Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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June 01
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AUGUST 12, 2010 7:14AM

Your Female Slaves: A Syrian soap opera rocks Ramadan

Rate: 13 Flag

 Najdat Anzour
Syrian director Najdat Anzour


Ramadan means many things in the Muslim world: it mostly involves fasting and prayer, of course, but it is equally a month of parties, happy times spent with family and friends, and sometimes violence. Unbeknownst to most people in the West, it also means a period of elaborate soap operas specially produced to fill the long nights of feasting before the sun rises once more and the fasting begins anew. This year, the Arab world is being treated to a Ramadan musalsal (soap) of a different kind: Ma Malakat Aymanokom, a drama of love, sex, adultery, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexual violence, loss, intrigue, and – most shockingly – graphic Muslim-on-Muslim terror.


The title is derived from a Koran surah and can be translated as “Your Female Slaves” or “All that Belongs to You.” Produced by Syria’s national TV, it not only provides viewers in several Arab countries with high drama, but also targets its message on young Arabs who may be tempted to take up arms for al-Qaeda or other extremist groups. The series’ director, veteran Syrian filmmaker Najdat Anzour, says: "The person who is still neutral and has not decided yet to be an extremist or not, this is our target audience. But for those who carry weapons and have already chosen that way, this series will do nothing for them. The majority of society misunderstands this issue. Jihad in Islam is a holy thing and it is one of the five pillars of Islam, but there are misunderstandings regarding Jihad, where it is applicable and the condition under which it should be undertaken. It is a complicated and sensitive issue and we have tried to present it objectively.”


Anzour has a reputation throughout the Arab world not only for high quality films and TV series, particularly elaborate historical dramas, but also for his treatment of sensitive contemporary issues and his uncompromising rejection of extremism. His films include Al-Hour al-Eyn ("Beautiful Virgins") from 2005 about the 2003 terror attacks on Riyadh, in which he ridicules notions that suicide bombers will attain instant paradise, and a scathing film called Renegades about the 2005 London attacks. In 2007 he created a TV soap opera concerning the Danish cartoon crisis. His message: while the Muslim world suffers from a world of problems, terrorists are cold-blooded killers who primarily murder Muslims.

Saqf Al Alam ("The Roof of the World") seeks middle ground in the Danish cartoon crisis:


Your Female Slaves, which started airing this week, depicts al-Qaeda militants who kill civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and also stage a bloody bombing in Damascus. They systematically abuse their wives and sisters and pretend to be moral - while breaking every ethical rule in the Koran. It shows how easily young people can fall into the fundamentalism trap and how hard it is to get out again.


Anzour consistently courts controversy and has received many death threats for his outspoken positions. This time he is launching a direct attack on two of Islam's most sensitive points: the subjugation of women and violent extremism. TV stations in Syria, Lebanon, and Libya are showing the program, while a number of other Arab broadcasters have chosen not to offer this digital dynamite out of plain, unadulterated fear. But fear has never stopped Anzour, and if he and his cast survive the next thirty days, they will have given the Arab world a Ramadan it won't soon forget.

This is an excerpt from Anzour's 2005 film The Beautiful Virgins:

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With thanks to my friends in Damascus for the inside scoop.
Thanks for the heads-up! I'm still trying to wrap my head around a soap opera based on the Danish cartoon controversy...


Excellent reporting, Judy.

I hope the broader media will pick this up so we know it is not all a seething wall of extremist violent misogynistic fundamentalism in the world. Anzour is a good man for trying to help the youth understand better the more positive aspects of their faith.
The irony of course is that secular Muslim regimes were overthrown, invaded, or subverted by the West for the better part of the century, leaving radical Islam to spread out from the Soviet-Afghan battlefield. Communists who also embodied the impulses of both anti-imperialism and modernism were systematically exterminated by US-backed forces from Indonesia (with Suharto's coup) to Iraq (under Baath rule) to Iran (under the Shah) and Afghanistan.

Islamism is just blowback for years of imperial machinations.
Thank you for sharing this. We do not hear enough about other Islamic points of view, which makes it far too easy to lump them all together.
The suicide bomber has become the face of evil. How about the F-16 bomber and the Apache gunship bomber and Israel's remote control bombers, playing video games with a joystick, killing innocent children who come close to Israel's apartheid wall?
Don't forget that the Irgun and the Stern gangs were the pioneers of terrorism in the middle east.

Remember there were no suicide bombers in the middle east only about forty years ago.

Propaganda can be evil too.

" Your female slaves", a title derived from the Koran. Now how about some titles derived from the Bible:

However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT

If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

I wouldn't be surprised if Anzour is being funded by Mossad.
Interesting stuff, Judy, very interesting. Rated, and you go on my favorites :)

Have you ever checked out the feature on Al Jazeera English entitled Last Picture Show?

Another good source for arts in the Arabic world is Al Ahram Weekly, weekly(dot)ahram(dot)org(dot)eg which is all sorts of news, but has a good Arts & Culture section in every issue, and is surprisingly outspoken on womens rights.
What Token said first, but also I'd watch this till it proved to be too banal then I'd change the channel.
(R)ated for an actual insight behind the beaded curtain!
the guy has major cajones esp considering what happened to salmon rushdie & the moslem-satire cartoonists in europe