Islamic Stereotypes

I put up a satellite dish so that I could improve my understanding of spoken Italian by watching Italian television. It’s not working. I mean, the reception of satellite television is working fine, but my understanding doesn’t seem to be improving. (I still do better at getting the gist of the dialogue on French or German channels, even though I haven’t used either language seriously in years.)

But at least I get to see how the rest of the world presents itself. I’m quite curious about Eastern Europe and Western Asia, simply because I know so little. And of course, the Middle East. I can see a selection of channels from various countries, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt. The Kurds are putting out a lot of programming, even though they don’t have a country yet. And from one channel, I found out about the Assyrian community, an ancient Christian minority of the Iraq and Iran area.

Apart from the Assyrians and the Copts, it’s all Islamic countries, of course. There isn’t a single channel available from Israel to add to the diversity. Or at least that’s what I thought. It turns out that while I can’t get any Israeli current affairs, or drama or documentaries, all the Arabic-language porno chatlines are based there. Freedom of speech.

But even a brief browse through the broadcasts coming from Islamic countries, or Arabic and Persian material being broadcast to those countries, shows that there’s a great deal more freedom and diversity than those of us with a Western viewpoint might have guessed. I was particularly struck by how wrong my prejudices had been about how women would be shown. Admittedly in some countries, in some programmes, women do appear in the full black pillar box outfit, but in general, presenters look 100% the same as they do in European television.

I put together a few screen captures to show you what I mean.


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