Where it is nonetheless wildly popular. The clash here is between the Saudi authorities, who style themselves as the guardians of what is Islamically correct, and secular Turkish culture, which is comprised largely of Muslims acting in ways that cannot be justified by Islamic law. This befuddles Westerners, who see self-identified Muslims living as modern Westerners in Turkey and jump to all sorts of conclusions about Islam and its compatibility with secularism, pluralism, and democracy — conclusions that have no warrant. For it is against manifestations of secularism like this very soap opera that the forces of political Islam in Turkey are fighting against, on the grounds that they transgress against Islam.
Sharia Alert: “A Subversive Soap Roils Saudi Arabia,” by Faiza Saleh Ambah for the Washington Post, August 3:
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia — A Turkish soap opera featuring an independent fashion designer and her amazingly supportive and attractive husband is emptying the streets whenever it’s on and has more than doubled the number of Saudis visiting Turkey this summer.
Millions of people — especially women, apparently — are tuning in nightly to find out whether the couple will stay together or be torn apart by jealousies and old flames.
But “Noor,” the story of a multi-generational, upper-class Turkish family, has also sparked a backlash. The show has become the subject of angry Friday sermons in this strict Islamic kingdom, and the country’s chief cleric recently issued a fatwa calling it “decadent” and sinful to watch.
“Noor” has had such a deep influence because, unlike American or Mexican soap operas broadcast here, it is about a Muslim family living in a Muslim country. The show is also dubbed in an Arabic dialect, not classical Arabic, which makes it easier to understand and feels more intimate to viewers.
And then, there’s that husband.
The blue-eyed, blond Muhannad, played by Kivanc Tatlitu, a 24-year-old Turkish actor and model, is tall, handsome, romantic, respectful and treats his wife, Noor — the title character — as both a love object and an equal.
“Saudi women fantasize about what they’re lacking,” said Amira Kashgari, an assistant linguistics professor at King Abdul Aziz University who writes about social issues for al-Watan newspaper. “They are almost obsessed with this show because of the way he interacts with and treats his wife.”…