x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

MPs attack 'offensive' Kuwaiti TV show High School Girls

Television series following the lives of five Kuwaiti schoolgirls and the challenges they face growing up 'present an offensive portrayal of Kuwaiti society', say Islamist MPs.

The actressess of the television series High School Girls, or Banat al Thanawiya. Courtesy of Dubai Media Incorporated
The actressess of the television series High School Girls, or Banat al Thanawiya. Courtesy of Dubai Media Incorporated

KUWAIT CITY // The television series Banat al Thanawiya, or High School Girls, follows the lives of five Kuwaiti schoolgirls and the challenges they face growing up.

Some Kuwaiti politicians are complaining that the shows present an offensive portrayal of Kuwaiti society.

Dubai Media Incorporated will be the only outlet showing the series across parts of the Middle East during Ramadan. It was scheduled to begin on Dubai TV last night. In a statement from Dubai Media, Ali Khalifa Al Rumaithi, the director of Dubai TV, "expressed his surprise at the media hype surrounding a series that has not been aired yet".

Mr Al Rumaithi denied that the series contains "inappropriate content and scenes that conflict with the private nature of the Gulf and Arab communities".

The series combines dark comedy with romance, and each episode focuses on an event in each of the teenagers' lives and tackles issues related to their outlooks, principles and beliefs, he said.

"All of the episodes of the new series have been received and they do not contain any scenes that could be described as indecent or inappropriate," he added.

DMI said no scenes have been omitted and the series meets its rules on producing dramas.

Opposition to the programmes, which are scheduled to be shown at 10.10pm in the UAE and repeated at 9am the following day, has been led by Kuwait's conservative members of parliament.

The Islamist Mohammed Hayef, in comments reported by the Kuwait Times, said: "The series portrays Kuwaiti schools as dens of vice and corrupt manners, making the girls appear to be lewd and shameless."

Mr Hayef said broadcasting entertainment rather than religious shows during Ramadan helps to spread "negative" behaviour in society, and the series, which is based on novels by the Kuwaiti author Mohammed Al Nashmi, portrays schools as "filthy pits of vice and sin".

Mikhled Al Azmi, another MP, said the values, behaviour and habits displayed by the girls are "to say the least" obscene, and the show could "tarnish our image at home and abroad".

The Kuwaiti executive producer of the series, Logo Media's Mohammed Hussein Al Mutairi, is not sure why the series has attracted so much negative attention, as none of the critics has seen the series except for a short advertisement broadcast on Al Watan Television.

"The Islamic members of parliament were judging the series by its name without watching or reading the script," Mr Al Mutairi said. He said the girls "aren't doing anything wrong, just having fun".

"I have freedom in my country," he said. "There's only one guy who can tell me to stop: His Highness, the emir. I know my project, I'm a professional. There's nothing wrong with it."

Salem Al Nashi, a spokesman for the Islamic Salafi Alliance, a political group that is represented in parliament, admitted that viewers "cannot judge" whether the series misrepresents Kuwaiti society because it has not been aired, adding: "We should look into it."

Mr Al Nashi suspects that the controversy surrounding the series could be a publicity stunt to try to make it stand out from the many other dramas that are broadcast during Ramadan.

"I don't watch anything during Ramadan, I'm very busy," he said. "I think it should be for worship, not for watching TV. And with Syria and the Arab Spring, we don't have time to follow these things."

jcalderwood@thenational.ae