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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Ramadan 2018: Zain's TV advert faces social media backlash

The commercial has been accused of being a publicity stunt

A screesnhot of Zain Ramadan 2018 Commercial. Courtesy Joy Productions / Zain
A screesnhot of Zain Ramadan 2018 Commercial. Courtesy Joy Productions / Zain

The viral Ramadan commercial made by Kuwait-based telecommunications group Zain has sparked a social media backlash, with users accusing it of using the plight of Arab refugees as a publicity stunt.

The clip shows a young Arab child singing to world leaders including the likenesses of US President Donald Trump, North Korean despot Kim Jong-un, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir. The child appeals to them to end the region’s wars and to help Muslim refugees.

In the first scene, the young boy wishes Mr Trump "Ramadan Kareem" and invites him to iftar at his house, “if he can find it in the debris”.

He tells the US leader that he is invited to Iftar in Jerusalem, “the capital of Palestine,” an apparent reference to the president’s recent decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But the commercial has received a mixed response online, with a backlash against what some perceived to be a depiction of Arabs as victims, and of using the holy month as a commercial opportunity in “sheer bad taste”.

“I am going to alienate the entire Arab twittersphere but I hate the Zain Ramadan ad,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another pulled no punches, calling the commercial “belittling” of Arabs and a “cheap publicity stunt”.

"If you thought Zain couldn’t top last year’s Ramadan TV spot for sheer bad taste, wait till you see this year’s," wrote a Kuwaiti Twitter user.

Some users posted positive comments, including Jordan’s Queen Rania, who said that we “would do well to listen to children’s voices”.

But the criticism continued. Emirati Cinema Akil founder Butheina Hamed Kazim was possibly the most vociferous critic.

“Am I the only one seeing the problematics of @ZainTelecom tvc (television commercial) this year? From one misguided tragedy-hacking Ramadan ad to yet an even more grotesque menagerie of calamities,” she wrote.

“The epitome of commercial opportunism”.

But the Kuwaiti company may care little. The video has amassed almost three million in views in just three days, spreading the company name and the message of the commercial far and wide.

The company courted controversy last year, too, when it focused on suicide bombings and terror attacks in the Middle East, amassing some 13 million views. It showed a prospective suicide bomber being talked out of the act by a child.

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