broadcast a varied host of programmes that highlight the significance of stimulating the potential of young people and of investing in the next generations.”

The channel doubted Al Arifi’s right and ability to assess its programmes.

“Isn’t he the same person who said that a girl should not remain alone with her father to avoid the possibility that he might develop a sexual tendency towards her?” The channel asked in its statement.

The divergences between Shaikh Al Areefi and Shaikh Al Kalbani were reflected in the online comments of their supporters on the Sabq site and elsewhere.

However, many users expressed displeasure with the open differences, calling on both of them to work together against all forms of moral corruption.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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