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Did Qatari media side with Daesh by attacking MBC’s ‘Black Crows’?

A screenshot from Ramadan TV drama ‘Black Crows’ produced by the MBC Group.

LONDON: The Qatar-owned media have incited terror and death threats against a rival broadcaster over the hit Ramadan TV drama “Black Crows,” it has been claimed, leading to questions over whether the Doha-backed channels are standing up for extremist ideology.
The series, produced by the Saudi-owned MBC Group, dramatizes the brutal life under Daesh rule in Syria and Iraq, documenting crimes like the sexual assault, enslavement and rape of women.
Yet Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language service has attacked the show, helping stoke terror threats against the channel and its employees, an MBC executive said.
One tweet by the channel on June 2, for example, implied that “Black Crows” is demeaning to Sunni Islam and that the show positioned women living under Daesh rule as hungry for sex. “Black Crows: A TV series to fight terror, or providing a free service for extremist groups showing Sunni Muslim women seeking sex?” the channel’s provocative message, which has been retweeted more than 22,000 times, asked.
Other Qatar-backed media also took a critical stance on the “Black Crows” show, given that it is made by a Saudi-owned broadcaster.
The London-based Middle East Eye, for example, claimed that the show “underlines Saudi’s self-appointed role as bulwark against extremism but critics say (the) Kingdom is a sponsor of violence and intolerance.”
Ali Jaber, MBC’s director of television, questioned why the Qatari channel was attacking the show and inciting violence against MBC’s employees.
“What is hard to swallow is why… the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, which understands very well the risks of inciting radicals against media practitioners, would want to put the lives of their colleagues at MBC at risk when they are supposed to be with us in the same anti-terrorism camp,” Jaber told Arab News.
“They should rise above any politics… media ethics should never be affected.”
MBC Group was forced to step up security at its facilities across the Middle East following Daesh threats made over the broadcast of “Black Crows,” while Kuwaiti actress Mona Shaddad has said she and other cast members had received death threats, according to media reports.
Jaber said he could not understand why Al-Jazeera or others would criticize “Black Crows,” which is clearly aimed at confronting the tyranny of Daesh.
“This is not the first time we face criticism or even threats at MBC; however our position has been and will always be (to confront) extremism in all shapes and forms,” he said.
Asked about claims by the likes of Al-Jazeera that “Black Crows” demeans Sunni Islam and positions women as sex-hungry — rather than as victims of rape and cruelty under Daesh rule — Jaber said: “First and foremost, the show did not invent the reality that Daesh exists, or make up how they treat women or brainwash them. This is something, which you see or read about in the news every day.
“All… we are doing is merely criticizing in a dramatic way and alerting viewers to the many ways this evil group propagates its ideas.”
Some of the accusations made against “Black Crows” imply that its critics believe Daesh should not be condemned in such TV dramas, Jaber argued.
“What is yet to be understood is why this upsets critics? What are they trying to say? That Daesh should not be criticized and condemned every day and in every way possible? What is their interest? This is particularly strange since we should all be aligned when it comes to countering extremist ideology,” Jaber said.
He then slammed critics by saying: “It is always very easy to discredit or move public opinion against anything or anyone by accusing them of being sectarian; this is absolutely unethical and irresponsible.”
He added: “MBC takes these threats seriously because we have paid a dear price for our moderation and opposition to violent extremism. Fifteen of our colleagues were killed over the past decades but it never deterred us from doing the right thing be it against Sunni or Shiite extremism.”
Journalist Abdel Latif El-Menawy, the former head of Egypt’s state TV news under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, said that Qatar had been “furiously attacking” its neighbors in the Gulf.
He said the Al-Jazeera TV channel had “unintentionally revealed its true positions” in its attack on the MBC series.
“They stood in the same trench as the terrorist groups in Syria, such as the Al-Nusra Front, and other groups which joined Al-Jazeera in attacking the MBC series,” he said.
The allegations against Al-Jazeera come at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf region.
Several Arab and Islamic countries on Monday cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over Doha’s alleged support for extremist groups.

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