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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Bollywood soaps on Afghan TV
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bollywood soaps on Afghan TV


i'm not going to sit here and defend those who get all wrapped up in soap operas, nor am i going to make a case for the values those soap operas promulgate... the bollywood soaps, the latin american telenovelas, and the daily u.s. potboilers are all of a piece - a combination of escapism and voyeurism that, arguably, contributes little to the mental or emotional health of an individual or a community...


we are no longer living in an age where it's possible to shut out the world, nor are we living in an age where one group of people should insist on having the power to decide what's best for another group of people... it's time that everyone woke up to the reality that we must take charge of our own lives and begin making our own decisions, decisions that not only support our own values and our own physical and emotional health, but also ensure that those decisions support the general commonwealth...

people the world over must stop abdicating our personal power to those whose purpose in life is to take and hold that power and then claim that they are using it "in our best interests"...

Five nights a week, millions of Afghans put aside their dinner dishes, shush their children and turn on the TV to gape at Indian soap operas acted out in impossibly lavish settings by stars in sequined gowns and wedding jewelry.

To their defenders among Afghan journalists and social analysts, the dramas are a harmless distraction from the hardships and tensions of life in a poor, war-torn country where dust invades every crevice and suicide bombings are common.

To their critics in the government and among Muslim clergy, the shows represent an invasion of foreign behavior and beliefs -- from glimpses of cleavage and Hindu shrines to story lines touching on such taboo topics as divorce, infidelity and illegitimacy.

This spring, the off-screen plot has taken a contentious turn. The Ministry of Information and Culture banned the evening dramas last month, and government prosecutors have now charged one resisting TV station with offending public morals and endangering national security.

"These are serious charges that carry prison terms," said Saad Mohseni, co-owner of Tolo TV, which still airs the two most popular Indian soaps. "They are trying to go after us from every possible direction. The things they object to in the serials are happening every day in our own society, but we bury our heads in the sand."

The government of President Hamid Karzai, although propped up by Western aid and defended against Islamist insurgents by Western troops, is also highly sensitive to religious emotions in this conservative Muslim society and reluctant to defy Muslim elders.

Members of the senior religious council had complained that the serials were offensive to Muslims and should be banned. They have expressed similar concerns about other TV shows, such as a version of "American Idol," saying they encourage immorality.

it's time to stop giving our power away to the elite, self-anointed, almighty interpreters of right and wrong, be they religious or governmental authorities, and to start the serious business of looking inside for the real connection to truth and light...

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