Why the fight against ‘Al Asouf’?

Why the fight against ‘Al Asouf’?

Why are they fighting the TV drama “Al Asouf”? Well, it is being targeted for more than one reason — the channel, the actor, and the screenwriter. However, what is more important is that it is being targeted as an idea, a subject, a dialogue, and a show, even before its release. 

This is a typical Ramadan battle that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past years. As Ramadan begins, TV battles start. Every extremist voice comes together to attack. Why in Ramadan? That’s simple. It is because during this month, most viewers gather to watch more TV.  

Those extremist voices aim to defame and prevent creative TV shows because they are against them in toto, and because they know these shows influence opinions and societies against their extremist rhetoric. 

“Al Asouf” is an MBC drama series set in the 1970s (1970-75). It depicts the beautiful details of that era based on real testimonies of people who lived in those times. Unfortunately for the haters of “Al Asouf,” it is a long series, and this is only the first season of it. 

Extremists are against it because they believe it is an attempt to destroy what they built during the next two decades, which they refer to as “the awakening,” and they are right.

The series shows a conservative and religious Saudi society, but was then free of the distortions introduced by extremists in the wake of the Iranian revolution; which has actually distorted the culture of the whole Muslim world, not only Saudi Arabia. 

Extremists are right to be angry because the series has opened Pandora’s box. More than 80 percent of the viewers did not live during that era, and thus most of them think Riyadh in the past was a dark place, and its residents were close-minded, extremist illiterates.

Unfortunately for the haters of “Al Asouf,” it is a long series, and this is only the first season of it.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

In fact, the situation was contrary to that. The city’s history, as well as Saudi Arabia’s, have been wiped out and rewritten. False witnesses wish to stop “Al Asouf” and deny people the chance to discover the truth. 

There is now a big debate raging over that era. Comparisons are being made between the time of the old local neighborhood and today’s world, which is dominated by concepts created and introduced by those extremists touching different values, norms, lifestyles, and interpretations of Islam; in addition to groups that wish to run the neighborhood, the city, the country, and the Muslim world according to their agenda. 

In their attack against the MBC drama “Al Asouf,” those extremists are using minor stories to distort bigger ideas, such as the stories of illegitimate children, quarrels, and romance. Yes, all of these existed since it was a normal society with all the failings found in urban societies. Illegitimate children are found everywhere and in every era — they existed even during the days of Prophet Mohammed. There were and are negative practices in all normal societies, although in the past they were not as many, and their occurrence was not as frequent. 

The reality is that extremists are not objecting to this image, but what deeply worries them is that tolerant society depicted in the series — a society that knows neither hatred nor extremism. They do not want people to discover that truth. 

After the emergence of “Khomeinism,” extremism, and “the awakening,” cinemas were closed, concerts were stopped, artists were arrested, novels and books were confiscated, “takfir” became so widespread, writers and intellectuals were threatened, seminars were suspended, and the TV was stifled until it became a source of gloom. 

They dominated educational activities, twisted charity works, and glorified Afghan militants and preachers making them heroes in the eyes of the youth, and went on to distort history, literature, sciences, arts, the media, and even banking. 

They are now attacking “Al Asouf” because it is casting light on an era that was deliberately made dark, Indeed, the raison-d’etre of the “awakening” extremists is to extinguish this light. 

What angers them even more is that the series coincides with the return of awareness and normal life — the return to the era before 1979. 

This is our society’s real past with its virtues and failings; a very natural one. 


  • Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
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