Monday, March 01, 2004

BBC - Arab Big Brother Show Suspended

What a stultifying world these people live in, when something as tame as this gives cause to so much ire. Then again, the United States isn't exactly a bastion of open-mindedness either, as indicated by the furore over Janet Jackson's breast.

The Arabic satellite TV channel MBC has suspended its version of the reality TV show, Big Brother.

The series, which began on 22 February, caused a public outcry in Bahrain where it was being filmed.

On Friday 1,000 people protested against the show and a group of Bahraini MPs threatened to question the information minister on the issue.

A spokeswoman for the station told BBC News Online that the show was unlikely to be put back on air.

"We don't want to be the cause of differences of opinion, so MBC decided to suspend production of the programme Big Brother from the kingdom of Bahrain," said an MBC statement.

It added that the decision had been made "so as not to expose the network to any accusations that it is offending the virtues and traditions of the Arab world".

Following Friday's demonstration, several Bahraini women's groups protested against the show outside the information ministry on Saturday.

"I have watched the show and it must be stopped," said 34-year-old teacher Shahnaz Rabi'i, who helped organise the demonstration.

"Our religion has strong values which say boys and girls should not mix together," said Ms Rabi'i.

"This programme is a threat to Islam. This is entertainment for animals."

Animals? Talk about hyperbole! But what exactly has given cause to so much outrage? Let's read on and see.

The Arab version of Big Brother, which has been renamed Al-Ra'is (The Boss) in Arabic, put 12 housemates - six men and six women - from around the Arab world in a purpose-built house on Amwaj Island in Bahrain.

For the first time since the show's inception, men and women were barred from each other's sleeping quarters.

There was also a prayer room, a separate women's lounge and a mixed-sex communal area.

But these modifications to reflect Arabic customs did not go far enough for some protesters.

"It is normal for males and females to mix, but not to put them together in the same house for a long time," said 21-year-old student Maryam al-Sayrafi.

Uh, ok Maryam, whatever you say ... Seriously though, did even 1950s America come close to this level of repressiveness?