Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Brothers, Cousins and Strangers

Image of Iraqi car plate, with Kuwait listed as a city in Iraq. Image circulating heavily on facebook. 

Amidst the traffic of all the drama series competing for audience attention during Ramadan, couple of productions managed to catch, if not ignite the attention of Arabs and Muslims around the world. The famous Omar that narrates the historical significance of one of the most prominent figures in the Islamic history; Omar ibn AlKhattab, and another Kuwaiti series titled, ‘Saher Al Leil’ which takes place in Kuwait, during the Iraq-Kuwait war in 1990. 

Much has been written about Omar that I feel the only thing I want to say about it is that I am indeed watching it. It is interesting how the debate itself on the series has rested within two fixed positions, or rather statements: 
  • I watch Omar 
  • I don’t watch Omar
You can read statements as such on both twitter and facebook, with some offering explanations and others just sharing their decision; the main concern being the depiction of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh).

In the specificity of Iraqi online groups on Facebook that I have been monitoring lately, the debate on Omar took a different shape given the nature of the sectarian sensitivities within the Iraqi community. Some of the members of the different Iraqi groups were posting images of the series, especially scenes in which the character of Omar Ibn AlKhattab and Ali ibn Abe Taleb are together, either to bring awareness to the desired unity between Sunni and Shia Muslim Iraqis, or sometimes even to poke fun at one sect. Some of the expressed views in the groups I monitored about Omar were in fact suggesting that watching the series is indeed a ‘strong’ political statement against the status quo in Iraq nowadays. 

I apologise to the non-informed reader about the nature of the dispute between the different sects in Islam, and the symbolism of both Omar Ibn AlKhattab and Ali ibn Abe Taleb to the sectarian politics, I wish not to indulge in such details in this post. I just wanted to share some of my observations on the initial reactions in both the Arab public sphere ( I use the term loosely here) and the Iraqi one. 

meme found in facebook page. 

Very interesting observations were made as well in regards to the Kuwaiti series Saher Al Leil which depicts life in Kuwait during the Invasion of Iraq in 1990. I have not watched the series, and so will not offer my opinion on what the show is about. However, what I believe is fascinating is the sense of unity this series has provided amongst Iraqis from different sects, ethnicities, and political backgrounds. I myself have received emails and facebook messages from different Iraqis I know, that hold very different political, religious and social views all critising the series, and bringing back a rhetoric that has not surfaced for almost 22 years now; images of Iraqi Car plates, with Kuwait listed as a city, and images mocking the borders between the two countries. In fact, the same groups that had very conflicting opinions on Omar Ibn AlKhattab’s role in Islam shared almost the same views against what they described as a false and unfair depiction of Iraq in the series. It actually reminded me of the famous Arab proverb أنا وأخي علي ابن عمي وأنا وأبن عمي علي الغريب
which roughly translates to: My brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against the stranger. 

I have included images I found on facebook, published here for illustration purposes only.  


Unknown said...

why do you think they picked this timing to show these shows ?

just so you know am watching " sahir l lel" .. and that reminds me that i was born in a war and escaped from one!

Maryam Wissam said...

well i agree with you in your suggestion that there is indeed a reason for the timing.. i know 'Omar' was in the works for 2 years now.

Mohammed A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohammed A. said...

You really do look at the bright side, you liken sahir al-leil to the times when the iraqi football club wins.
I watch neither by the way. I just hate arabic tv shows. Baaaad acting.

Mohammed A. said...

You really do look at the bright side, you liken sahir al-leil to the times when the iraqi football club wins.
I watch neither by the way. I just hate arabic tv shows. Baaaad acting.

Maryam Wissam said...

I am not looking at any side actually, just observing what is happening.

Ghadeer said...

What should really be happening is everyone uniting against the idea of oppression- whether Iraqi or Kuwaiti.