Why are they attacking Saudi TV series ‘Winds of Change’?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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They’re attacking it because of the channel, the actor and the writer. The Al-Asoof (meaning “Winds of Change”) TV series has been targeted for its theme, topic and scenario before it was even broadcasted. This is a Ramadan battle that we’ve gotten used to in the past few years. Ramadan is accompanied with television battles in which extremist voices attack television series every year. Why does this happen during Ramadan in particular? It’s because it is the month when there is a majority of viewers. The aim of these campaigns is to distort and suspend works of art which they entirely oppose because they know how they influence the public opinion and the society against their extremist rhetoric.

Al-Asoof, a drama series airing on MBC, is about the period between 1970 and 1975. The show reflects on this time via beautiful and accurate details based on real testimonies. Unfortunately for haters of Al-Asoof, it’s actually a long series and the one airing this year is only the first season. Extremists are against it because they see it as an attempt to destroy what they built in the next two decades (after 1975) and which they called Sahwa. They are actually right. The series presents an image of a conservative and pious Saudi society and that’s void of all the distortions which extremists introduced in the wake of the Iranian revolution, which distorted the entire Muslim world and not just Saudi Arabia.

READ ALSO: ‘Winds of Change’ series shows shifts in Saudi Arabia before and after the Sahwa

Extremists are right to be angry because the series opened the old box as more than 80% of viewers have not witnessed that phase and most of them think Riyadh back then was a dark city whose residents were ignorant, narrow-minded and extremists. The truth is the complete opposite. The history of the city and of the entire country was blurred and rewritten. False witnesses are the ones who want to suspend airing Al-Asoof and to prevent people from discovering the truth.

They are attacking Al-Asoof because it highlights a period that was intentionally kept in the dark. Extremists from among the Sahwists want to turn this light off.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

There is a huge controversy regarding that period and comparisons between the old local alley and today’s world which is controlled by concepts created by these men and which pertain to values, habits, lifestyles and different interoperation of Islam, and by groups that want to manage the neighborhood, the city, the country and the Islamic world.

In their attack on Al-Asoof, they pick small stories to distort the drama’s idea – stories like those related to bastard children, differences and flirting. Yes, all this is true as it was an ordinary society that has the flaws of urban communities. People with unknown descent have been present during all times, including the prophet’s time. Negative practices happen in all ordinary societies but back then they were less in quantity and quality.

Knowing the truth

Extremists’ objection is not over these depictions but it is because they fear of depicting an image of a tolerant society that knew neither hatred nor extremism. They do not want people to know the truth. After Khomeinism, extremism and the Sahwa emerged, cinemas were shut down, concerts were prohibited, artists were pursued, books and novels were confiscated, accusations of infidelity became common, writers and thinkers were threatened and seminars were suspended. They restricted televisions’ work until it became a source of gloominess, dominated educational activities, deviated the work of charities from the real purpose and made people like Afghanistan’s fighters and preachers as heroes and models in the eyes of the people. This is in addition to distorting history, literature, sciences, arts and the media. Even banking was not spared!

They are attacking Al-Asoof because it highlights a period that was intentionally kept in the dark. Extremists from among the Sahwists want to turn this light off. What further enrages them is that this series is being aired at the same time as the kingdom is restoring awareness, reviving life and going back to how life was before 1979. This is our old and real society with its virtues and flaws, very ordinary.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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